Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Monday, September 12, 2005
Brunell replaces Ramsey as Redskins' starting QB

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Just one game into the season, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who has never demonstrated any hesitancy about switching starting quarterbacks, has struck again.

Patrick Ramsey
Ramsey

Mark Brunell
Brunell

Gibbs on Monday informed starter Patrick Ramsey, who suffered a sprained neck in the second quarter of Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bears, that he will be replaced by Mark Brunell when the Redskins face the Dallas Cowboys next Monday night. The move came incredibly quick even by Gibbs standards, and followed weeks of public support for Ramsey, the team's first-round choice in the 2002 draft.

"This is something that is extremely hard," Gibbs said Monday. "You don't like doing this. I don't. Sometimes you don't chart the circumstances or what happens -- it just happens. Certainly it wasn't the plan I had going in, but sometimes plans change, and I think you do the best you can in dealing with it."

On Monday evening, Gibbs all but acknowledged that the switch was made for performance, and not injury reasons, by noting that he felt Ramsey was "fine" physically. "I'm looking for someone to establish himself as our quarterback," Gibbs said.

The switch further fuels speculation that Ramsey is not held in favor by the current staff and that Jason Campbell, the second of the Redskins' two choices in the first round of the 2005 draft, is the team's quarterback of the future. Certainly the Redskins did not invest a first-round pick in Campbell, a former Auburn star, to have him sit behind Ramsey for long.

Brunell, who turns 36 on Saturday, opened the 2004 season as the starter, was ineffective in the Redskins' poorly designed offense, and was replaced by Ramsey after starting the first nine games of the year. Brunell never played in 2004 after his demotion.

But the veteran left-hander demonstrated improvement in training camp and Gibbs did not hesitate to put him into the game Sunday when Ramsey was injured on a sack by Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Even though Ramsey was cleared to return, Brunell finished, completing 8-of-14 passes for 70 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions in nearly three quarters of action.

"I know a lot of people would disagree with this, and I understand that," Gibbs said. "For me, personally, I felt like it was a decision that I had to make. I think we've got a situation where two quarterbacks can win ball games for us. ... I know this is something that Patrick doesn't agree with -- he's a very competitive guy -- but it's something we're going to have to work through."

In a little more than a quarter, Ramsey was 6-of-11 for 105 yards and one interception.

Neither quarterback drove the Redskins to a touchdown, and their only scoring came on three John Hall field goals.

Asked following the game about his quarterback situation, Gibbs said he would wait to "see after two days off" and "see how [players] heal up." But it was suspected even then he was leaning toward a change.

Ramsey, 26, has appeared in 30 games, and started 24 of them, in three-plus seasons with the Redskins. The former Tulane star has completed 471 of 847 passes for 5,475 yards, with 33 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions.

The Redskins considered trading Ramsey to Chicago in 2002, even before signing him to his first NFL contract, because of a lengthy impasse in negotiations that kept him out of most of his first training camp. Ramsey was privately chafed in the spring of 2004 when the Redskins acquired Brunell from Jacksonville in a trade, but Gibbs convinced him that he would have an opportunity to compete for the starting job.

Most league scouts agree that Ramsey has starting-caliber talent but many also feel that, given the lack of confidence demonstrated in him by the Redskins, he might only succeed if he moves on to another franchise.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

Information from The Associated Press was also used in this report.