By Tony Kornheiser
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I thought I would never be saying this, but I'm excited by the news that Mark Brunell might be ready to start Sunday. (And as my editor Cindy reminds me, at my age, I take excitement wherever I can find it.)
Last year I thought Brunell was the worst quarterback in the NFL. I had no idea why Joe Gibbs signed him, and no idea why Gibbs stubbornly kept playing him. I looked at Brunell, and I saw Kurt Warner -- a guy whose skills had vanished overnight. Only Warner was better than Brunell. Warner actually won a few games for the Giants early. Brunell's season looked like an audition tape for "Lost."
Brunell's arm was gone. He couldn't throw a simple seven-yard out without bouncing the ball. And his legs were shot. When he had to move he was as slow as dial-up service. (Look at me, Mr. Internet.) What on earth Gibbs was thinking by not playing Benny Ramsey was beyond comprehension.
Then, after last season, when Gibbs insisted he was keeping Brunell -- and foresaw a big role for Brunell on this team -- I thought: Yeah, as the guy in charge of docking the Hindenburg.
Um . . .
I wasn't just wrong, I was loud wrong. (So were most of you.) Brunell has bounced back with a commendable, near-Pro Bowl season. Even with a dicey knee he gives the Redskins their best chance to win Sunday in Philadelphia, traditionally the roughest place to play in the NFC East.
Ramsey played well against the Giants, and he probably can beat the dispirited Eagles, who are an empty box of a team now. But whether or not the Eagles will simply go through the motions, Brunell is who you want on the field. He's less likely to make a catastrophic mistake than Ramsey, and more likely to manage the game -- even if that's just handing off to Clinton Portis 35 times. Isn't it odd how Brunell has become the most important player on this team when last year it seemed the best thing he could do was get out of the way?