I've been watching the Redskins' offseason closely, and Coach Gibbs has had a pretty rough winter and spring. What with Fred Smoot, Antonio Pierce, Laveranues Coles departing, newly acquired Santana Moss holding out on a contract whose ink wasn't even dry, LaVar Arrington contradicting Coach in the media about his rehabilitation, Sean Taylor refusing Gibbs' calls en route to picking up a criminal charge and every sports writer second-guessing his draft-day decisions, I bet His Joeness sometimes wonders if coming back was such a great idea after all. Certainly Gibbs and Snyders' detractors have had field day predicting doom for the 2005 season.
Coach, fans, cheerleaders, Redskins haters, I've got news for you. I do. The Redskins are going to the playoffs!
I know because the other day I sought wisdom and insight from The Source of Redskins Truth through a time-honored sacrament. In other words, I squeezed my 32 year-old head into my childhood-sized 1978 Rawlings Redskin helmet and let the claustrophobic recession of blood from my brain guide me from the present through the next eight months. (Hey, it worked before and brought Gibbs back to Washington!)
When I came to, disoriented and drooling, I realized I was witness to a revelation: The 2005 Redskins Season Results.
Preseason Game 4 (because the first three really didn't matter)
(September 1) The Baltimore Ravens welcomed the Redskins to That Stadium Next to Camden Yards, eager to avenge their crushing loss to Washington during a summer scrimmage. The bad blood in this Battle of the Beltway wasn't evident in pre-game warmups, as Deion Sanders and Sean Taylor were seen at midfield laughing and comparing egos. The hard hitting was left primarily to young players eager to make the final cut, but that didn't stop Ravens coach Brian Billick from sending federal prison furlough Jamal Lewis in during the fourth quarter to ensure that he continued his streak of 50 yards per preseason game. The Ravens won, 24-20, and Billick defended his decision, confidently assuring the media that "Lewis will be fine for our opener. He's a tough guy. Remember: I'm an offensive guru!" Gibbs, when asked about his teams' 1-4 preseason, shrugged his shoulders, replying "I'm just glad we have everyone healthy, no players are holding out, and that Chad Morton isn't eating up cap space anymore. Wait, don't print that last part."
(September 11) It didn't take long for Chicago Bears fans to lament their quarterback situation. Chad Hutchinson tossed two interceptions and fumbled once beneath the smothering Washington defense, orchestrated by coach Gregg Williams. LaVar Arrington played like a man possessed, earning eight tackles. Cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Walt Harris had a field day, smothering Muhsin Muhammad and Bobby "Hot Sauce" Wade; Bears coach Lovie Smith was left to scan the sidelines for a quarterback replacement. Realizing that Jeff George, Jonathan Quinn, and Craig Krenzel were his options, he was overheard asking for "that kid we sent to NFL Europe...Kittner somebody." The Redskins offense strutted its stuff against a wearied Chicago defense: Clinton Portis ran for one score, while Patrick Ramsey tossed one touchdown to speedster Santana Moss and was efficient in dumping passes to Chris Cooley and David Patten. "I felt good today," Ramsey later stated, "though it helped that Urlacher and his guys were on the field for 43 minutes." The Redskins won, 20-3.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts squeezed out a win against the Ravens, primarily because of Baltimore's inability to run out the clock in the final minutes. Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt minced no words, saying "Lewis just looked tired out there, it was like he'd just run out of gas. Didn't Billick learn in 2003?"
(September 19) Nothing draws ratings like rivalries, and ABC knew what it was doing when it scheduled the Redskins to visit the Dallas Cowchips on Monday Night Football early in the season, before anybody's year was already screwed up. The two proud franchises kept viewers glued to their sets late into the night, with both defenses dictating the game's pace. It wasn't until kicker Billy Cundiff inched a 42-yard attempt inside the left goal post with ten seconds left that viewers could finally catch their breath. Coach Bill Parcell's draft-day focus on defense proved to be money well spent, and Big D lived up to its nickname. Left guard Derrick Dockery summed up the day: "Our guys shut down (Dallas quarterback) Drew Bledsoe, but on our side of the ball...we just didn't get it done. I hate losing to them." Lose Washington does, 17-14. John Madden astutely noted "When you look at these two teams, you realize that they, historically, have played some good games and bad games. That's what makes them great." Which was followed by Al Michaels in stunned silence.
The Redskins spent their bye week licking their collective wounds and strategizing methods to beat Dallas. Suggestions that included spiking their Gatorade, sabotaging the team bus and kidnapping owner Jerry Jones were considered, but ultimately dismissed. "We sure could've used those three practice days the league took from us back in June..." Coach Gibbs wondered, trailing off into thought.
(October 2) Fans who got to their FedEx Field seats early for the Seahawks versus Redskins game got a treat, watching Sean Taylor intercept Matt Hasselbeck's second pass, intended for the slippery-handed Darrell Jackson, and skip untouched for a touchdown. The Washington faithful, unsure of whether they approved of the offseason miscreant, sat on their hands in general indifference. The scoring didn't stop there for Washington, as Patrick Ramsey finally showed the naysayers that he could throw well when given a little pass protection. Accordingly, Santana Moss and the receiving corps had a wonderful day. David Patten scored his first touchdown, burning free safety Ken Hamlin for a 76 yard score en route to 112 receiving yards. "We were confused, uncoordinated, just a mess," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren later admitted, "It was like watching Evander Holyfield on 'Dancing With the Stars.'" Many in the media room nodded in agreement. Washington started strong and never looked back, winning 28-14.
(October 9) Washington visited Mile High Country, home of the Denver Broncos, and witnessed firsthand why Denver was impressive in their previous three wins. Coach Gibbs reasoned "We knew coming in that we had to focus on avoiding Champ (Bailey), containing Jake Plummer, and keeping an eye on (Jerry) Rice and Rod Smith." Despite the attention to detail, the Broncos were the better team today. Without much pressure on Plummer, he picked apart the Skins' secondary, only errant once, tossing a line drive pass to safety Matt Bowen. Skins linemen Joe Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin offered little resistance to Broncos back Garrisson Hearst, who replaced Mister Irrelevant, Ron Dayne, in the second half. The Broncos walked away smiling, 17-9. With the Skins at .500, Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported that Gibbs is an abject failure as a coach and reiterated his 2004 prediction that he won't see another Super Bowl. When asked to respond, Coach Gibbs said "King? You mean that CNN guy with the suspenders?"
(October 30) New York's Giants, led by Eli Manning, welcomed the challenge of the visiting 4-2 Washington Redskins. The Skins were riding high after dismissing the 49ers and Chiefs in convincing fashion, allowing rookie quarterback Jason Campbell to get some garbage-time snaps. ("He did a great job, when we got him in there, of taking a knee. This kid's got a bright future." reflected Gibbs.) The New York fanatics believed that former Washington linebacker Antonio Pierce would have a strong game against his former team; instead it was revealed that Pierce was great in Gregg Williams' system. Clinton Portis rumbled for more than 120 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving), earning him a game ball in the Redskins' 16-7 win. ESPN's John Clayton proclaims Washington his locked-in pick for the playoffs...if they can beat the high-rolling Philly Egos.
Will Washington finally beat the NFC Champions? Will Sean Taylor avoid his semiannual brushes with the law? Will Peter King finally give Gibbs some love? These questions--and many more--are answered in Part Two of the 2005 Review!