One of Joe Gibbs' enduring legacies as Redskins head coach is that he won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien started for Gibbs because they each had qualities that Gibbs looked for in his quarterbacks--a strong arm, veteran experience and leadership skills.
Theismann had nine years of experience when he led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl title in 1982-83. Williams was an eight-year veteran when he led Washington to a Super Bowl title in 1987. And Rypien was in his fifth year when he led the Redskins to their third Super Bowl win in 1991.
Certainly it's much too soon to suggest Gibbs' off-season acquisition of Mark Brunell will produce similar results. But adding an experienced starting quarterback to the 2004 roster--Brunell is an 11-year NFL veteran with impressive credentials--would seem to fit Gibbs' blueprint for success, no matter who wins the Redskins' starting QB job in the preseason.
Brunell is expected to compete with 2002 first-round draft pick Patrick Ramsey in training camp for the starting quarterback job. It should be one of the more intriguing storylines of the Redskins' preseason.
Said Gibbs: "When Mark became available, it was obvious that he would be a good fit for us. It just made a lot of sense to add somebody at quarterback who was a mature guy and had tons of experience."
For Brunell, quarterback isn't the only position on the Redskins roster that has plenty of depth. As he lines up behind center during practices, Brunell admits his eyes widen at the talent level surrounding him.
From Clinton Portis and Laveranues Coles to Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, Brunell says this Redskins offense could be one of the best he's ever been around.
That's impressive company. In Jacksonville, Brunell played with the likes of Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell and Tony Boselli, among others. In the late 1990s, the Jaguars were consistently among the league's top offenses.
Brunell said the talent level of the Redskins' offense combines power and speed--two elements that were also integral to his Jacksonville teams.
"There are a lot of similarities," he said. "Both offenses really emphasize a good, strong running game--which every offense in the NFL should be doing because that's how you win football games. Both offenses also have an effective passing game and emphasize being smart with the football."
Regarding the Redskins' offensive talent, Brunell added: "Every player on this offense seems to have his own strength. We've got it all: size, speed, power, smart players, hard workers, receivers who run great routes. It's one of the best offenses I've been around. I couldn't be more pleased."
Brunell and the offense have worked together through three mini-camps and a multitude of practices (league-sanctioned Organized Team Activities, or OTAs). Coaches required an aggressive learning curve, heavy on repetition, forcing players to study the playbook at length and apply what they learned on the field over and over again.
"We were at kindergarten-level back in March [at the first mini-camp], now I think we're in fourth grade," Brunell said, smiling. "Slowly but surely, we're getting up there. Everyone's working hard, but we know that there's still a lot of work to go.
"At this point what you're looking for is a great attitude. We have that here."
Brunell joined the Redskins as the No. 11-ranked passer in NFL history, with a career passer rating of 85.2. He has started 117-of-122 games in his 11-year career, and has completed 2,195-of-3,639 passes for 25,793 yards and 144 touchdowns. He is a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1996, '97 and '99) and twice led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game (1996 and '99).
In Washington, Brunell's primary weapons are expected to be Portis and Coles, along with Rod Gardner, James Thrash, Darnerien McCants and a multitude of tight ends and H-backs.
"When I hand the ball off [to Portis], you don't see much of him because he's down the field so quick," Brunell said. "He's a great player--young, but proven. He's a weapon. We're fortunate to have him."
Of the team's wide receivers, Brunell said: "I couldn't have asked for a better group of receivers. Laveranues [Coles] is fast, Rod [Gardner] is big and strong, James [Thrash] is a hard worker with a great attitude. They all complement each other real well and their experience is making it easy on me as we go about learning this offense."