Blog: Brunell Right On Target

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 08.06.06--Mark Brunell looked like the Brunell of old and not the old Brunell against the Ravens on Saturday. That's good news for the whole team.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Mark Brunell was super sharp in Saturday's scrimmage against the Ravens. He had zip on the ball, he had touch, and he appeared to know the offense as though he'd been playing in it for 10 years. Receivers were catching balls in perfect stride, having just to open their hands a bit to let the ball glide into their palms.

Insert the proper caveats here about they're just seven on seven drills, it's early, and so on. Just like there would be no rational reason to get suicidal had Brunell looked bad (although there are some who would have to be talked down from a ledge had he thrown three picks), there's no grounds to get all giddy over a few well-thrown darts in early August.

That doesn't mean, however, that such a performance is meaningless for one simple reason. It's much easier to stay sharp than it is to get sharp. Since the importance of everything a quarterback does is magnified, the significance of him performing well from the get-go increases exponentially. If he's throwing to the wrong spots and misfiring even when he goes to the right place, nobody else can get in the flow of things. Everyone's progress stalls until the quarterback gets it together.

We've seen this pattern year after year as the Redskins have had either a change at the starting QB spot from the previous camp or a competition for the job every year since 2001. They haven't had anyone who had started as many as 15 games the previous season return as the starter since Brad Johnson in 2000. Since that year they have started seven different quarterbacks with about a dozen different changes at the position involved. This lack of continuity has led to the offense always looking ragged in the preseason and, frequently, during the regular season.

Another reason why Brunell's excellent play is a good sign is that it may allow him to rest more prior to the season opener. Remember last year he was the second team quarterback all the way though camp, never getting a day off, going in to the preseason games with the scrubs, and so on. He's less likely to wear down as the season wears on.

While teams like the Colts and Chiefs would scoff at calling a string of 17 straight starts (counting postseason) continuity at quarterback, it's a better situation than the Redskins have been in during the past several years. If Brunell can seize the day and erase the team's one major question mark, the Redskins season could well end with an exclamation point.

Big Talk. . .posted 08.05.06

A few days ago I complained because Mike Wise had an Alan Alda moment at the beginning of his column on Andre Carter. So today, he comes up with a whole Alda-like column.

His issue is that the players are talking too much about winning the Super Bowl. In his column entitled "Big Pronouncements in August Can Haunt You in December" Wise quotes Clinton Portis talking about his goals:

"Winning the NFC East. Win the NFC championship game. Winning the Super Bowl. Rushing yards don't matter to me as long as I get a ring."

And Chris Cooley on how many passes he wants to catch this year:

"We win the Super Bowl, it doesn't matter to me."

He follows with what he thinks in the real zinger, the most outrageous statement of them all:

And who can forget Mark Brunell's proclamation on Day One of training camp? "Anything short of going all the way would be a disappointment."

This, Wise says, is unorthodox and downright dangerous:

But most players gunning for a championship don't publicly talk about it. At all. Especially in training camp.

That's silly, and it's not true. It's the goal of every player to go to the Super Bowl and win it. There isn't a team out there that doesn't think it has a chance and most players, when asked about personal goals, will say that they have none and their only goal is to help their team win it all. The recent history of worst-to-first performances in the NFL over the past decade or so backs up their confidence.

And what are the supposed say? As Brunell said, quoted by Wise in his column:

"If I had said, 'Hopefully, we'll win six games,' they would ship me out of here," Brunell said yesterday. "Thirty-one other starting quarterbacks should be saying the same thing."

All Portis and Cooley were saying is that the stats don't matter, it's the W's that count. The ring is the thing. These guys aren't boldly predicting that they'll be hoisting the Lombardi in February. They are saying that they will be disappointed if they don't get there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Certainly, as Wise points out, the Redskins aren't bullet proof. Countless things could go wrong that would derail their bid for a special season. But that doesn't mean that the players should do nothing but sit around and wring their hands worrying about it. It seems to me that the Redskins are striking a good balance between caution and optimism. Apparently, Wise disagrees.

TO Getting Brittle With Age?. . .posted 08.05.06

Well, well. For the past couple of days, Terrell Owens, the man who some are saying will turn the Dallas Cowboys from a 9-7, out of the playoffs unit into one that will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next February, has been on the sidelines with a hamstring pull. While plenty of stars are sitting out with various ailments, many of which wouldn't keep them out of a regular-season game, this one qualifies as news. No, not because ESPN and the NFL Network are constantly cutting to updates on how the stationary bike riding is going for Owens. It's because of this, from the AP story on his continued absence from practice:

Owens had not had a hamstring problem before

That's right, in his 10 previous years in the NFL, plus, presumably, his four years in college at Chattanooga, and before that in high school (where nobody gave him any respect, according to his book) and back to Pee-Wee football, he never has had a hamstring problem.

Hmm, let's see here. According to his page on NFL.com, he was born on December 7, 1973. That means that he's 32 now and will be 33 before the season ends. That's older than most of the wide receivers out there. I think it's safe to assume that his advancing age and the appearance of an injury that he had never suffered before are related.

Just a fluke, just a one-shot deal? Maybe, maybe not. It's also safe to assume that he had been dragged down from behind many times before Roy Williams did it to him on December 18, 2004. That time, however, 11 days after TO turned 31, he suffered a broken leg.

Bad luck or getting a bit brittle with age? Or maybe a little bit of both?

To be sure, nobody works out harder to keep himself in better shape than TO does. But very few of the wide receivers whose productivity dipped after age 30 largely because of various ailments, both small and nagging and big and debilitating, were couch potatoes in the offseason. Regardless of how much one may work out, eventually the body breaks down to the point where it can no longer function at the level necessary for one to be an NFL player at the very highest level. Everyone is different in terms of how long it takes and how rapid the tumble is once the descent downhill begins. But everyone is the same in that it happens sooner or later, more quickly or more slowly. TO is no exception.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they came to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com


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