After reclaiming a starting role as the Redskins' quarterback last September, Mark Brunell enters his third year in Washington looking forward to leading the Redskins again next season.
Brunell helped guide the Redskins to a 10-6 record and a win in the playoffs, the team's first since 1999. The postseason run came to an end last Saturday in Seattle with a 20-10 defeat to the Seahawks in the Divisional Playoffs round.
"It was a good learning lesson for us, to be in the playoffs and on the road like that in those environments," the 14-year veteran QB said on Monday. "It's always tough to play on the road in the playoffs because you're facing some really good teams. Most of the guys on our team had not been in the playoffs, so guys should feel real proud of what we accomplished.
"It was a pretty special year with a great group of guys. I know I feel real proud of this football team and I'm looking forward to getting this going again."
Brunell played in all 16 games last season for the first time since 2000. Head coach Joe Gibbs named him the starter prior to Week 2 after he helped guide the Redskins to a 9-7, season-opening win over the Chicago Bears in relief of Patrick Ramsey.
For the season, Brunell completed 262-of-454 passes for 3,050 yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a QB rating of 85.9. In the postseason, Brunell was 29-of-52 for 283 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Overall, the offense struggled in the postseason, compiling just 120 total yards of offense and 25 passing yards in the Wild Card win over Tampa Bay.
Then, in the first half against Seattle, the offense struggled with just three first downs and five possessions going three-and-out. The offense was better in the second half, but since the Redskins trailed 17-3, Brunell was forced to pass 30 times, compared to just eight runs.
Heading into the offseason, the thinking is that improving the offense will be a focus in personnel moves.
"There's always room for improvement," Brunell said. "Certainly I can play better. In the passing game and the running game, we can always be better, and I think every year you go into the offseason knowing that you have to step it up if you expect to be playing again in the playoffs next year.
"We're going to have to improve. We'll work hard this upcoming offseason, as we did last offseason, and there'll be points of emphasis that we'll address."
In Week 16, Brunell sustained a knee injury that he said bothered him a week later in the Redskins' playoff-clinching win over the Philadelphia Eagles. But Brunell emphasized that the injury did not hinder him during the two playoff games.
"It feels great," he said. "It bothered me in Philly a bit because it was just a week after I had done it. But after that game, it felt fine. In Tampa, it felt great. It wasn't a problem at all against the Seahawks. I was real pleased with how it progressed."
Meantime, head coach Joe Gibbs spoke at length about third quarterback Jason Campbell on Monday. Ramsey's long-term future with the team seems uncertain at this point. Gibbs and Ramsey are set to discuss Ramsey's future in the coming weeks.
Gibbs said he could have envisioned Campbell playing well if he had been forced to play last season.
But Gibbs added that it was best for Campbell to sit, watch and learn from Brunell and Ramsey.
Asked to discuss Campbell's development, Gibbs said: "Many times, with a young quarterback, you say to yourself, 'Okay, they're not going to take snaps from a regular offense.' But what they are doing is attending meetings. They're getting coaching from Bill Musgrave. They're getting practice reps. They're getting the whole offseason program, where they do get to work with the first-team receivers.
"You have to absorb the whole offense and get everyone lined up in the right place--it's a lot to do from a mental standpoint. I feel confident that, if Jason had been thrust into things this year, he would have played well. But it's probably best that he got to sit through a whole year."
Campbell was the Redskins' first-round draft pick (25th overall) last April. The 6-4, 223-pounder was an accomplished college quarterback, playing at Auburn and leading the Tigers to an undefeated season in 2004.
Campbell did not get a chance to play in 2005, serving as the Redskins' third quarterback on game day. He mostly served as the scout team quarterback during practices.
Continued Gibbs: "We see a lot in practice. My impression is that he's very accurate. I think he's going to be a guy that can really roam with a football. I think he's going to make plays with his feet. I think he has a sense of what the pocket is. He'll slide. He's going to be hard to sack because he's so big. We've seen a lot out of him.
"Now, he needs to play. We'll get into that. I laughingly told him, 'Take the hat off and throw it away. You're getting ready to go work. You're going to have to earn your money now.' Carlos Rogers was yelling at him, too. He said, 'I told my buddy that he has to start earning his money. The rest of us are out there playing.' Anyway, I think Jason had a year that was probably good for him. He got to hear it, see it and go through it. He probably learned a lot."