Gibbs won't bench Brunell despite QB's rough start

Under veteran, Redskins ranked 25th in passing

Ramsey remains backup

Pro Football

October 12, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Five disappointing games into his return as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs does not like much about his offense.

But Gibbs yesterday ruled out making a change at quarterback, where veteran Mark Brunell has not exactly provided a hefty, early return on his new team's investment.

Brunell, 34, whom the Redskins signed to a seven-year, $43 million contract - including an $8.6 million bonus - after acquiring him from Jacksonville for a third-round draft pick last spring, is the head of the league's 25th-ranked passing attack and 26th-ranked offense overall.

The 1-4 Redskins are scoring 14.2 points per game, next-to-last in the NFC. They have yet to crack the 20-point mark.

Brunell, an 11-year veteran who starred for nine seasons with the Jaguars and joined Washington as the 11th-ranked passer in NFL history, has lacked accuracy and arm strength during the worst Redskins start under Gibbs since he went 0-5 to open his rookie head coaching year in 1981.

Brunell hit bottom in Sunday night's 17-10 loss to the Ravens, who dealt the Redskins their fourth straight loss despite not scoring an offensive touchdown. After tossing a touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the first half to give Washington a 10-0 lead, Brunell threw an interception and lost a fumble that blitzing safety Ed Reed caused, recovered and returned 22 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-7 and change the game's momentum.

Brunell finished by completing 13 of 29 passes for 83 yards. Although the Ravens took away the long ball by playing two safeties deep for much of the evening, Brunell had trouble with the short and intermediate game. He missed open receivers by short-hopping several passes and produced just 1.7 yards per pass play. His longest completion went for 14 yards.

Gibbs said he will not turn to backup Patrick Ramsey for Sunday's game at Chicago.

"I think Mark in this game was a lot like all the rest of us. I don't think any of us did [much] offensively," said Gibbs, who could swallow his first losing season since Washington went 7-9 in 1988. "None of us played well and none of us coached well. We all shoulder the blame. "Offensively, we're so inconsistent. We're not able to really move the ball. We've got to lay out a plan and work our way out of it. I don't think it's any one person."

Gibbs noted the Redskins are not running the ball effectively with Clinton Portis, their other major offseason acquisition, and are not blocking, getting open or catching the ball with enough consistency.

But Brunell's numbers are not encouraging. He is the 15th-ranked passer in the NFC, stands dead last in the conference in completion percentage (.534) and average yards gained (5.6) per pass play, and has recorded only two completions of at least 30 yards.

"[Brunell] has had some excellent games, and some of those we lost. I think he's done a good job of trying to protect the ball for us," Gibbs said. "This guy has been around a long time. He's been through tough things. I think he's smart and extremely tough. My perception of him is he's got a lot inside of him, a lot of character."

NOTES: Safety Matt Bowen is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sunday. Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said linebacker LaVar Arrington, who is recovering from minor right knee surgery, did some light running yesterday and could play against Chicago.

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