With the preseason finale on Friday against the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field, Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs officially named 11-year veteran Mark Brunell his starting quarterback. The announcement, following a two-hour practice yesterday at Redskins Park, ends a quarterback competition that has been scrutinized since Brunell was acquired in the offseason to duel with Patrick Ramsey, the incumbent in his third season.
"The thing I want to say is how pleased we are with our quarterback situation, period," said Gibbs, who spent much of his remarks praising Ramsey, "and how much we think of Patrick, because I talked to him yesterday and said I feel like we are going to be together for a long time and obviously he has a huge role with what we're going to be doing here, because you're always one play away."
The Redskins -- who announced the release of 13 players before today's deadline, trimming the roster to 65 -- expressed an interest in defensive end Hugh Douglas, who was a surprising cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday but agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles last night.
Brunell, 33, had been considered the favorite because of his experience -- leading the Jaguars to AFC title games following the 1996 and 1999 seasons -- and an $8.6 million bonus he received when he signed with the Redskins.
Since the first minicamp in March, observers counted the snaps taken by each quarterback to gauge who was ahead. Gibbs split their playing time during practices and alternated the starter in four preseason games.
"It's nice to be at this point with one preseason game left," said Brunell, who will start the season opener Sept. 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field. "And hopefully it's something that can launch this offense into the regular season. . . . Pat's a good man, he's a very good quarterback that has an incredibly bright future, a future that's going to be right here."
Ramsey, 25, said yesterday that Gibbs revealed his decision after Saturday's practice. On Friday, the St. Louis Rams drubbed the Redskins, 28-3, as the offense sputtered.
"My reaction is that I'm going to back up this team," Ramsey said, "and hopefully it never happens, but if Mark gets hurt, I'll go in there and hopefully play and play well."
The competition wasn't very heated. Neither quarterback looked sharp early in training camp, but Brunell was the one who came around. He cemented his lead during a 17-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 21 at Pro Player Stadium. Brunell was 7 for 9 for 79 yards; Ramsey was 3 for 8 for 41 yards.
Through four preseason games, Brunell is 22 for 40 for 244 yards with a 71.3 passer rating. Ramsey is 15 for 37 for 196 yards with a 46.7 rating.
Beyond the statistics, Ramsey never looked nearly as comfortable as Brunell guiding Gibbs's run-dominated offense.
"It's hard to really put into words," Ramsey said of his reaction. "Obviously, I'm disappointed. I think there are things I could have done better in the preseason, and I think this is a result of that. I think Mark played well. I think he deserves it and I fully support him."
Washington's quarterback situation has been a sensitive issue in the organization since the club agreed in March to give Brunell a seven-year, $43.36 million contract. Ramsey requested a trade through his agent, Jimmy Sexton, before changing his outlook after meeting with Gibbs and receiving assurances that the competition would be fair.
Yesterday, several players were unaware that the decision was announced after practice, and therefore were hesitant to expound on the situation.
Wide receiver Rod Gardner said, "Patrick and Mark are two good quarterbacks and it's good to have both of them on the team." Wide receiver Laveranues Coles declined to comment.
Beginning in 1981, Gibbs's first season in the NFL, he has guided an eclectic group of quarterbacks starting with Joe Theismann. Gibbs also had Jay Schroeder (1984-88), Doug Williams (1986-89), Mark Rypien (1987-93) and Stan Humphries (1989-91). Gibbs used several young quarterbacks as starters, but the Super Bowl winners were veterans: Theismann was 33 when Gibbs won it all in 1983; Williams was 32 in 1988 and Rypien was 29 in 1992.
Brunell has suffered two concussions since 2001 and lacerated his elbow in the third game of the season last year, causing him to be replaced by rookie Byron Leftwich. But Brunell says he is in his best shape in several years.
Meantime, Douglas quickly drew interest from the Redskins, Eagles, Chicago Bears and New York Giants. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he wanted to move quickly, and he did.
"Hugh desperately wanted to come back to Philadelphia," Rosenhaus said. "He didn't want to waste any time. He's looking forward to getting back to the fans he loves so much. . . .
"With the injury to N.D. Kalu, he's got a great opportunity to fill a hole."
Douglas agreed to a one-year contract for just under $1 million, Rosenhaus said. Incentives could make the deal worth as much as $3.4 million.
Douglas -- once an elite pass rusher -- was considered a free agent prize last year and signed a five-year, $27 million contract with Jacksonville. But Douglas struggled in 16 games last season, collecting only 31 tackles and 31/2 sacks -- his lowest production since 1991.
Before joining Jacksonville, he spent five seasons in Philadelphia after three years with the New York Jets. While with Philadelphia, Douglas, known for a quick first step, had notable matchups with Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels. Douglas's abilities seemed to decline suddenly last year.
The Redskins upgraded their defensive line in the offseason, acquiring defensive end Phillip Daniels. Daniels hasn't played in the preseason because of an abdominal strain, but is expected to play Friday against the Falcons.
Defensive line coach Greg Blache has been pleased with Washington's starting defensive line but said his backups have been mediocre.
"We're not going to get into a bidding war," Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato said when asked about Douglas. In three preseason games this year, Douglas registered four tackles and zero sacks. Still, the move was stunning partly because the Jaguars last week released defensive end Tony Brackens, the franchise's all-time sacks leader.
During a nine-year career with the Jets, Eagles and Jaguars, Douglas amassed 77 sacks.
"I'm definitely surprised. I knew they cut Tony Brackens," said Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn. "Hugh Douglas, he's been a factor pretty much his entire career. For him to get cut so early is a shock."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.