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MTK 08-23-2005 09:14 AM

MN: For Gibbs, Redskins, it's the same old refrain: mistakes, mistakes
[b]LANDOVER, Md. - [/b](KRT) - Joe Gibbs isn't laughing that much these days - well, except maybe when he goes to the bank to cash his check as the highest-paid coach in the NFL.
Gibbs, the Hall of Famer who won three Super Bowls during his first stint with the Washington Redskins, certainly doesn't giggle the way he did a year ago when owner Daniel Snyder coaxed him out of a decade-long retirement to revive his morbid franchise.

That's what a year of frustration and the realization that the job is going to be harder than expected can do to a coach, even a legendary one.

So maybe that's why this preseason isn't like a normal one for the Redskins. No coach ever admits that he could not care less about winning exhibition games, but everyone knows that W's or L's don't necessarily take precedence. But when you're Gibbs and the team you were brought back to save goes 6-10 in your first year, the quarterback issue you thought you had solved by giving the job to Patrick Ramsey won't die, and your team keeps making the same mistakes that caused it to lose so many games last season, being 0-2 in the preseason isn't meaningless.

"I don't like the way we're playing now, losing ballgames," Gibbs said after the Redskins lost to Cincinnati on Friday, 24-17. "I don't like the way that we're making mistakes and hurting ourselves.

"Right now, we're our worst enemy. We refuse to protect the football, and when you don't protect the football up here you're going to lose football games.

"I feel very good about some of the people we've added and how we are personnel-wise. There are obviously a lot of positives, but it upsets you . . . We're supposed to win up here. That's what we're supposed to be doing. We're supposed to win football games . . . In general, until we quit hurting ourselves, we're going to have a tough time winning games."

As with most teams that consistently struggle, Washington's primary problems center on the quarterback position. Ramsey, the 2002 first-round draft pick who was brought in as the linchpin of the Steve Spurrier era, was named the starter over Mark Brunell in Game 10 last season. Gibbs had signed Brunell, who starred in Jacksonville for nine seasons, as a high-priced free agent. Despite Brunell's struggles, the coach stuck with him through a 3-6 start.

More than a few people suggested that Gibbs sacrificed last season by sticking with Brunell.

The irony now is that many fans in the nation's capital are wondering if Gibbs is about to walk down the same path with Ramsey.

First, the Redskins didn't exactly give a strong endorsement for the 26-year-old Ramsey when they used the second of two first-round draft picks (25th overall) on Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell.

Then reports out of training camp started to surface that Brunell was outplaying Ramsey.

In the first exhibition game, a 28-10 loss at Carolina, Ramsey was an ineffective 8-for-12 for 77 yards with an interception. Brunell and Campbell each passed for more than 120 yards.

Against Cincinnati, Ramsey was being booed by the home crowd by the third drive. Ramsey completed 9 of 18 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, but that was overshadowed by the two crucial interceptions in the red zone that killed other scoring chances.

Needless to say, Ramsey didn't ease any tensions about himself.

"If we can do what we did tonight without the turnovers, then we'd score a lot of points," said Ramsey, who has thrown three interceptions in the preseason, "and I think it's a successful night for all of us.

"But those turnovers killed us. It negates, really, what we did."

Gibbs is trying to quiet any talk of a quarterback controversy by insisting he has confidence in Ramsey, but this franchise hasn't been in the playoffs since 1999. Patience is running thin.

"Our fans are absolutely fantastic," Gibbs said. "They're going to do their part.

"I've said this before, that I think a quarterback goes through some emotional things. Some interesting things happen to quarterbacks and they have to have tough outer shells.

"Any quarterback that has ever won in this league is going to one time or another do some things that he wishes he wouldn't have done, and they are going to have to realize they are subject to getting criticized.

"That's part of the position. That's something you have to realize that you are going to have to go through if you're going to be a quarterback at this level."

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