Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs pronounced Patrick Ramsey the team's starting quarterback for Sunday's game in Philadelphia and said he expects to stick with the 25-year-old indefinitely.
Veteran Mark Brunell, 34, was yanked after completing 1 of 8 passes midway through the second quarter of Sunday's 17-10 loss to Cincinnati, and, with Washington's playoff hopes slim at 3-6, the coaches likely will use the rest of the season to evaluate Ramsey's ability to run the offense.
"Coach Gibbs has been doing this a long time," said Brunell, who said he was surprised by the switch. "He's been involved in a lot of football games and a lot of different situations before, and he's the boss. . . . When he makes the call, then that's the way it's going to be."
Gibbs said Brunell will back up Ramsey, leaving Tim Hasselbeck as the number three quarterback.
Ramsey is in his third NFL season after being selected 32nd overall in 2002, and he was established as a starter last season under former coach Steve Spurrier. Gibbs went after Brunell after returning to coaching in January, signed him to a seven-year, $43 million deal (including an $8.6 million signing bonus), then named him the starter during the preseason.
Brunell had few productive moments -- he failed to complete even 10 passes or generate 100 yards passing in three of his last four starts -- and Ramsey finished Sunday's game by going 18 for 37 for 210 yards in a little more than a half of work, totals Brunell surpassed in only two of his starts.
"We're going to make him the starter," Gibbs said, noting he does not plan to waver on his choice each week. "We have to sink and swim with kind of the way I feel about things. . . . I kind of felt like we need to give Patrick a shot and we're now going to go with Patrick and hopefully he's going to play great for us. We're all going to support him and he's got a tough assignment this weekend trying to lead us against Philly. We're going to give him all the work [in practice] and hopefully we'll play a good football game and he can lead us in that."
Ramsey's propensity for interceptions and fumbles made Gibbs hesitant to play him sooner. The quarterback was trained under Spurrier to throw the ball downfield almost at all costs, and was not deterred from trying to force it into coverage to try to make a play. Gibbs, conversely, praised Brunell at length for limiting his turnovers and being extra cautious by throwing the ball away if something did not develop with his receivers. Ramsey has thrown five interceptions in two appearances this season and several other errant throws were dropped by opposing defenders Sunday.
"I think my performance was average," Ramsey said. "I think there were some plays that I missed, and things I would have liked to have done."
Gibbs is notoriously loyal to his starting quarterbacks and, given the course of the season, Ramsey likely will get every opportunity to show he can be the long-term solution at a position that has been a problem since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999. Eight quarterbacks have started games for the Redskins in that span.
"Obviously, we'd love to have some stability at the quarterback position," Gibbs said.
In 11 games last season, Ramsey completed 53 percent of his passes and threw 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but was dogged by poor pass protection. Ramsey said he is trying to focus on the opportunity at hand, and not think about the impact these games might have on his future in Washington.
"I don't look at it like that," Ramsey said. "I look at it as an opportunity to play well in this offense early and hopefully get us going. This season it's been very difficult so far. I really feel like it's more of an audition to help lead this football team more so than anything for my future."
Ramsey said he does not believe the game plan will have to be altered much to suit his traits, and would hope that the fans and coaches are patient with him as he makes his first start in nearly a year.
"I think one would always hope for that, but I think at the same time hopefully there won't be a reason for patience," Ramsey said. "Hopefully, I can go in there and play well early and hopefully help this team."
The Redskins have gone 10 games -- dating from last season -- without scoring 20 points in a game, the worst stretch for the franchise since a 20-game run between 1934 and 1936, when the team played in Boston.
Brunell is last in the NFL in virtually every significant statistical category, including completion percentage (49.8), passer rating (63.9) and average gain per pass (5.04 yards). Over his last five starts, Brunell completed 53 of 120 passes (44 percent) for 460 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Washington has yet to score more than 18 points in a game this season.
Brunell entered this season as the 11th-rated passer in league history, completing more than 60 percent of his passes; efficiency, mobility and accuracy were his hallmarks but he never got going in this offense and fans took to booing him lustily at FedEx Field and chanting Ramsey's name, something that made both players uncomfortable, they said. Last season, Brunell suffered an elbow injury in Week 4 and never played again, with rookie Byron Leftwich taking the starting position for Jacksonville. Barring an injury to Ramsey, Brunell could end up spending the bulk of the second half of this season as a spectator as well.
Brunell is due to receive a $500,000 roster bonus on April 1, league sources said, and the Redskins would face a steep $7.165 million salary cap hit in 2005 if he retires or the team releases him before then; if Brunell is cut or retires after June 1, Washington would be penalized $1.93 million against the 2005 cap and another $5.7 million against the 2006 cap. Before this season began, many NFL executives believed the Redskins already were headed toward a salary cap crisis by 2006.