- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Keeping hope alive is no easy assignment around Mark Brunell and the Redskins.

Brunell is ready to establish the 2-yard passing game in Irving, Texas, tonight after Patrick Ramsey’s anointment as the team’s starting quarterback lasted about as long as a restroom break.

Brunell is packing the moxie of a 35-year-old quarterback and the arm of a slo-pitch softball hurler.

His re-emergence has resulted in a weeklong groan around the city, although there remains a tendency to tout his performance in the preseason.

The importance of looking acceptable against those now serving chili dogs at 7-Eleven is limited. The faithful should have learned that from the stirring preseason experiences of Babe Laufenberg.

Equally worrisome is the brittleness of kicker John Hall, who might consider living in a bubble. Hall is the team’s offense up to this point, all nine points of it, and he is on the shelf.

The last time these two teams met, Vinny Testaverde was wheeled onto the field for one of the last times of his career before throwing the game-winning touchdown against the Redskins. Most fans were all too surprised that Testaverde still could throw for distance from a wheelchair.

NFL historians gulp hard around the unyielding pattern of the Redskins and Cowboys, a previously fierce rivalry feared dead.

Joe Gibbs has not defeated Bill Parcells since 1987, the Redskins have not beaten the Cowboys in Dallas since 1995 and Brunell is prepared to put 13 points on the board, perhaps even 16 if he is feeling especially frisky.

That leaves it up to Antonio Brown to have a big return, only he is no longer around after being the subject of so much praise before his fumble against the Bears.

Assuming Brunell and the Redskins perform down to expectations, Gibbs will have a bye week to ponder the long-term prospects of an offense that labors in cement shoes.

He could win with any quarterback during his first go-around. Now we know of one quarterback, if not two, who are mocking the conventional wisdom.

The belief persists the Redskins are merely one competent quarterback away from a playoff berth, as if the observation helps the inertia on offense go down easier. To be honest, the absence of a competent quarterback is the bane of all too many NFL teams.

It is the position that usually separates the haves from the have-nots of the NFL.

Gibbs already has rushed into Plan B. It is hard to imagine what Plan C is, given his distaste for rookie quarterbacks.

Yet Plan C will be the shrill cry tomorrow if Brunell delivers one of his 98-yard gems.

Testaverde, of course, is available.

The Cowboys are bound to falter against the Redskins one of these decades, if only out of statistical probability. The Cowboys have won 14 of their last 15 meetings with the Redskins, which defies logic in the parity-stuffed NFL.

The Redskins will be obligated to say the following if they overcome the Cowboys: “No one outside this locker room gave us a chance.”

The contest is not devoid of appeal, as ABC elected to feature the coaches of the two teams on “Monday Night Football” for a second consecutive season.

Gibbs and Parcells have only so many games left in them. At 63, Parcells is Gibbs’ junior by one year. Gibbs is in the second of a five-year contract that few expect him to complete, as he rides off into the sunset with the pedal to the metal and STP stickers affixed all about him.

When last together on the national stage, Gibbs could be seen making a half-hearted handshake attempt with Parcells after the game.

Yet Gibbs gave Parcells and the Cowboys a week to make the adjustment to Brunell. Perhaps the curious timing of the announcement was made out of concern of his team’s supporters.

It was a warning to stock up on No-Doz Plus and Maalox.

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