JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mark Brunell never doubted he'd open the regular season as the starting quarterback for Jacksonville. He was surprised to learn that Jack Del Rio fashioned himself as more than a coach, but a psychologist, too.
Brunell threw a touchdown pass to help the Jaguars to a 17-15 victory over the Washington Redskins in the preseason finale Thursday night. After the game, Del Rio ended speculation about Brunell's possible departure, naming him the starter for next weekend's opener against Carolina.
Del Rio said Brunell's 5-for-7 performance over two drives "solidified" what he already knew -- that Brunell was better than David Garrard and Byron Leftwich. The coach waited until now to announce it, however, to get the 11-year veteran mentally ready for the season to come.
"I thought it was important for Mark to experience what he experienced the last few weeks," said Del Rio, who all week denied reports that the Jaguars (3-1) were shopping Brunell. "He's got two young, talented quarterbacks behind him, and it prepared him for the onslaught he'll face. He handled himself excellent. He was a real pro about it."
From Day 1, Del Rio said he would start the best 11 on both sides of the ball, but he refused to guarantee the quarterback job to Brunell. Brunell felt the mental games his coach was playing with him were probably unnecessary.
"I'm going into my 11th season, I've been through the onslaught," he said. "It was difficult. It certainly was a distraction. It was difficult, but that's how it was, and fortunately now, we can move on."
Redskins coach Steve Spurrier -- the king of the quarterback shuffle -- is playing no mind games this summer. Patrick Ramsey is still his starter, even after a 1-for-3 night over two series in which the Redskins (1-3) did practically nothing.
Part of it was because Spurrier gave many of his veterans the night off, including LaVar Arrington, Lavernaues Coles and Trung Canidate.
"Neither team played their top-line players," Spurrier said. "But you always expect to see something better than three-and-out."
Spurrier was hoping Ladell Betts would challenge Canidate for the starting running-back job. Betts finished with 21 yards on six attempts.
Washington's most interesting battle is at backup quarterback.
Getting a chance to win the position over Rob Johnson, Danny Wuerffel saved his best moments for the end, when the fourth stringers were in. He played almost the entire game, and went 13-for-19 for 147 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Patrick Johnson.
"He had a lot of good plays," Spurrier said. "There were some balls he could have thrown a little bit straighter, but all in all, I think he did a good job."
Johnson mopped up and went 3-for-6 for 13 yards. He had a late fumble that the Jaguars recovered to seal the game.
Spurrier is now 0-2 -- of course, this one didn't count -- as an NFL coach at Alltel Stadium, the place he owned when he coached Florida to consistent victories over archrival Georgia.
The ol' ballcoach has always been a fan favorite around here, although his return didn't inspire fans in Jacksonville. This game, played on a perfect, summer night, drew only 44,314, marking the worst attendance in team history -- preseason, regular season or playoffs.
Those who stayed away missed a decent performance by Brunell, who threw for 36 yards and the 4-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Brady. Brunell said he was never really worried about his status as the starter.
"I haven't thought any differently the whole season," Brunell said. "It's nice to have some closure now, and to be able to look forward to the regular season."
Fred Taylor, who only needs to stay healthy to remain the starter, looked good in his lone series, rushing three times for 22 yards.
The Associated Press News Service
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