Redskins coach Joe Gibbs knows it’s a risk to go into a season with a 36-year-old quarterback.
That’s how old Joe Theismann was in 1985 when he lost a step. The Redskins started 5–5 that year, and Theismann was over the hill even before Lawrence Taylor ended his career and the Redskins missed the playoffs.
This year, Gibbs is going with Mark Brunell, who turns 36 on September 17. If Brunell falters, the team’ll have to go with Jason Campbell, who may very well not be ready after sitting out his rookie year.
Gibbs has the pieces in place to go deep into the playoffs: a solid defense with nine starters back, a big-time running back in Clinton Portis, a good offensive line, and a game-breaking receiver in Santana Moss. And the team has a favorable schedule that includes games against the Vikings, Texans, Titans, Saints, and Rams.
But Brunell has to prove he’ll deliver now that Gibbs has turned over the offense to Al Saunders. Here’s our look at the season:
September 11—Redskins 24, Vikings 14. The Vikings don’t play as well on grass as they party on the water.
September 17—Cowboys 17, Redskins 14. Playing in Dallas is never easy, especially coming off a Monday-night game.
September 24—Redskins 31, Texans 7. Portis shreds the paper-thin Texans defense for 172 yards.
October 1—Redskins 27, Jaguars 14. Brunell throws for 330 yards to show his former team it made a mistake letting him go.
October 8—Giants 14, Redskins 7. LaVar Arrington helps the Giants stuff the Redskins. Gibbs says he’ll get more involved in the offensive game.
October 15—Redskins 28, Titans 7. Redskins bring back Gibbs’s favorite play, the counter trey, to rout the Titans.
October 22—Colts 28, Redskins 21. The Redskins aren’t used to playing indoors, especially against Peyton Manning.
November 5—Redskins 21, Cowboys 10. Owner Dan Snyder is so excited about beating Dallas that he again raises parking prices.
November 12—Eagles 20, Redskins 14. They can’t sweep the Eagles two years in a row.
November 19—Redskins 20, Bucs 14. Phil Simms used to drive Gibbs nuts, but his son Chris isn’t a chip off the old block.
November 26—Panthers 23, Redskins 17. Carolina shows why it’s favored to go to the Super Bowl.
December 3—Redskins 17, Falcons 14. Michael Vick is a one-man band, and that’s not enough to beat Washington.
December 10 — Redskins 20, Eagles 13. Skins split with Eagles for the first time since 2001.
December 17—Redskins 27, Saints 13. The visit to New Orleans puts a spotlight on how much of the Crescent City still needs to be rebuilt.
December 24—Redskins 19, Rams 13. Redskins clinch a playoff spot with their tenth victory Christmas Eve, setting up a Saturday-night prime-time battle for the division title against the Giants.
December 30—Redskins 24, Giants 14. Redskins clinch first division title since 1999. Gibbs hugs Snyder in the locker room after the game.
Redskins 20, Bears 10. For the second straight year, the Redskins win their playoff opener.
Redskins 18, Seahawks 14. Redskins advance to NFC-title game for the first time since the Super Bowl season of 1991 by avenging last year’s playoff loss to the Seahawks.
Panthers 21, Redskins 14. For the third time in his career, Brunell loses a conference-title game and falls one step short of the Super Bowl. The Jason Campbell era figures to start next year.