Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dare One Dream?

~~One of the best parts of the Redskins beating Philly and making the playoffs is the ability for Redskins fans far and wide to be able to silence the friends and coworkers who tease Redskins fans for their perennial high hopes in the offseason. I can't tell you how many times a Dallas, Baltimore, or New York Giants fan has rolled their eyes and poo-pooed my April optimism in the Redskins. Now, finally, I can sing "Hail to the Playoffs" for five or six days. I invite you, Washington Redskins fans, to join me in the same.

~~In other news, The Washington Post has recently instituted a cool little survey at the top of their article pages that one can click and the the votes are immediately calculated. Today's link, found at the top of the lead article on Washington's win, asks this probing query: Which wild card is most likely to advance past the first round? Jaguars -- Panthers -- Redskins -- Steelers. Two thousand votes later, guess which team Washington Post readers think has a 76% chance of advancing? Hmm...

~~There's one other thing I noted while writing this week's Hog Heaven, and I don't believe anyone else, except maybe the crazy diehards at, has noticed: when the Redskins win their all-white uniforms, they don't lose. That's right. Look at the team as they swept through the NFC East, the Cardinals and the Rams. Barry White on Betty White. I was so shocked by this sweeping revelation that I double checked the Washington Post and the NFL's official photos. Seeing how the Bucs tend to wear their red shirt/pewter pants combination, how can the Redskins lose on Saturday? My medicore Photoshop skills tell it all:

~~Last, but not least, it's funny how life can change in just a short few months. As a quasi-accredited member of the NFL media, I have the opportunity to dig around the NFL's media site. They have a section where one can request credentials to such cool events like Owner's Meetings, Hall of Fame ceremonies, the Pro Bowl, and, of course, the Super Bowl. There's no cost and, like Mom used to say, the worst they can say is "no."

So felling a wee full of myself, I sent in my request for week-long credentials for Super Bowl XL back in September, hoping that I could scrounge up a pass that Mike Tice hasn't scalped. Via email, I received the following response:

Dear Jeffrey: We have received your request for credentials to Super Bowl XL on Sunday, February 05, 2006 in Detroit. We will be pleased to consider your application if the following team(s) advance to this year's NFL title game: Washington Redskins.

Thank you for your interest and best wishes.

Leslie Hammond Director of Media Services

At the time, Washington was 3-1 or so but hardly postseason material. That was then, and now we're three wins from going to Detroit. If wasn't a bleeding-burgundy-and-gold fan BEFORE...

~~Hurrah! Gregg Williams is staying in Washington! You know what that means: Joe Gibbs has a worthy successor for the 2007 season! Now, let's focus on the Pirates of Pewter Pants.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Basking in the Afterglow

As the final score of Dallas’ Doomsday (21st Century Edition) was shown by FOX, only half of my attention was on the celebration at FedEx Field. No, I was still in the middle of making my rounds, calling every single Dallas loyalist I knew to laugh in their collective faces and, if necessary, to pray with them.

It was a rare and wondrous treat. No flukes, no last minute blown coverages, no excuses. The Redskins won fair ‘n square in the worst beatdown of the 45-year old rivalry.

Sure, it may not have been particularly “sporting” or in concert with the widely accepted definition of “sportsmanship” for me to throw salt and cracked pepper in the wounds of the Cowchip Faithful; certainly it wasn’t very nice of the Public Address Crew at the stadium to continually play “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” during Dallas’ futile final drive.

But these are the moments that solidify the status as Greatest Rivalry in the NFL, as Sports Illustrated noted last week. It's George Allen firing up his 1972 Redskins for their championship game against Dallas with a well-timed f-bomb, it's Troy Aikman hitting Rocket Ismail in 1999 for a overtime-winning 76-yard touchdown, and it's Daryl Grant intercepting Gary Hogeboom in 1982 and high-stepping into the end zone. And now we have the 2005 games, instant classics in a battle that spans generations.

By the way, I just LOVE how some Dallas fans, via the anonymous safety of Internet commentary, find lukewarm comfort despite the game's outcome. One poster (poser?) offered this rebuttal to my happiness: I know you skins fans are happy to finally sweep us (after getting swept all those 7 years by us)…but the season is not over my fiend (not a typo). But you are right Bill (Parcells) and Jerry (Jones) are both crying their eyes out all over the Cowboy’s 5 (count 'em) Lombardi trophies! ….That is what counts.

As tempting as it was to pass along the number to a great anger management counselor (plus an English major), I offered the following: I love how some Dallas fans want to suddenly minimize this playoff-implication/avoid the sweep/decades-old rivalry game now that their team didn’t bother getting off the bus. I’m sure the last thing on Parcells and Jones’ minds are those trophies in the Cowchip lobby. Don’t kid yourself.

The responsible Dallas fan should probably take this whipping with some grace–Parcells tried in his postgame conference–and start worrying about protecting Bledsoe from the Panthers’ front four. See, Washington did what the Giants did two weeks ago–pressured your fossil QB like we earned points for it. And your o-line had zero response, even AFTER halftime. In fact, they gave up MORE sacks after Genius Parcells’ halftime adjustments than BEFORE!

Quit the gloating and be afraid. Be very afraid.

God bless the Internet.

If there is one day, nay, one week for Redskins fans to stick their chest out proudly, it is now. Regrettably, it’s been so long since we dominated Dallas that we’ve got to make the most of every opportunity. Sue us. (And yes, I just bought the DVD with the TV and radio commentary from my favorite eBay seller.) So in the great spirit of unnecessary taunting on which our country was founded, I present a visual retrospective of one of the greatest days in Redskins history. Pictures courtesy the Washington Post, the Associated Press, me, and FOX broadcasting.

One voice, among the masses, dared speak the truth.

This was the second edition. The first, vetoed by my wife, said "All I Want for Christmas is Sade."

One of these people needs counselling. Can you pick which one?

I love this picture because it shows my favorite Cowboy, #41 Terrance Newman, mere moments before he gets completely trampled by Cooley en route to his 30-yard touchdown. If Newman, who was burned twice by Santana Moss back in September, isn't YOUR favorite Cowboy then I question your Redskins Loyalty.

Drew Bledsoe, runner up in the "Stunned Beyond Belief Face" category of the 2005 ESPYs. The only way he could play worse is if he used the Rhine Fire in Madden 2006 later that night.

Keyshawn Johnson, not ready for his close up. In the first half, Keyshawn launched an expletive-filled tirade at kicker Billy Cundiff after he'd missed a field goal, apparently disappointed at Cundiff's poor performance. Keyshawn's final numbers? 2 catches, 20 yards. Physician, heal thyself.

No, this wasn't from Sunday, but from the Cincinnati pre-season game. Just seemed appropriate. Kids, don't drink alcohol. Our read t-shirts.

The FOX production crew ought to be ashamed of this, the first use of IN/SYNC that night, to show a Dallas fan missing his team going down 35-0 in the third quarter. Even after the cheers, he didn't budge. Kids, did I already mention the dangers of alcohol?

A classic shot worthy of desktop wallpaper, home office decoration, and Christmas ornaments.

Former Cowboy Emmitt Smith, at the NFL Network studios, couldn't bear to read the results over the air. We know, these wounds run deep. Don't forget: you have those five Lombardis in the lobby!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Who Knew It Could Be Sweeter?

Dallas 7, Washington 35

Holy smokes! Not only did we sweep "America's Team," but we took them to the FedEx woodshed and stripped them of their very manhood!

Who knew that the feeling that we Redskins fans knew back in September could be more than replicated but surpassed in such beautiful fashion!

While it would have been great to watch the game live, the FOX broadcast had its share of golden moments:

* Keyshawn resurrected the "Just Throw Me the #$@@ Ball" face after only the second drive of the day. He was livid at someone, likely kicker Billy Cundiff who missed a 38-yard field goal. It's never a good sign when your receivers are complaining in the first quarter.

*The Bll Parcells Cavalcade of Facial Expressions. His eye-cutting at Terrance "Beat Me Deep!" Newman sliced right through him and when Cundiff tried to sit down after his miss, Parcells, like any good mother figure, let him know that his seat was over there. By himself. Pure comedy. Otherwise, Ol' Bill stood stoically on the sidelines, stone-faced, trying not to let the world know that he was watching his house burn down with his John Lennon-signed autograph still inside. Meanwhile, during the first half, FOX showed Gibbs' NASCAR driver Tony Stewart on the Skins' sidelines and I dunno what was running through his mind, but he apparently left some wedding pictures in Parcell's burning house. Fortunately, he looked more alert in a fourth quarter shot.

* You knew this was a Rivalry Game when John Hall, a place kicker, for crying out loud, gets into a shoving match during a trackle.

*I can only imagine how loud that stadium must have been. I could hear "Dallas Sucks!" and "Hey! You Suck!" very, very clearly. Not to mention "Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" played over the PA system. I need a audio clip.

* There were some great quotes: Troy Aikman, End of the second quarter after Dallas moved into Skins' territory: "For (Dallas) to put something positive together here...and potentially come away with points, it's going to go a long way as to how they feel going into halftime..." Next play: interception returned 42 yards by Marcus Washington. During the halftime show, Terry Bradshaw asked Howie Long why he was smiling. His response: "I'm laughing at the massacre." Aikman added later not only that the Redskins wanted the game more than Dallas, but "This is as bad as you can beat a team..."

* Clinton Portis doing the MC Hammer "2 Legit 2 Quit" in the second half. Bigups for dusting off that non-classic.

*The best moment of the night, unequivocally, was Bill Parcells' exchange with FOX's Pam Oliver at halftime:

Bill: Have you ever been an athlete?
Pam: Yes.
Bill: Have you ever had your butt kicked?
Pam: Yes.
Bill: Then you know how this feels.

'Nuff said, Bill, 'nuff said. For today.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hey Joe, About 'Dem Cowboys...

Coach Gibbs,

I realize that this has been a very long, intense five or six days for you. I bet you've been up late every night this week, watching video and throwing down 40 ounce Ovaltines. Who wouldn't blame you if you haven't gotten but a few hours of sleep; it's Beat Dallas Week and nothing would make our Sunday--no, our season--like sweeping our most hated of rivals. You remember that it's only happened three times in, oh, the last 91 attempts. Even better if we can add a not-so-gentle shove to Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells outside the playoff picture.


That said, permit me, if you would, to give you a suggestion or three on how to make Sunday end in your favor. I concede that my few years of sports writing are nothing compared to your decades of leadership and success. I won't insult your intelligence and suggest the usual drivel like "don't turn the ball over" or "control the time of possession" or even "slip Hennessy in their Gatorade." You already know to do those, and I trust that you've already planned to accomplish them all.

I also salute you as a man of faith. So call it strategy, call it a game plan, call it a prayer request list; just make sure you do the following and I'll bet my Dad's 1987 "Doug Williams- A Touch of Class" t-shirt that we win.

1. Pray for Mark Brunell. Though the Redskins have won in fairly decisive fashion against the Rams and Cardinals, Brunell hasn't looked like the same player who was an early front runner in the Career Resurrection category of the ESPYs. In fact, his numbers have been low since that poorly-officiated Tampa Bay game. (Alstott was down.) He's had only three interceptions in those four games, but the concern is that in the same period he has a pitiful two touchdowns.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Clinton Portis is the key to offensive success on Sunday. And it's true that he and Rock Cartwright's play in the last must-win games was pivotal. But the preseason predictions for Washington were true to this degree: the play of the quarterback steers the course of this team.
Courtesy The Washington Post

I'm certain the images are burned in your memory (they are in mine), but in the Redskins' triumphant win over Dallas in September, it was Brunell's 25-yard scramble on 3rd and 27 that saved the comeback opportunity. Then Mark mustered all of his strength and launched two accurate touchdowns to Moss. All that after he was battered by Roy Williams for 55 minutes. We needed Mark to look the impossible in the face and not blink. He did so and with some late help from the defense, Washington revived a rivalry. So in your quiet time, please remember Mark.

2. Keep your head to the sky. The worse our weather, the better your chance to win. Cold, damp, miserable weather means that Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, and the rest of the Dirtbags dictate the game's tempo. And from what they've shown recently, they're more than up to the challenge. What a treat to see Redskins Football, the kind we used to play back in the '70s and '80s where the fourth quarter was just a slow death for opponents, used with intent to beat Dallas. We have the tools to do exactly that, and the weather sure would help. I'm sure you'd take the Portis/Cartwright combination over the Julius Jones/Marion Barber threat, right?

Out of their last four games, the Cowchips have played three at home in the comfortable temperatures of Texas Stadium. 'Round here we just had a snow and ice storm, with temps dipping well below 30, and in some places as low as the teens. As of Friday, the predictions for Sunday are for a high of 37, a low of--and here's where the advantage comes in--22 degrees. I suspect we'll be a lot closer to 22 than 37 come 4:15PM. You can't control the weather, but you do control how you prepare for it. Make sure the training staff outfit our boys with the very best footwear possible. Those heat-loving Cowchips will be slipping and dropping balls right before your eyes.

3. Hit Bledsoe. Hard. It's OK to hurt him, if you like. A month ago I made an argument, opposed with some fervor by Dallas fans, that Brunell was not only a better overall quarterback than Dallas' Drew Bledsoe, but more valuable because of fewer mistakes and playmaking ability. At this point, it's a bit of a toss up. Bledsoe's home performance last week probably tilts the advantage his way, but let's be real here: they were playing the Chiefs, whom we would have put 35 points on if we had stopped fumbling.

Bledsoe ain't bad at the play action and can make a team pay if he's given time by going deep to Terry "Don't Call Me Aaron" Glenn or mid-range to Meshawn--I'm sorry, Keyshawn--Johnson. But his receivers can quickly get open if Gregg Williams sends the corners or linebackers. So yes, what I'm saying is that the front four, led by Cornelius Griffin, must sack Bledsoe early and often. Or at least make him run out of the pocket. You know he'd prefer to stand around like an electronic football piece. Once out from his protection, somebody in burgundy needs to lay the lumber. Legally. Ahem.

And watch out for that flea-flicker. I dunno how it keeps working against teams, but they love digging out that play for touchdowns.

4. Support Homogeneousness. I'm not talkin' orientation here. I mean keep any pro-Dallas people out of FedEx Field. That's right. If security sees anyone wearing silver and blue, have them led to "special seating" area near the rear dumpsters. I know that's next to impossible--I've been to Redskins/Cowchip games and I have been shocked at how many Washington fans give up their seats to the Big D faithful. It's revolting. But that was back when the Skins were consistently being beaten like the family mule. Times have changed, and the 12th Man needs to show support for their team like never before.

After that great Monday Night Football win, I wondered how many Redskins fans would have stayed to the very end of that game, when with five minutes left their team looked dead in the water. How many turned off their TVs and missed Redskins history in the making? See, your team may not win every game, Joe, but those games ain't over 'til Tony Siragusa sings. If you know what I mean. So come what may for three quarters, you need the Redskins faithful to be, well, faithful. And loud. Very, very loud.

While you're at it, make sure that we especially don't see these people:
Rowdy, thy name is lame.Crazy Ray Jerry Summons the Uruk-hai

Well, Crazy Ray can show up since I hear he's fallen on tough times. Just as long as he leaves that horse-on-a-stick at home.

There's plenty more of advice to give, Coach. You know about the long injury list, including most of the people paid to play in the secondary. I'm sure you're aware that the word on the street is that we probably won't win and even if we do, Washington will have to play its best football of the year to make it past the Giants and Eagles later. We'll let tomorrow take care of itself.

For now, take a quick nap, take a deep breath, think of it as another game to plan for. Even if it's considered the greatest NFL rivalry of all time. No pressure. Go Skins!

Still waiting on that interview,