- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Redskins are as finished as Mark Brunell’s left arm, the one tied behind the team’s back.

That is neither unkind nor a rush to judgment, considering the body of evidence going on three seasons.

Brunell is managing an offense that has become three yards and a cloud of doubt.

The weary left arm takes precedence over the tender shoulder belonging to Clinton Portis, the one encouraging element because of his place on the sidelines against the Cowboys.

Portis possibly would have made a significant difference in the outcome of the game. If so, that will be his challenge in each contest the rest of the way, an improbable prospect, to be sure.

Football teams rarely exceed the limitations of their quarterbacks, although the Redskins did just that in closing with five consecutive victories last season.

They have that period of excellence to rally around, no doubt necessary in the clutches of the offensive anemia.

Otherwise, the Redskins are consigned to the left arm until further notice.

There are no viable alternatives to the left arm that either floats or skips passes, not the erudite Todd Collins or the neophyte Jason Campbell.

This is subject to change, especially if the Redskins are unable to get well against the Texans, one of the leading get-well teams of the NFL.

Joe Gibbs is not in the mood to make a change, and you can understand the mood.

A change would be a sign of surrender.

Brunell has come to be the football equivalent of a junk-ball pitcher.

As it was said of Stu Miller, Brunell has three speeds: slow, slower and slowest.

In Brunell’s case, that comes out to the dump-off pass, the underneath pass and the dink pass, none intended to spread the defense.

On the rare occasion that Brunell tries to throw deep, the pass ends up packing all the velocity of a high, lazy punt.

A defender sometimes finds himself circling under the ball, miffed only because the rules do not allow him to call a fair catch.

The Redskins are hardly out of the playoff race, if that truth eases the frustration.

Yet there is little to keep hope alive, besides a healthy Portis and Shawn Springs.

Two games into the season, with 14 games to go, the region is all atwitter over the team’s free-fall state, starting with the no-show August that did not count in the standings.

A mention of the left arm leads to the rolling of eyes, the shaking of heads and the blasting of suggestions.

The left arm has been dissected in every way possible since the debacle in Irving, Texas, with no indications of abating.

Brunell is not being asked to perform in the manner of the Pro Bowler he once was.

But the dink and dump add up to no more than a couple of pages in Al Saunder’s hernia-causing tome, the NFL’s version of “War and Peace.”

It is difficult to question the genius of Saunders because of the quivering condition of the left arm.

Saunders could call the double-reverse, lateral-to-the-quarterback, 80-yard touchdown play, only to see it wind up as a 3-yard completion to a running back.

Brunell is a high-character guy, as Gibbs likes to say, although no one is questioning his character, just what is left in his left arm, if anything.

Brunell took a beating against the Cowboys, which turned out to be only the beginning.

The region desperately wants a quarterback controversy, even if the options are tepid.

Collins knows the playbook; he just does not know his way on the field.

Campbell knows neither.

That leaves the region obsessed with the state of the beleaguered left arm, just a hop, skip and jump from a completed pass.

Gibbs is hoping Brunell can find a measure of relief against the vulnerable Texans.

If not, it promises to be a long, shrill season.

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