The Mark Brunell era in Washington appears to be over after only nine games, and, boy, did it end ugly. The handpicked choice of Joe Gibbs to quarterback the Redskins in the coach's second coming, the 34-year-old Brunell was benched, probably for good, after completing only one of his first eight passes in a 17--10 home loss to the Bengals on Sunday. Brunell had been an accurate, efficient passer in his nine years with the Jaguars, but his arm failed him in Washington (.498 completion percentage). He was yanked for third-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey. "You never want to be the guy to let the other guys down," Brunell said afterward. "I never had to face that before."
He may be facing the ax next. Gibbs will likely stay with Ramsey for the rest of this woeful 3-6 season. Then there's a salary-cap issue: Acquired in a trade during the off-season, Brunell agreed to a seven-year, $43 million contract, which included an $8.6 million signing bonus. If the Redskins choose to keep him as a backup after this year, he'll count $3.43 million against the cap in 2005. If they cut Brunell before training camp, he'll count $1.43 million, but they'll also take a $5.73 million cap hit in '06. Those are big numbers for a quarterback with a 63.9 passer rating this season.