INDIANAPOLIS — Twelve weeks ago today, following the Washington Redskins’ first training camp practice, quarterback Mark Brunell acknowledged the high expectations held for this season.
“Anything short of going all the way, honestly, would be a disappointment,” Brunell said.
Now fast-forward to RCA Dome, where the Redskins’ season essentially ended yesterday under a tidal wave of Peyton Manning touchdown passes, blown offensive and defensive assignments and foolish penalties that resulted in the Redskins’ third straight loss, 36-22 to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.
The Redskins (2-5), who finished last season as arguably the second-best team in the NFC, head into their bye week as arguably the third-worst team in the conference ahead of only the two-win San Francisco 49ers and one-win Arizona Cardinals.
A year ago when the Redskins lost three straight games, they at least knew their remaining schedule was soft and their defense still strong. This season, though, they face a tough schedule with a defense that is a liability.
“It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t taste good and it doesn’t feel good,” receiver Santana Moss said.
Coach Joe Gibbs said he would use the break to confer with his staff about how to fix the numerous problems plaguing his team. He doesn’t appear, however, to have many options. There aren’t any Pro Bowl players on the street to spark the offense, and there isn’t a midseason draft to improve the defense.
The most obvious decision: sacrifice the season to see whether Jason Campbell should be next year’s starting quarterback. Brunell, who holds a 15-18 record as the Redskins’ starter (including postseason), was 27-for-37 for 226 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. However, 13 of those completions and 106 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Brunell certainly is not the only one to blame, but he’s the easiest one to bench.
“When you’re 2-5, a lot of things are going to be said,” Gibbs said. “I’m not above learning something and listening to anything. What’s important is talking to your coaching staff and [evaluating] the players and finding a solution to this and not listening to outside pressure.”
As he left the locker room, Campbell said, “To be honest, I don’t even know the situation.”
So he’s in the same predicament as everybody else — in the dark?
“Yeah, pretty much,” he said.
Associate head coach Al Saunders said the quarterback decision is completely in Gibbs’ hands, and offensive players were predictably skittish about entering the debate.
“I’m never at a point where I can say who should be doing what,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “I’ll understand it and support him. But I’m staying as far away from that one as possible.”