Widely criticized for waiting eight-plus games last year before benching Mark Brunell, Joe Gibbs wasted no time this season pulling the plug on Patrick Ramsey.
A day after the Washington Redskins' win over Chicago, during which Ramsey committed two turnovers and was injured in the second quarter, Gibbs named Brunell the starter for Monday night's game at Dallas.
Ramsey's time as the 2005 starter lasted 26 snaps and 19 minutes of game action. While not singling out interceptions as a deciding factor, Gibbs could not have been pleased with Ramsey's five pickoffs in five preseason/regular-season games.
"I know a lot of people will disagree with this and I understand that, but I felt like it was a decision I had to make," Gibbs said of his earliest performance-related quarterback change in 14 years with the Redskins. "We have a situation where we have two quarterbacks who can win ballgames for us. At this point, the best decision for us was to start Mark.
"I don't like doing this. It wasn't the plan I had going [into the season], but certainly, plans change and you do the best you can to deal with them."
Speaking on Comcast SportsNet last night, Ramsey said: "I didn't agree with what happened. ... I talked to [Brunell] and obviously I wish the best for Mark. He's been nothing but great to me and for me in my career. I hope he succeeds and does wonderfully and I'm sure he will."
ESPN reported last night that Ramsey -- whose contract runs through 2006 -- has asked to be traded. Jimmy Sexton, Ramsey's agent, declined comment.
A possible suitor for Ramsey is the Baltimore Ravens, who lost starter Kyle Boller for a minimum of three weeks with a turf toe injury. With journeyman Anthony Wright the fill-in starter, the Ravens could use a quarterback like Ramsey in exchange for draft picks, something the Redskins need.
The change to Brunell wasn't surprising considering that he stayed in Sunday's game even though Ramsey was cleared to return following a clothesline-like hit by Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs early in the second quarter. But the timing of Gibbs' announcement was unexpected -- a full week before the Dallas game, which removes any kind of guessing game for Cowboys coach Bill Parcells' staff.
Ramsey was 6-for-11 for 105 yards with an interception before he was dazed by Briggs' hit, which strained his neck. Brunell was 8-for-14 for 70 yards and led all three Redskins' scoring drives.
Brunell, 3-6 as the starter last season, was not available for comment. Gibbs met in his office with Ramsey around 5 p.m. and talked with Brunell on the phone.
Before learning of the decision, right guard Randy Thomas said his role is the same regardless of who plays quarterback.
"You know what? After a win, I'm not thinking about any situations," he said. "I don't know the situation. I know Patrick got hurt and Mark came in. I have no focus on what's going on in the backfield. I have to protect and block."
Said left tackle Chris Samuels: "My blocking assignments are still the same. ... Mark has more experience and has been around a lot longer, but Patrick's confident. He has grown a lot."
Ramsey's growth was outweighed in Gibbs' mind by turnovers. He threw four picks in his first 34 preseason passes and his second throw against Chicago was intercepted. In 30 career regular-season games, Ramsey has 33 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Brunell had seven touchdowns and six interceptions last year and 151 touchdowns and 92 interceptions in 132 career games.
Against the Bears, Ramsey had the one interception and two fumbles (one lost).
Ramsey, 26, started the final seven games of last season and posted a 3-4 record. Two days after the Redskins' Game 14 win over San Francisco, Gibbs anointed Ramsey the 2005 starter.
Speculation swirled during Ramsey's struggles against Carolina and Cincinnati in the preseason that Brunell could be in line to start. But Gibbs was steadfast that Ramsey was the starter and did not play Brunell with the starting receivers.
Whether the shift to Brunell equals a shift in offensive philosophy -- to the short passing game of 2004 instead of the take-more-shots-downfield goal of 2005 -- remains to be seen. Gibbs lauded Brunell's arm strength during the preseason and said he is moving better because his hamstring is fully healed.
"Mark's been really consistent with his play since we started back this year," Gibbs said. "He's been confident and sure."