- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Three days after losing his job as a starter last November, Mark Brunell stood in the middle of the Washington Redskins locker room and was adamant: He still could be a productive NFL quarterback.

Ten months later, Brunell has his second chance with the Redskins. He will start Monday night at Dallas after convincing coach Joe Gibbs during Sunday’s 9-7 win over Chicago that he, not Patrick Ramsey, was the better option.

Following a film session yesterday morning at Redskin Park, Brunell said he didn’t feel vindication toward the fans who booed him off the field last season.

“That kind of criticism will continue until we turn things around and I understand that,” he said. “Nothing will change around here until we start scoring points and winning.”

Brunell was 3-6 as the starter last season and recorded career lows in completion percentage (49.8) and passer rating (63.9 — 20 points below his career mark). The Redskins failed to score more than 19 points in any of his starts.

But he’s back in the lineup thanks to a fine preseason (34 of 58 for 406 yards and a passer rating that was 20 points higher than Ramsey’s) and a serviceable performance against Chicago (eight of 14 for 70 yards).

“I’m psyched and looking forward to it,” Brunell said. “It’s a great opportunity to get back in there.”

Brunell was not surprised with the move because he remained in the Chicago game even after Ramsey could have returned following his strained neck injury.

While Brunell was at Redskin Park for most of yesterday, Ramsey did not make an appearance and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, did not return a phone call. ESPN reported Monday night that Ramsey had asked to be traded, but right tackle Jon Jansen said yesterday, “He hasn’t mentioned that to me at all.” Gibbs will speak to reporters following today’s practice.

Although Gibbs’ decision raised eyebrows among Redskin fans who saw Brunell throw too many one-hoppers last year, three NFL insiders said the decision is justified.

“I don’t think it was a quick hook,” a pro personnel director said. “In this situation, it just wasn’t working. In [Gibbs’] mind, he probably thought he had tried everything.”

“I’m not surprised,” former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said. “Joe has to do what he views is in the best interest of the offense. Patrick didn’t look real sharp in the preseason but Joe was committed 100 percent to Patrick. He stayed with Mark last year probably two games longer than he should have, and this switch was probably the most difficult decision he has made since he came back.

“He didn’t want to get himself trapped into a situation where he felt it would hinder his team on Monday night.”

The deciding factor probably was turnovers. Ramsey has five interceptions in 62 preseason/regular-season pass attempts, while Brunell has none in 72 passes. Ramsey has 33 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in 30 career games. Brunell has 151 touchdowns and 92 interceptions in 132 games.

“Based on what I saw in the preseason, I thought Brunell was doing better, and I talked to other scouts and they were saying the same kinds of things,” an NFC scout said. “But they didn’t pull the cord on [Ramsey]. They wasted a lot of time in the preseason by not doing that.”

Said the personnel director: “Sometimes, Ramsey looks like a first-round pick, no question. But he’s the type of player where there’s no gray area. He’s either going good or he’s falling off a cliff. They replaced him with a guy that doesn’t turn the ball over.

“Brunell’s going to manage the game for Joe. If they don’t turn it over, they’re pretty much going to win the game because they’ll get to work with a short field with that defense. He can still throw and he looks more comfortable this year — that’s obvious. But the big thing is he doesn’t panic under duress and throw the pick.”

Brunell admitted that the only way to erase talk of last year’s struggles is to produce this season. And it starts against the Cowboys, who have dominated the rivalry in recent years.

“We have to prove to this city that we’re capable of scoring points and getting three touchdowns instead of three field goals,” he said. “It’s time to get things going. We’re a different football team this year and that needs to show.”

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