During the 26 years, 5 months, and 17 days I have been on this earth, there have been three moments that I consider my finest. These moments were so remarkable that I still remember each one vividly and speak of them as often as possible. If I ever have a bad day or something happens that makes me cringe, I sit back, think of one of these days, and start the day fresh again. January 7th, 2004 was one of those moments.
Nearly two years ago, I woke up on a cold January morning and prepared for another day of working for the man. Long before DCSportsFan.com was around, I spent my days pushing papers for a bitter and cynical old man that spoke of the cold weather like a friend and referred to holidays as optional. I did not like that old man. Regardless, I got to my car that January morning and noticed a text message on my phone that read the following: Joe Gibbs is back! The following seven months I literally watched the clock. The night before the Redskins took the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I thought of sleeping outside the gates of FedEx, and when Clinton Portis ran 64 yards the first time he touched the ball, I damn near cried. However, nearly two years later, I’m beginning to wonder if I should cross January 7th, 2004 off my list.
One week from now, I hope we can all look back at this and laugh. I hope that Joe Gibbs has something so far up his sleeve that even the Redskin faithful didn’t see it coming. Unfortunately, I don’t think he does and this is why I think the Redskins 2005 season is doomed.
After a preseason where the Redskins went 1-3, people whispered that Mark Brunell was back with a live arm, fresh legs, and something to prove. People pointed to his preseason numbers and wondered if he was reborn. Let me tell you something. He’s not. In four preseason games, Mark Brunell had less passing yards than Patrick Ramsey, a lower completion percentage, and fewer touchdowns. While some might say that he had a higher quarterback rating, I would say that completing 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards is overrated, especially when there isn’t a touchdown pass to factor in. Mark Brunell is past his prime, way past, and I have the numbers to prove it.
Brunell at his Finest: 1996
Ten seasons ago, Mark Brunell was an elite quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 4,367 yards, 19 touchdowns, 40 passes over 20 yards, had a QB rating of 84.0, and rushed for 396 yards. Any coach in the NFL would’ve loved to have him. Four seasons later, during the 2000 season, he was still one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. He threw for 3,640 yards, 20 touchdowns, 39 passes over 20 yards, had a QB rating of 84.0, and rushed for 236 yards. While it was beginning to look like he wasn’t as mobile, he still had the arm to make up for it. Then things started to change.
Brunell’s Decent: 2001
Although Mark Brunell didn’t fall off the face of the earth during the 2001 season, any football guru could tell that his numbers were in decline, especially since the 1996 season. He passed for 3,309 yards, 19 touchdowns, 37 passes over 20 yards, had a QB rating of 84.1 (slightly better), and rushed for 224 yards. In four out of the five categories, he went down.
The following year the slide continued as Brunell threw for 2,788 yards, 17 touchdowns, 28 passes over 20 yards, had an improved QB rating, once again, but only ran for 207 yards. While I’m no rocket scientist, it does appear that there was pattern developing.
Brunell at his Worst: 2003
There were signs beginning to surface that the Jaguars didn’t have faith in Mark Brunell. For one, they drafted Byron Leftwich. And two, they started Byron Leftwich when Brunell returned from an injury. Then, after being benched and missing half the season due to injury, throwing for only 484 yards, and rushing for 19, Mark Brunell was released. What happened next? The Redskins saw something in Brunell that everyone else didn’t, offered him a seven year, 43-million dollar contract, and named him as Patrick Ramsey’s replacement (on a side note, he also drove Joe Gibbs to the hospital and saved his life). Brunell then proceeded to go 3-6, throw for less than 100 yards 5 times, and turn the ball over 12 times, and now he’s back as the Redskins starter.
Like I said before, I hope that we can all look back at this week and laugh. I really do. I just hope that Joe Gibbs is right on this one or else it’ll be a long 2005 season.