Redskins Cut QB George, Sign Graham

Wednesday, September 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Jeff George was cut by the Washington Redskins on Wednesday after he failed to lead the team to a single point in its two embarrassing losses to open the season.

Handcuffed in a system that didn't suit him, the quarterback was scoreless in 6 1/2 quarters. The Redskins have been outscored 67-3, with the field goal coming while backup Tony Banks was on the field in the opener against San Diego.

George's 34.6 quarterback rating ranks last in the NFL. In the two games, he completed 23 of 42 passes for 168 yards and three interceptions. He was also sacked six times.

The Redskins are without a touchdown two games into the season for the first time in their 69-year history, which includes three Super Bowl titles.

George was told of the decision when he arrived at 7:15 a.m. for a workout.

``He was surprised and saddened,'' said his agent, Leigh Steinberg. ``His perspective is that it's the coach's prerogative to make these decisions. The timing was a complete surprise, but the decision seems to have been made a long time ago.''

Steinberg said he had already received several calls from teams expressing interest in the 33-year-old George. He did not disclose the teams.

Soon after cutting George, the Redskins signed quarterback Kent Graham, who was cut by Pittsburgh earlier this month. Graham has also played for Arizona and the New York Giants. He signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $477,000.

George, who was in the second year of a four-year, $18.25 million contract, was the NFL's No. 1 pick in 1990 out of Illinois, but he has had a troubled career. Although blessed with a strong arm, he is just 46-78 as a starter with five teams.

Controversy has followed him everywhere, reaching its peak when he argued with Atlanta coach June Jones on the sideline during a game in 1996. The Falcons suspended George, then cut him.

In the Redskins' season opener, a 30-3 loss to the Chargers, George and coach Marty Schottenheimer had an animated sideline discussion after Schottenheimer put Banks in the game. George had four turnovers against San Diego _ two fumbles and two interceptions _ and refused to speak to reporters for 11 days afterward.

Schottenheimer kept George as his starter for Monday night's game against the Green Bay Packers. The Redskins lost 37-0, with George playing the entire game, completing 15 of 24 passes for 102 yards, with one interception.

On Tuesday, Schottenheimer gave an indication of what was to come when he said he was considering starting Banks in Sunday's home opener against Kansas City.

George's teammates indicated they were losing faith in their quarterback.

``There's got to be some changes,'' defensive end Bruce Smith said Tuesday. ``By no means am I pointing fingers, but we can't survive on an average of 1.5 points per game.''

It had been long obvious that George's strong-arm, downfield game wasn't compatible with Schottenheimer's quick-drop, short-pass West Coast offense. George worked all spring and summer to learn the offense, but he never looked comfortable. It also didn't help that he missed nearly all of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder.

Schottenheimer, 0-2 for the first time in his 16-year coaching career, said he wasn't ready to radically change the offense to feature a downfield passing game.

Some of George's attempts to dump the ball for short gains have looked awkward. In both games, the first two drives were killed when a third-down pass was completed short of the first-down marker.

Schottenheimer said part of the blame for those plays was with the quarterback.

``The bottom line is we're not making enough first downs,'' Schottenheimer said. ``We're not making enough yardage.''

George was drafted by Indianapolis and played with the Colts from 1990-93. He was in Atlanta from 1994-96, then spent two seasons with Oakland and one with Minnesota before joining the Redskins last year as Brad Johnson's backup.

George started five games last year, going 1-4. He became the undisputed starter when Johnson signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay during the offseason.