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NFL.com: Brunell vs. Bledsoe


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Analyze This: Not just passing by

(Oct. 27, 2005) -- Drew Bledsoe was cut by Buffalo in February. Mark Brunell "lost" the Redskins' quarterback competition when Patrick Ramsey was named the starter last December. But nearing the halfway point of the season, both those veterans -- once thought past their prime -- are now ranked in the top five in passer rating.

But they aren't the only new starting quarterbacks now lining up under center. Josh McCown in Arizona, Jeff Garcia in Detroit, Kelly Holcomb in Buffalo and rookie Alex Smith in San Francisco have all been handed the keys to their respective offenses after starting the season on the bench.

So which one of these signal-callers has handled their new role the best? That question was asked to our panel of experts and it appears we have a consensus.


"It's only Week 8 and 13 teams have made a change at quarterback. Most of the changes were due to injury but some were done to spark a change in the fortunes of the club. Kelly Holcomb clearly changed the direction of the Buffalo Bills and his 2-1 record is just what the doctor ordered. It's too early to tell if Jeff Garcia can do the same for the Lions. Josh McCown never knows if he's starting or sitting, but he is the only QB to win a game for Dennis Green in Arizona. Alex Smith is getting sacked every four pass attempts and can't be evaluated until 2006. The best of these quarterbacks by far is Mark Brunell. He loses his job in 2004, looks old and unable to run or throw, yet he comes back this season and looks like he drank from the fountain of youth. He's ranked 13th in the league in passing yards, has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just two interceptions and has a 98.3 passer rating. What's not to

like about Brunell?"


"Mark Brunell, by a long shot. He isn't the same quarterback he was last season, and that's a very good thing for the Redskins. Brunell's passing arm wasn't healthy in 2004, which is the main reason it looked to many of us as if it had nothing left. Joe Gibbs was wise to stick with Brunell for another year to see how he would perform once, or if, he reached full capacity. The quick hook on Patrick Ramsey showed Gibbs' conviction that Brunell would come through if given a second chance to start. Although Brunell mostly plays within himself and keeps mistakes to a minimum, he can make the big throws when necessary. He still might not have the strongest of arms, but it hasn't prevented him from consistently connecting with the game's foremost deep threat, Santana Moss. And that gives the Redskins a dimension that should keep them a serious contender for the NFC East crown."


"For me, it comes down to Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell. A case can be made for both based on what they've done through the first seven weeks of the season: Both have led their teams to winning records and both have positive stats; each has passed for 12 TDs (although Bledsoe has played one more game); both have passer ratings above 94. That said, having to make a choice of only one, my choice would be Brunell. He seems to be in a rhythm that I think is necessary for quarterbacks to be successful. The Redskins are the second-ranked team on offense overall in the NFL this season after they finished 30th overall in 2004. They are averaging 22.5 points per game, up from 15 in 2004. And they have won four of their first six games -- it took them twice as long to win four games last season. This week's game against the Giants will be a big test because Brunell played eight years under Tom Coughlin while with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I feel certain that Coughlin knows Brunell's strengths and weaknesses and will try to exploit those weaknesses."


"Mark Brunell has found the fountain of youth and has regained his confidence. It all began Week 2 in Dallas with two long strikes to his new favorite target, Santana Moss. Prior to those two passes, I thought it may have been over for Brunell, but confidence obviously goes a long way."


"Mark Brunell has been a godsend, the Comeback Player of the Year, Lazarus and simply the best new/old starting quarterback this year. Other than Joe Gibbs and Brunell's family, who thought that a player who looked so washed up at the end of his career in Jacksonville and last year in Washington could be this effective? He is throwing the ball as well, if not better, than he did during the height of his career in Jacksonville."


"I have to go with Mark Brunell, but I have reasons other than just going with my old quarterback from the University of Washington. He has succeeded after being thrown into his situation just one game into the season. And he has responded well, throwing at least two touchdowns in each of the five starts he’s made so far. If this past game was any indication, the offense seems to be on its way to shaking the doldrums that have plagued it the last couple of seasons. Most importantly, Mark has kept his team very competitive in a tough NFC East division after many observers had not given them much of a chance."

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