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Quarterback intrigue satisfies insiders


Rams running back Steven Jackson (left) drags Washington Redskins defenders Ryan Clark and Andre Lott (not pictured) with him for more yardage during the fourth quarter of the Rams-Redskins preseason game Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

(Chris Lee/P-D)


Washington's QB situation is up in the air as head coach Joe Gibbs' (left) mulls choice between Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell.

Washington loves nothing more than a juicy political scandal - with the possible exception of a hair-pulling quarterback controversy.

So Friday night, Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins came to the Edward Jones Dome trying to make sense out of the debate surrounding veteran newcomer Mark Brunell and holdover starter Patrick Ramsey.

With one exhibition remaining, Washington may have to satisfy itself with political intrigue. In a performance that likely won him few votes, Ramsey - also known as "Steve Spurrier's quarterback" - failed to move his offense without the assistance of Rams defensive penalties. Given his second start of the exhibition schedule, Ramsey completed five of 10 first-half passes for 81 yards, one first down and hardly any continuity.

Gibbs has imported an entirely different scheme than Spurrier's fun-'n-gun, a difference Ramsey readily acknowledges by saying, "It is like starting over."

Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. It's unlikely he will go into the Redskins' Sept. 12 season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without an obvious leader.

Brunell fits the profile of the proven passer that Gibbs loves. Joe Thiesmann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien were 30-somethings when they won the Ultimate Game. Brunell is 33. Ramsey is 25.

On their opening drive, Ramsey took the Redskins 62 yards on 11 plays before John Hall delivered a 28-yard field goal. However, the drive would have died had Rams defensive tackle Damione Lewis not been whistled for a roughing penalty on a 3rd-and-7 incompletion. Ramsey immediately followed with a 15-yard strike to Rod Gardner that pushed the ball to the Rams 15. But when Redskins receiver James Thrash headed for the end zone on a corner route, Ramsey led him too far.

"Obviously, I think I can play better," Ramsey said. "But I feel pretty good about it."

Ramsey and Brunell passed for 109 yards while averaging barely six yards per attempt.

Of his team's overall performance within a 28-3 beating, Gibbs said, "That wasn't Redskin football."

Regarding his Week One starting quarterback, he continued to hedge. "You look at everything. You look at every week and every practice," Gibbs said. "It's a process." He then said Brunell would start his team's exhibition finale.

The differences between Brunell and Ramsey are fairly obvious. Brunell throws left-handed and ranks as the NFL's 11th all-time leading passer. He is also a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and he took his team to a conference championship game in 1996.

Brunell was obtained in a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 3 after the Redskins negotiated a seven-year, $43 million contract, including an $8.6 million signing bonus. Gibbs was lured back to Redskin Park from NASCAR less than two months before the Brunell trade.

Ramsey started the first 11 games for a Redskins team that went 5-11 under "the ball coach" Spurrier. As Brunell was replaced by rookie Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville, Ramsey was missing the last five games with a foot injury.

Gibbs started Brunell in his team's first and third exhibitions while Ramsey opened in the second week and Friday night.

"I truly don't feel any more pressure than when you're out there trying to start against another team," Ramsey said. "That's all you're trying to do, whether you're competing with a guy or not. You don't put any added pressure on yourself. It only makes you play worse."

Paired with the second unit, Brunell's numbers also were dull. He completed five of eight attempts for 28 yards with nothing thrown farther than seven yards. His 12-yard scramble was the Redskins' longest run through three quarters. Tim Hasselback, Ramsey's backup last season, worked the fourth quarter. The election is barely one week away.


Rams quarterback Marc Bulger gets sacked for a 5-yard loss by Washington Redskins lineman Renaldo Wynn.

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