Before Sunday, the last time Gale Gilbert threw a pass that counted was in 1986, when he was a reserve quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.
The last time he threw a pass under game conditions was in August.
So, everything considered, Gilbert didn't perform all that badly in the Buffalo Bills' 29-14 regular-season-ending loss to the Washington Redskins.
Playing the entire second half, he completed 8 of 15 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. The downside was a pair of interceptions, but they weren't enough to discourage Gilbert or Bills head coach Marv Levy.
"I felt good, really good," Gilbert said. "I'm just happy I got in. I think I did some good things."
"I thought Gale did well, particularly since it was the first action he had seen since the preseason," Levy said. "He was in a tough situation. He was in a situation where we were behind (9-0 at halftime), and he had to take a few more chances."
The Bills' thinking behind using Gilbert Sunday was three-fold -- first, there was nothing at stake in the game; second, they didn't want to risk an injury to Frank Reich, the Bills' No. 1 quarterback until Jim Kelly returns from a knee injury; third, they wanted Gilbert to get some playing time in case he is pressed into duty during the playoffs.
"I didn't know how much, but I figured I was going to get to play some," Gilbert said. "I was very excited. I prepared all week as hard as I could -- the last two weeks, actually."
He certainly looked ready on his first series, driving the Bills 56 yards to a touchdown. The six-play march included Gilbert's 15-yard pass to Keith McKeller and a 33-yard pass interference penalty drawn by Andre Reed, and was capped by the quarterback's 13-yard scoring toss to Ken Davis.
"I just had Kenny one-on-one with the safety," Gilbert said. "He ran a good route and made a great catch."
Gilbert's other TD pass, a 20-yarder to Steve Tasker, came late in the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach.
In between, he was intercepted on consecutive series by strong safety Alvin Walton and cornerback Martin Mayhew. Both plays led to Washington touchdowns, with Walton's 61-yard return giving the Redskins the ball at the Bills' 6-yard line and Mayhew's 5-yard runback putting them on the Buffalo 32.
"Obviously, I took us out of the game with those interceptions," Gilbert said. "You just can't have two turnovers like that deep in your own territory.
"On the first one, I didn't see where Walton was coming from. I had Butch (Rolle) wide open over the middle, and I just didn't see him (Walton). I didn't make a good throw on the second one."
Gilbert insisted he was resigned to the fact Kelly probably would return to action for the first playoff game, and he would return to obscurity.
"Oh, yeah," Gilbert said. "But Frank and I are still going to have to prepare so we'll be ready to play, just in case."
Does he feel confident the Bills are three-deep at quarterback?
"Put it this way," Gilbert said, "I sure hope so."