Leftwich named Jaguars starter

Updated: October 2, 2003, 4:27 PM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich will start Sunday against San Diego, leaving a healthy Mark Brunell on the bench.

For the second straight day, Leftwich said, he took the majority of the snaps with the first team during Thursday's practice. Brunell said he didn't take any.

The left-handed Brunell is listed as questionable for Sunday with a cut on his left elbow. He said the elbow is fine, however, and he looked good throwing in individual drills early in practice.

"It's better than yesterday," said Brunell, who wore a small bandage on the elbow. "No problems whatsoever."

Coach Jack Del Rio made the announcement shortly after practice.

"The injury plays into it a little bit," Del Rio said. "And I feel like this is our best option to help us win."

The coach also announced receiver Jimmy Smith would start Sunday, in his first game back from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Many in Jacksonville view the quarterback decision as the latest signal that the Jaguars (0-4) are ready to move on with their future -- replacing the guy who became the regular starter in the 1995 expansion season with this year's first-round draft pick.

Del Rio, however, insisted that's not the case.

"There is no shift from Plan A to Plan B," he said. "There is no trashing of this season."

He said he hasn't made any decisions beyond this week, and if Brunell becomes a permanent backup, "he'll be the first to know." Because of the way his contract is structured, this is almost certainly Brunell's last season with the Jaguars.

Leftwich will make his second career start. Last week, he threw for 231 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a crucial lost fumble in a 24-20 loss to Houston.

"Whether I start or not is out of my control," Leftwich said. "I'm just going to prepare myself to play, the same as I always do."

Clearly upset with the decision, Brunell gave no theories for why it was made.

"You'll have to ask Jack," Brunell said.

Del Rio respected Brunell's frustration.

"I'm pleased with the way he's battled and the way he's battling to come back from the injury," Del Rio said. "He's been great working at it and trying to get back, but in my estimation, Byron gives us the best chance to win."

Brunell, 33, is 63-54 as Jacksonville's starting quarterback, but only 19-30 since the start of the 2000 season.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index