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Schroeder Needs Only One Bomb to Win

September 15, 1986|BOB OATES | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The two defensive teams performed well enough here Sunday. But as an offensive football game, this was a bust except for one play, the big pass that Jay Schroeder threw in the fourth quarter.

Stepping away from the Raider rush, the new Redskin quarterback from UCLA aired it out for nearly 50 yards.

"I threw the ball where nobody could get to it except Clint," Schroeder said later, meaning tight end Clint Didier, who was a step beyond the Raider defense when he fielded the bomb for a 59-yard reception.

"It was an easy read because he was out there, if I could just get it to him."

He could.

Though Raider cornerback Mike Haynes' tackle saved a touchdown temporarily, the Redskins scored two plays later to win, 10-6.

"I don't know what Jay's IQ is, but his football IQ is as high as I've known in a quarterback," Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said. "You learn a lot about quarterbacks in a game like this."

One thing the Redskins learned about Schroeder is that in a game like this, he doesn't panic.

"This game was Jay's big test," General Manager Bobby Beathard said. "When you're in there with the Raider defense, it's as big a pressure situation as you can get."

And so after only seven starts as Joe Theismann's successor, five last season and two this month, Schroeder is 6-1 in the National Football League.

Thanks to Sunday's bomb.

It was a clever first-down play that the Redskins made up, sort of, on the sideline, where Gibbs consulted with Schroeder and Didier just before he sent them in for a new series, starting at the Washington 32 with 9:32 left.

Technically, on the big play, Didier was executing the pass pattern known as the out-and-go. During the first three quarters, he had run mostly out patterns--sprinting a few yards off the line of scrimmage, cutting, and then racing out to the sideline.

Each time, on these short moves, Raider strong safety Stacey Toran was with him all the way, restricting the Redskin tight end to one catch.

When, finally, Didier ran the out-and-go, Toran started to go out with him as usual. At that instant, Didier straightened the pattern up and raced straight down the field, where Schroeder hit him.

"I wasn't the primary receiver," Didier said, and this, in a sense, was true.

Wide receiver Art Monk was given Didier's customary short-pass responsibilities that time as Didier sprinted deep, and Monk was the safe receiver.

But the Redskins intended to go deep all the way if they could. In fact, this was a day when they expected to go deep more often.

"We thought we could hit some other bombs with Jay," Gibbs said. "But their corners kept taking our wide receivers away."

A change of strategy was needed, a change that would make a tight end the long receiver, and it worked.

There were several versions of how the change came about.

"I told him (Gibbs) that it was open," Didier said.

Schroeder said: "I kept asking Clint (in the second half) if he thought he could get open on the (out-and-go). Starting the fourth quarter, he said he thought he could."

Other Washington players said the Redskins had been working on the play all week based on the probability that Didier is faster than Toran and could beat him on fly patterns.

"For several days we've been talking about getting that (Didier-Toran) matchup," Beathard said.

Thinking about it afterward, Gibbs said: "If Jay continues to do things like this, I'll be able to keep my job for a while."

The surprise is that Schroeder can win games for an NFL team after such limited experience as a quarterback--one year as a high school starter, two years as a backup at UCLA, and a few games here last year.

Asked about this, Schroeder said: "You can help make up for inexperience if you make yourself thoroughly familiar with every team you play. Last week, I watched Raider films so much that I had a fair idea of what they could do. Second, every time we play, I always know the game plan inside and out."

Gibbs said he realized early last year that although Schroeder was then the club's backup quarterback, nobody in the organization was more knowledgeable on Redskin game plans.

"Backup quarterback is a tough place mentally," the Redskin coach said. "Most of them have trouble staying awake at meetings because they're not really involved. But when Jay was the backup, I never asked him a (game plan) question that he couldn't answer."

Schroeder is also an unbattered quarterback. He has spent more time playing minor league baseball--three years--than NFL football.

He's ready for football now.

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