When it comes to quarterback competitions in the NFL, it's usually the tension and drama of two players competing for one job that draws the most scrutiny. But as Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey set out to compete for the Redskins' starting quarterback job, it's apparent they aren't playing along with this scenario.
Brunell and Ramsey have forged a friendship--and no matter what happens, they expect it to stay that way.
"Mark and I have a lot in common," Ramsey said on the first day of training camp. "It's something that's come natural to both of us. The primary factor in all of it is that both of us want to have a good relationship regardless of the outcome."
Added Brunell: "On the field and, more importantly, off the field, Patrick's a great person. I've enjoyed getting to know him."
From head coach Joe Gibbs on down to the players themselves, the competition for starting jobs--not just at quarterback--has been framed as healthy for the team. Football is a competitive sport and competition can only help individual players strive to get better on the field.
Even teammates view the quarterback competition as a friendly battle.
"With Mark, you have more of a veteran guy--he looks for things, he guides you and leads you into things," tailback Clinton Portis said. "Pat, he's more of a gunslinger. You turn around and he's trying to take your head off with the ball. I think that's his role--to get you the ball. And the quicker he can get you the ball, the better."
The Redskins are in an envious position, having two quarterbacks the caliber of Brunell and Ramsey. Brunell is a 12-year veteran with more than 25,000 passing yards and 144 touchdowns, while Ramsey is quickly establishing himself as a strong-armed, tough-as-nails passer.
During training camp, the two QBs have split snaps on the field, with backups Tim Hasselbeck and Gibran Hamdan also getting their share of work.
Gibbs said the Brunell-Ramsey competition may go down to the last week of preseason.
"We know how we're going to handle everything and we know how we're going to play the [preseason] games," Gibbs said. "Hey, we all know [the quarterback competition] could come down to a toss up.
"We have a number of open positions and a new coaching staff, and so hopefullyj the more of those real battles that you have, the better your football team is going to be. Most players appreciate that they have to win a job."
"Competition makes you work harder, makes you pay attention to every detail and makes you become a better leader," he said.
Gibbs, of course, coached three different quarterbacks to Super Bowl championships in 1982, 1987 and 1991. His most memorable quarterback competition, if even that, was Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder. For the most part, Gibbs settled on Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien as his primary quarterbacks during his first stint as head coach.
Gibbs believes the quarterback position is one of the most important positions on any football team. Certainly the acquisition of Brunell to join the younger Ramsey bears that out.
"I think quarterbacks come in all packages and all styles," Gibbs said. "Some have great arms, some have very average arms. There's an intangible there too, because great quarterbacks know how to get it done. I've got great respect for the position and we did everything we could this year to try to position ourselves to have a very strong quarterback position."
When it comes to evaluating quarterbacks, Gibbs suggested on-field performance in games is a key component.
"They have the ball in their hands, they either move the ball downfield or they don't," he explained. "As a general rule, their play is something that everybody is looking at, whereas some of the other positions, that may not be the case. The proof is how well they're moving the ball downfield and scoring points."