A year ago, on Sept. 20, 2005, Mark Brunell was the toast of Washington, D.C., after leading the Redskins to a dramatic, fourth quarter comeback over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.
On Sept. 20, 2006, Mark Brunell was faced with this question to open his Wednesday media session: "So how does it feel to be 36 years old and washed up?"
Brunell, of course, took the question in good-natured fashion.
He knows full well that quarterback is a position that gets plenty of focus from fans and media. He understands criticism is part of the job.
Since the 27-10 loss to the Cowboys last Sunday, it seems Brunell has been under fire from all directions, from local newspaper columnists and sports talk radio hosts to NBC broadcaster John Madden.
Does it bother him?
"If I did a lot of reading and watching on TV, I would have a tough time with it," Brunell said on Wednesday. "Right now, you know it's out there, but for me, it's smarter to think about what you have to do to play better. As far as our locker room goes, there is no finger-pointing. I think that says a lot about our football team."
Brunell helped lead the Redskins to a 10-6 record and a Wild Card win in 2005. He threw for 3,050 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. But this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and the Redskins are off to a 0-2 start in 2006.
In two games, Brunell has completed 35-of-61 passes for 360 yards, with one interception. He has been sacked six times, all in the Dallas loss. His QB rating is 67.7.
Brunell turned 36 years old on Sept. 17, and he knows questions about his age, skills and durability will become more frequent anytime the offense struggles.
Brunell has not shied away from criticizing his own play.
"You can always be better with your reads, your accuracy and making decisions in the pocket," he said. "There is no question that there are a lot of things that I could be doing better."
Brunell expects that the addition of Clinton Portis, sidelined with a shoulder injury, will be a big help to the offense. He believes that, as players become more comfortable in Al Saunders' offense, pass protection units will improve.
Gibbs said earlier this week that he did not give any consideration to pulling Brunell from the Dallas game.
Gibbs has maintained confidence in Brunell during this tough stretch.
"If there is anybody who has a great outlook on things, it's Mark," Gibbs said. "We had a long talk yesterday, just about things in general. He is so good at analyzing things. He's been around a long time. He's been through a lot of tough situations and handled them great. He has a lot of class.
"He feels like I do: it's just a matter of all of us getting together. He is a part of that, but he is only a part of it. Everybody wants to find a person [to blame], but that's normally not the case with this. It's everybody working together."