Brunell: Defending the Indefensible

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.19.06--Despite the wishes of a good percentage of Redskins Nation, the Redskins will stick with Mark Brunell at quarterback. It's the right move.

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

The Redskins Nation Kangaroo Court has convened and the verdict is nearly unanimous.

Off with Mark Brunell's head.

He's lost it, if he's ever really had it. The arm strength to get the ball downfield isn't there any more. He's old, immobile, and senile. Put in Jason Campbell since the season is already lost, or put in Todd Collins because he couldn't be any worse, or put in Antwaan Randle El because, well, anything would be better than Brunell.

Brunell has had his detractors from the moment the Redskins gave him a big contract and sent Jacksonville a third-round pick for a player who was destined to be cut anyway. He beat out Patrick Ramsey, a fan favorite, in what was widely believed to be a sham competition for the job. He struggled, lost his job and then got it back after Ramsey was hurt and then yanked. Although the Redskins made the playoffs for the first time in five years many insist that this happened in spite of Brunell, not because of him.

So Brunell started the year off with very little rope to work with in the eyes of many Redskins fans and in the course of two games they have taken the rope and they have used it to form a noose for the lynch mob to use.

The offense was inconsistent in their 19-16 loss to the Vikings, having to settle for field goals way too often from the red zone. Against Dallas it was consistently bad. They mustered just three points, those coming on a drive that was aided—make that created—by Cowboy penalties. Six times the Redskins had the ball after Rock Cartwright's 100-yard kickoff return made the score 17-10. The first one lasted four plays and went 18 yards. Then it was 3 for 3 yards, 4 for 23 yards (a throwaway drive and the end of the half), 4 for 21, 1 for –1 and finally 4 for 18 yards, the one that ended with Brunell's interception.

Any kind of score on any of those drives would have made it a new ballgame. Any kind of time-consuming drive would have given the defense a chance to rest. The Redskins couldn't get either one of them done.

The lynch mob wants to blame Brunell and Brunell alone for the poor performance. "Bench Brunell!" threads dominate the message boards. Callers to the talk shows are expressing the same message verbally. Such thinking is misguided. Here are two plays from last night's game to illustrate this point.

On the Redskins' first offensive series, it was third and four. Brunell threw a little flare to the right to Ladell Betts, who was open and appeared to have enough running room to get the first down. Betts was looking over his outside shoulder for the ball and Brunell threw it to the inside. The pass fell incomplete and it looked like Brunell had misfired both on the stat sheet and to the untrained eye.

Did Betts look the wrong way or did Brunell throw over the wrong shoulder? The logical place for that ball to go is to the inside, where the back can run upfield without breaking stride. That is something for them to sort out in the film room and something that we'll never know the answer to.

With a little over 10 minutes left in the second quarter with the score 10-3 Dallas it was third and eight deep in Dallas territory. Brunell dropped back, surveyed the field and fired to the right sideline to. . .nobody. We know what a Brunell throwaway looks like and that wasn't one of them. The ball was thrown with a purpose and it wasn't the floater that the popcorn vendor in the third row can make a play on. It seems that Brunell thought that somebody would be there. Again, we will never know if a receiver blew a pattern or if Brunell mistakenly thought that someone would be in the vicinity.

Now, don't get me wrong here. Brunell made some truly boneheaded plays, the interception being the major one. And that arguably was the game's key play. There were some other misfires as well. Brunell has to take his share of the blame for the loss.

But only his share. The entire offense is not in synch nor is anyone playing particularly well. The QB is the triggerman, the most important guy, but he's not the only guy. Jon Jansen needs to block, or at least hold well enough so that his attempted holds don't get run through. Chris Cooley needs to get some separation between himself and linebackers and maybe block one on occasion as well. Casey Rabach has to learn not to get overpowered by big nose tackles. Antwaan Randle El needs to have a better sense of where the first down marker is.

Now, to be sure, there is a chicken-or-egg element to this. It's hard for the offense to work itself into a well-oiled machine if the quarterback position isn't running smoothly. At the same time, if the other 10 guys on offense, or even a few of them, aren't getting their jobs done consistently the quarterback is going to look bad no matter what he does.

Some situations call for drastic action. This is not one of them. While it may not be the popular thing to do, the best thing to do is what the guys who get paid millions of dollars to work 100+ hours a week to win football games are going to do. They will study the film, go over what needs to be done in meetings with the players, work on those things in practice, and try to execute next Sunday against Houston. That's not something that will create a jolt of energy, it won't make Redskins fans feel better, and it's not going to make headlines. But it does give the team its best chance of getting its fortunes turned around both in the short term and for the rest of the season.

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 the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories

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

The Redskins Nation Kangaroo Court has convened and the verdict is nearly unanimous.

Off with Mark Brunell's head.

He's lost it, if he's ever really had it. The arm strength to get the ball downfield isn't there any more. He's old, immobile, and senile. Put in Jason Campbell since the season is already lost, or put in Todd Collins because he couldn't be any worse, or put in Antwaan Randle El because, well, anything would be better than Brunell.

Brunell has had his detractors from the moment the Redskins gave him a big contract and sent Jacksonville a third-round pick for a player who was destined to be cut anyway. He beat out Patrick Ramsey, a fan favorite, in what was widely believed to be a sham competition for the job. He struggled, lost his job and then got it back after Ramsey was hurt and then yanked. Although the Redskins made the playoffs for the first time in five years many insist that this happened in spite of Brunell, not because of him.

So Brunell started the year off with very little rope to work with in the eyes of many Redskins fans and in the course of two games they have taken the rope and they have used it to form a noose for the lynch mob to use.

The offense was inconsistent in their 19-16 loss to the Vikings, having to settle for field goals way too often from the red zone. Against Dallas it was consistently bad. They mustered just three points, those coming on a drive that was aided—make that created—by Cowboy penalties. Six times the Redskins had the ball after Rock Cartwright's 100-yard kickoff return made the score 17-10. The first one lasted four plays and went 18 yards. Then it was 3 for 3 yards, 4 for 23 yards (a throwaway drive and the end of the half), 4 for 21, 1 for –1 and finally 4 for 18 yards, the one that ended with Brunell's interception.

Any kind of score on any of those drives would have made it a new ballgame. Any kind of time-consuming drive would have given the defense a chance to rest. The Redskins couldn't get either one of them done.

The lynch mob wants to blame Brunell and Brunell alone for the poor performance. \"Bench Brunell!\" threads dominate the message boards. Callers to the talk shows are expressing the same message verbally. Such thinking is misguided. Here are two plays from last night's game to illustrate this point.

On the Redskins' first offensive series, it was third and four. Brunell threw a little flare to the right to Ladell Betts, who was open and appeared to have enough running room to get the first down. Betts was looking over his outside shoulder for the ball and Brunell threw it to the inside. The pass fell incomplete and it looked like Brunell had misfired both on the stat sheet and to the untrained eye.

Did Betts look the wrong way or did Brunell throw over the wrong shoulder? The logical place for that ball to go is to the inside, where the back can run upfield without breaking stride. That is something for them to sort out in the film room and something that we'll never know the answer to.

With a little over 10 minutes left in the second quarter with the score 10-3 Dallas it was third and eight deep in Dallas territory. Brunell dropped back, surveyed the field and fired to the right sideline to. . .nobody. We know what a Brunell throwaway looks like and that wasn't one of them. The ball was thrown with a purpose and it wasn't the floater that the popcorn vendor in the third row can make a play on. It seems that Brunell thought that somebody would be there. Again, we will never know if a receiver blew a pattern or if Brunell mistakenly thought that someone would be in the vicinity.

Now, don't get me wrong here. Brunell made some truly boneheaded plays, the interception being the major one. And that arguably was the game's key play. There were some other misfires as well. Brunell has to take his share of the blame for the loss.

But only his share. The entire offense is not in synch nor is anyone playing particularly well. The QB is the triggerman, the most important guy, but he's not the only guy. Jon Jansen needs to block, or at least hold well enough so that his attempted holds don't get run through. Chris Cooley needs to get some separation between himself and linebackers and maybe block one on occasion as well. Casey Rabach has to learn not to get overpowered by big nose tackles. Antwaan Randle El needs to have a better sense of where the first down marker is.

Now, to be sure, there is a chicken-or-egg element to this. It's hard for the offense to work itself into a well-oiled machine if the quarterback position isn't running smoothly. At the same time, if the other 10 guys on offense, or even a few of them, aren't getting their jobs done consistently the quarterback is going to look bad no matter what he does.

Some situations call for drastic action. This is not one of them. While it may not be the popular thing to do, the best thing to do is what the guys who get paid millions of dollars to work 100+ hours a week to win football games are going to do. They will study the film, go over what needs to be done in meetings with the players, work on those things in practice, and try to execute next Sunday against Houston. That's not something that will create a jolt of energy, it won't make Redskins fans feel better, and it's not going to make headlines. But it does give the team its best chance of getting its fortunes turned around both in the short term and for the rest of the season.

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 the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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