IRVING, Texas -- The irony isn't lost on Tony Banks.
He would have been the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback against the Washington Redskins on Monday night had everything gone according to plan.
Instead, he'll be flinging passes for the Redskins (0-4) as he tries to prove to the Cowboys (0-4) that they made a mistake when they released him in August.
''It's still a shock thinking about it,'' Banks said. ''I thought my first Monday night start was going to be against the Redskins. And now, it's against the Cowboys.''
Banks, who lost starting jobs in St. Louis and Baltimore, was told he'd be the opening day starter when the Cowboys signed him in March. Then, he went to practice on a sunny August morning in Oxnard, Calif., and found out he wasn't even on the team any more.
The Cowboys were impressed by rookie Quincy Carter's ability in limited action during preseason games. They wanted to see more of Carter -- as a starter, which meant they no longer needed Banks' services.
Cowboys officials also were disappointed that Banks spent less time than expected at team headquarters over the spring and summer.
Banks was irate after his release, saying, ''It's the last possible thing I could imagine.''
Banks, who still has a home in Dallas, argued that he missed workouts because he was moving across the country and had to pay for his own move.
He was so hurt by the release that he thought about retiring.
''There was a period of time where I thought about giving the game up, because I thought it was pretty disgusting how everything was handled,'' Banks said. ''I had never been in that situation before. I didn't know if there would be a team that would call immediately or if it would be midseason.''
It took only two days for him to find employment as Jeff George's backup with the Redskins. George was released two games into the season.
So far, Banks' road back to a starting job has been extremely bumpy. The Redskins have been outscored 135-25 this season, which only begins to describe their offense's struggles.
Washington has the NFL's worst offense and Banks has the league's worst quarterback rating. He had two interceptions and three fumbles in last week's 23-9 loss to the New York Giants, resuming a career-long problem with turnovers.
Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said Banks is still adapting to the offense.
''I've told him he doesn't have to prove anything to anybody,'' Schottenheimer said. ''Notwithstanding his reputation, football is very important to Tony Banks.''
Cowboys coach Dave Campo wasn't shy about his team's assessment of Banks as a member of the Redskins.
''Tony's made some mistakes, which has been his modus operandi for a number of years,'' Campo said. ''We hope we can continue to help the mistakes.''
Banks, for his part, would like to help the Cowboys stay winless.
He insisted this game isn't personal, but admitted that he may be a little more excited than before most games.
''I imagine once I see (Cowboys owner Jerry) Jones over there on the sideline,'' Banks said, ''a little fire under me might be brewing.''
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