Monday, December 28, 2009

Week Sixteen: You've Earned A Trophy!

Dallas 17, Washington 0

If the 2009 Redskins' season were played on PlayStation, it would have achieved all the trophies required to earn the platinum Season Fail status. To reach this dubious level, a team must do more than simply lose their games; they must run the gamut of scenarios designed to humiliate, embarrass, and outright shun their loyal fan base. This effort is beyond being impressively unimpressive, it must descend into historically abysmal depths of pure disappointment. Best (or worst) of all, the Redskins have gotten there with one week still left in the season. Here's the checklist:

  1. Lose every game in your division. Remind your rivals of the joy of kicking around the Cardinals. Check.
  2. Lose a game against a rookie quarterback or quarterback getting his first start. Check.
  3. Lose to a team whose fans habitually wear paper bags to the games (and management has no problem with it.) Check.
  4. Win but play so badly that your own fans boo you off your home field. Check.
  5. Beat any team led by Jamarcus Russell and celebrate "turning a corner." Check.
  6. Lose a virtually-won game by doing any of the following: miss easy field goals, allow a touchdown of 30+ yards, or playing for the tie when you're ahead. Check.
  7. Beat a team led by a spleenless man. Check.
  8. Lose two or more games without scoring at least ten points and without scoring a touchdown. Check, check, check.
  9. Lose. Don't even threaten to score, as if there's an invisible, anti-you barrier constructed near the red zone. Check.
  10. Lose back to back games and be outscored by fifty or more points. Check. Additional achievement if done before national audiences. Ding!

I'm sure there's an additional hidden trophy the Redskins will acquire for losing to a team playing its entire second string. That comes next week against the San Diego Chargers.

All of this, topped off perhaps with Sunday night's public whipping at FedEx Field by Dallas, is evidence that perhaps the only solution left for the franchise is to pull a Tobacco Road by detonating the team and startin' all over again. Washington's coaches and players had their second, home-base, prime-time audition for new GM Bruce Allen and again showed that few deserved to be employed come January.

After posting a mere twelve points against the Giants, the offense actually took a step backward on Sunday, never getting further than Dallas' 23-yard line. Jason Campbell, though protected by men who couldn't make Dallas' practice squad, still made the same errors that contributed to last week's black eye. The running game was nonexistent, and the feel-good Quinton Ganther story dulled considerably. He ran seven times...for thirteen yards. The 218 yards earned by the offense are hardly much to cheer about, and most of those came during garbage time. ("Garbage time" for the 2009 Redskins may include up to seven minutes in the fourth quarter.) Perhaps this stat details the futility of the offense: following the interception on their first possession, the Redskins punted on eight of their final nine drives.

The defense didn't play all that poorly--they held a diverse Dallas offense to 17 points. But credit falls to the Cowchips coach Wade Phillips. He had two odd calls on fourth-and-short where he ran the ball up the middle and failed. Then Dallas tried a bizarre Wildcat reverse that lost fourteen yards, erasing a long completion on 3rd and 8 that had gotten them into Redskins' territory. Furthermore, Dallas mismanaged their two minute drill at the end of the first half and likely left three points on the field.

Nonetheless, the defense played stout, certainly well enough for even a mediocre offense to take advantage of. Alas, the offense in Washington is far less than mediocre. NBC's Chris Collinsworth called it "borderline unwatchable."

The analysis in the coming weeks will be to predict the outcome of an interesting game of professional-level Whack-A-Mole, as Snydely will begin the dirty, necessary task of cleaning house. For now, enjoy the unfortunate trophy collection earned by the current personnel


OFFENSE: F. The other point of analysis for the near future is whether Campbell's mediocrity is justified by the multiple offensive systems and porous offensive lines he has had to work with. ("It isn't fair," he finally vented on Comcast SportsNet Sunday night.) Then again, his backpedaling into sacks, inaccuracy, and intentional grounding habits have yet to be self-corrected. Hmm...

DEFENSE: C. Another game, another scene with Laron Landry chasing a receiver 20 or more yards down the field because he just can't play the pass. This week it was tight end Jason Witten outrunning Landry for a 69-yard completion on a simple crossing route.

Sp. TEAMS: C-. Punter Hunter Smith averaged just over 37 yards per punt, and the longest return by a Redskin was 24 yards.

COACHES: F. I'm not sure which is worse: that Zorn didn't know whether his team had reached the red zone in the game (they didn't) or that he thought that the Redskins' record was 4-13.

OWNERSHIP: F. I missed it, but quite a few post-game commenters noted Bruce Allen and Snydely enjoying a laugh while the final moments of the shutout commenced.


In the Washington Post post-game chat, it was noted how ironic it is that the Redskins will end their season, and likely the coaching career of Jim Zorn, against the first coach Dan Snyder ran out of D.C., San Diego's Norv Turner. The Chargers have nothing to play for, having secured the number two seed in the AFC and a first-round playoff bye by winning ten straight games. If I'm Turner, I'm keeping my starters' jerseys clean and seeing what backup quarterback Billy Volek can muster with the reserves. Washington decides to send its coach off with a win, 14-13.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week Fifteen: Welcome to Washington, Mr. Allen!

New York 45, Washington 12

Dear Mr. Bruce Allen,

Merry Christmas and congratulations on your new position as General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Redskins! As you know, you are joining one of the most high-profile professional sports franchises in the nation, and you will enjoy the support of the most die hard, loyal fans anywhere. In fact, my formative years as a fan were spent watching your father, George Allen, coach a pride (and hatred of the Cowboys) into the team that still exists decades later. Those and the following years under Joe Gibbs were just a euphoric time to follow Washington's warriors.

I'm not sure if you were completely briefed during your job interview about the business you're joining, but the modern organization doesn't resemble, in any way, the Redskins we fans knew and loved.

May I be blunt? It is a complete, total, ineffective mess.

Since 1999, when Daniel Snyder bought the franchise, the Redskins have no Super Bowl appearances and have won just 46 percent of their games. Something is wrong when a team has had more coaches (six) than playoff wins (two) in the same time period. Compare that to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who since 1969 have only hired three coaches and have two championships in the 00's. The longtime fans aren't just disappointed. They are more than disgruntled. They are bordering on a revolt featuring a burning of the owner in effigy. Seriously.

But you have a great opportunity to step in and help change all of that with some shrewd roster and organizational moves. There are some decisions you've got to make, starting perhaps with quarterback Jason Campbell, who has been battered all season like a red-handed husband on Cheaters behind an offensive line made up of former Krispy Kreme employees. It looks that bad. Then there's the defense, who has earned a top ten statistical ranking but appears not to be able to intercept passes, disrupt plays, or tackle runners. The special teams you are inheriting features our newest kicker, Graham Gano, who injured his foot after just one game. The guy before him was the most accurate kicker the Redskins have ever had...even if he ruined the Redskins' best performance of the year.

And then there's the current coach, Jim Zorn.
It is a sad irony that Zorn was hired to run the offense, then given the head coach position, then stripped of the ability to run the offense. ("So what's he good at, then?" I ask myself weekly.) Reports are already surfacing that former Denver coach Mike Shanahan is a lock for the 2010 coaching position in Washington. I'm not sure how you'd handle this kind of situation in the future, but allow me to suggest that it is really, really not nice to openly start talks with your new employee without letting the first one go. At least pretend you want to keep the current guy around until the season ends. I hope you're taking notes on the business model your boss employs.

I am confident that even if nobody pulled you aside while you filled out your W-4 form and whispered to you these insights, you are aware of how dismal your new job is going to be. I caught a glimpse of you, sipping a beverage, in the coaching box during Monday Night Football. (I hope it was something strong.) Without any prior knowledge of this organization's woes, witnessing that Cirque de Suck tells you everything you know about the problems of the Washington Redskins.

There's an old Ice Cube song that's a guilty pleasure of mine, and it begins with a montage of mocking voices saying "Here's what they think about you." (Ice Cube then launches into a wickedly effective, profanity-laced verbal assault. But that's not my point.) For your benefit, I transcribed some of the broadcast commentary heard during and after the Redskins' nationally televised game. Here's what they think about your team:

After New York went up 14-0, and Washington had three total plays and negative three yards in more than a quarter: "This is an unbelievable statement by both teams."
After Washington's second three-and-out: "This is the biggest tail-kicking in the first twenty minutes I have seen all year."
"The Cowboys are watching this and can't get [to play the Redskins] fast enough!"
"The score is 24 to zero...and it hasn't been that close."
"They shut down the federal government, but [Redskins fans] still came out to see this."
After halftime, with Washington scoreless: "[Zorn] can't be pleased with one element of the football displayed by the Redskins. You're playing for each other and for your jobs. Not much else needs to be said."
With the score already 31-6, after Campbell overthrows his tight end, resulting in six more points for the Giants: "It is about as embarrassing as it can get for any franchise in what we see here tonight."
"This is the worst possible showing you can have for someone new in the front office."
"All in all, [this has been] one of the most pathetic performances I've seen in all my time playing and covering the NFL."
Worst of all, in the fourth quarter, the stadium was filled with "Let's go Giants!"

Mr. Allen, your hiring was timed, in part, so that a national audience and the media could recognize a new era of change in the Washington Redskins. The team walked on the field and looked worse than ever. And that's saying something, considering the performances against the Rams, Lions, Buccaneers, Chiefs, and Falcons. Your team was, by any account, an embarrassment. The Associate Press put it this way: "In theory, the Redskins (4-10) should have had a great purpose - a desire to put on a good show for Bruce Allen, hired on Thursday in a major front office shake-up. Instead, they did a good job of showing Allen that maybe everyone ought to be fired." Wow.


This was such a top-down, all-hands-on-deck collapse that I will suspend the usual scorecard. Just know that the offense, defense, special teams, coaches and ownership completely failed. Did I mention that this was on national television?

There is so much utter ridiculousness by Currently Coach Zorn from the game that these moments should be sewn into a flag and draped across his box of personal items as he walks out of Redskins Park. Here are the top three moments from Monday night:

(1) In the second quarter, with Washington beginning its two-minute drill, Campbell takes yet another hard sack. Zorn, unaware of both the continual loss of time and that his starting quarterback is writhing on the ground in pain takes ten full seconds to call a time out. Come to think of it, the whole team waited a full ten seconds to call a time out.

(2) That same drive turns out to be the best of the first half, and nears its end at the Giants' 20-yard line. On 4th down, Zorn sends out the field goal team, which switches formation into a trick pass play for holder Hunter Smith. The Giants, aware that the Redskins were successful on such trickery earlier this year, call a time out. When play resumes, Zorn calls the same play, which is so poorly designed that Smith is left defenseless against three rushers. Smith is crushed but gamely tosses the ball, where there are six Giants waiting to intercept it. Zorn's explanation? "Boy, I wish they hadn't had timeouts then, but they did. They played good defense and they sniffed [the play] out." Are you kidding me?

(3) Last, and certainly not least: Afte the game, Currently Coach Zorn listed snow as one of the many "adversities" the team faced coming into Monday night's game. Yes, the snow that ended early Sunday morning and was nowhere near the field on Monday. Funny, I recall a certain Baltimore team scoring 31 points on Sunday afternoon with that adversity.

You're a nice guy, Jim, but go. Just go.

Break out your old school "R" hats, it's Dallas Week. That's right, these are the Cowchips who just handed the previously-unbeaten Saints their hats down in the Superdome. Dallas has playoff position to play for, more than a week of rest, and zero fear of the Redskins. This details of Monday night's loss are just too fresh to even contemplate a scenario where Washington wins. Well, maybe some sort of Kwanzaa miracle could occur.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Week Fourteen: Accentuate the Positive

Washington 34, Oakland 13

Resist the urge.

Yes, we will resist the urge: say that the Redskins were supposed to win a game against a franchise so bad that fans pooled their money-during a recession!-to publicly cry out to their team's ownership. roll our eyes when we hear the final score (because who watches the Redskins anymore, right?) and say "well, it's about [flip-flarn-filthin'] time." say that after watching the Eagles and Giants produce nearly 900 yards of offense Sunday night, the Redskins look more like an annual distraction than a contender in the NFC East. lament that Washington could easily be in playoff contention if they had simply performed as advertised, splitting wins in their division and beating the teams they were more talented than. begin to fear the Worst Case Scenario: the Redskins win just enough games to fool owner Snydely Whiplash into forgetting how hideously disastrous this season really has been.

As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, redefine success. A Redskins final score finally looked like it was supposed to. We will therefore choose to stay positive, and celebrate Washington's outstanding defensive play, which lived up to its top-ten status by limiting the Raiders to 62 rushing yards, a 33% third down conversion rate, and dropping Oakland's quarterbacks a whopping eight times. (And no, we shan't mention that Laron "Hit Stick" Landry was still beaten in coverage multiple times for long gains.) We choose to applaud rookie kicker Graham Gano (hometown: Arbroath, Scotland!) for nailing two 40-plus field goals and all four of his extra point kicks in his Redskins debut. And Jason Campbell's maturity does indeed seem to be continuing as I predicted last week, finishing the day with zero interceptions and some smart choices to extend drives.

One negative aside: the final score shows a shellacking of the Raiders, but the win wasn't exactly entertaining. Until nearly the start of the fourth quarter, I considered naming this week's review "Week Fourteen: I Watch Washington (So You Don't Have To)." It was far from sparkling football. The score was 17-13, Oakland was being ineptly led by bench warmer Jamarcus Russell into nothingness, Jason Campbell was getting up slow again after another knockdown from a free-running defender, the referees were calling blatantly incorrect penalties, and FOX commentator Dick Stockton kept calling linebacker Brian Orakpo "Ryan." If I was able to see the game at home, I would've had my recording of Jermaine and the rest of the Jackson 5's money maker-excuse me, reality show-playing with the Raiders and Redskins in the small picture in picture.

There were some grumblings, post-game, that this game shared echoes of the Redskins' last win, a 27-17 knockout of Denver in that the level of opponent quality severely dropped with the insertion of the backup quarterback. And, sure, it's true that Jamarcus Russell's 10 completions for 74 yards and an interception don't begin to show how much he handcuffed an already yardage-challenged offense. And, OK, it's also true that Oakland is coached by a man who has no problem attempting ridiculous 66-yard field goals. In the rain. But Washington's defense played stout from beginning to end, and their pressure on pass plays was relentless enough that the Raiders could have put anyone back there and the Skins would have dominated them. As long as their first name was Matt and the last is Stafford or Cassel.

And besides, we're staying positive here.

OFFENSE: B. Can you imagine Fred Davis and a healthy Chris Cooley running routes inside the red zone? With a decent offensive line to protect [insert quarterback here], the Redskins have serious air attack potential next season.
DEFENSE: A. Kudos to Brian Orakpo, who earned his own NFL highlight montage with four sacks and a forced fumble.
Sp. TEAMS: B. 297-pound Lorenzo Alexander had two great coverage tackles that could have been easily overlooked. And did Dick Stockton really say that Antwaan Randle-El is "still a threat" on punt returns, when he hasn't run one back for a touchdown since November of 2006? Sunday's effort: two returns, zero yards.
COACHING: B. Currently Coach Zorn's choice to start Quinton Ganther seems to be the right one, and the play calling over the last few weeks has actually made sense. Imagine that!
OWNERSHIP: F. Say, how much does one of those billboards run, anyway?

The Redskins host the New York Giants, a team that is desperate to save their season after starting 5-0 and arriving in Washington at 7-6. Their losses haven't been to the likes of the Chiefs, Lions, or Buccaneers. No, the Giants are a quality team, and they have fallen to playoff-caliber teams like the Cardinals, Chargers, and Broncos. Watching Eli Manning and the Giants' offense post up 510 yards and win the time of possession battle by ten minutes against Philaelphia should put some healthy fear into Washington's best asset, its defense. That's where this game will be won and lost, and if the Redskins' front four can hold the New York running attack in moderate check and apply decent pressure to Manning, Washington wins, 23-17.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Week Thirteen: Epic

New Orleans 33, Washington 30

Remember when there was debate about which loss by the 2009 Redskins felt worst? Some said that allowing a 90-yard drive for the tying score, then losing by two to Philadelphia was just awful. Others, of course, pointed to a narrow loss to the hated rivals in Dallas where the Skins missed two field goals and allowed Tony Romo just one good series--the winning drive. I disagreed with them all, noting that the loss to the 0-for-everything Detroit Lions was the most disappointing loss of the year.

And then came Sunday.

The term "epic" gets used far too often, along with "awesome," "hate" and "love," in common language. These are powerful words, ones that signify an experience or moment that isn't just cool, or annoys you or is smile-inspiring. Really, does your new Civic exhaust really inspire awe? Is Sarah Palin's book truly worthy of hate? Did Cesar Millan really deserve your love for his handling of Puddles the angry poodle? Probably not.

But the fashion in which the Redskins lost to the New Orleans Saints ascends into a dimension of disappointment that hurts in the most heartbreaking of ways: epic.

To truly appreciate the epicness (yes, that's made up) of this failure requires actually viewing the entire game; you don't catch the last half hour of Titanic or Lord of the Rings, right? The transcendence of this loss requires total immersion in the ebb and flow, clarity and controversy of professional football. If you're like most fans, the viewing experience will leave you with jaw dropped, incredulous, and mumbling " have GOT to be kidding me."

Witness Jason Campbell with a career performance, throwing for three touchdowns and over 360 yards. (The Redskins had averaged just 207 yards per game before Sunday.) He was, for one day, the quarterback that His Joeness, Coach Gibbs, imagined him to be. Campbell was sharp with his reads, was confident in the pocket, and accurate with his throws. For the first time this season, he kept his jersey clean and was never sacked. He completed critical third down passes, including a 38-yarder to Santana Moss and a 44-yarder to Antwaan Randle-El. Campbell began the game smoking hot, leading the longest scoring drive of the season, 94 yards. He was magical, and every time Campbell got under center, he gave fans a feeling not felt in years: "Wow! The Skins can score at will!"

Witness the Redskins defense, who held a top-five rushing offense to just 55 yards, and harassed the number one-rated quarterback Drew Brees into three and a half quarters of mortality. The defensive line sniffed out the Saints' trademarked screens and batted down Brees' passes. Running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush were non factors for New Orleans. When the Saints were held to a field goal with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Redskins up by seven, fans felt: "I can't believe it! We can actually beat a great team."

Witness Shaun Suisham, who easily knocked in 32 and 28-yard field goals earlier, lining up to seal the win for Washington with a virtual chip shot kick from the 23 yard line. The offense wound down four of the last six minutes of the game, marching methodically down the field to set up this moment of victory. Fans could begin to exhale, feeling: "Hail to the Redskins! We've just pulled off the upset of the season!"

In the end, what made this loss so epically disappointing was that for the Redskins to continue their losing ways, they had to concurrently collapse in not one, not two, but all three phases of the game. The unstoppable offense had to lose its traction and turn the ball over. The defense had to go soft and allow the Saints to march without any resistance. The special teams had to pass up even the easiest of opportunities to score. All in around four minutes.

And it happened.

Witness Jason Campbell throwing his worst pass of the day, an interception to the Saints' Jonathan Vilma with 30 seconds left and the Redskins a mere ten yards from a winning field goal. And then there's fullback Mike Sellers, failing to protect the football in overtime, giving the Saints the ball and leading to the eventual winning score.

Witness Laron "Hit Stick" Landry and the defense allowing Drew Brees and the Saints offense to travel, with no timeouts and the game on the line, 80 yards in 33 seconds. The offense didn't even need to spike the ball to stop the clock once, because Brees completed his passes to players going out of bounds--the very area the defense was supposed to protect. And witness Landry getting faked out by the same double move he was faked out on for an earlier 40-yard touchdown, this time for--surprise!--a 53-yard touchdown to tie the game. This was the very area the defense was...oh, never mind.

And if you can stomach it, witness Shaun Suisham completely botching that 23-yard field goal that would have virtually won the game. Wasn't even close.

This was the game to redeem the season. Snydely Whiplash, Zorn, Sherm In the Box, and the organization could have held its head high and said that, despite losing to Dallas, failing in Philly, and being embarrassed in Detroit, they have a team that has learned to win.

Unfortunately, the fans can only conclude that the Redskins have learned better how to lose. Only now they can do so in the biggest, worst way possible.

OFFENSE: B-. Campbell, Devin Thomas, and Fred Davis were cruising toward a perfect score; sadly their overall good performances are footnotes in what New Orleans radio called "one of the greatest wins in Saints history."
DEFENSE: D. Memo to any sports TV commentators covering the Redskins: please stop celebrating the high statistical ranking of the Redskins defense. They're really not that good when it counts.
Sp. TEAMS: D. Currently Coach Zorn explained the missed field goal postgame, saying that the snap from center was high and that Suisham wasn't prepared for the ball to be placed on the ground so hard. What he should have said was "Yeah, he screwed up. He wasn't alone in screwing up today, but make no mistake, Suisham is paid a lot of money to do the one thing that he didn't do today."
COACHING: A. Coaches don't bite double moves, don't miss easy field goals, and don't fumble the ball. The gameplan against New Orleans was perfect, though not perfectly executed.
OWNERSHIP: F. A shocking loss and no candid views of Snydely in his luxury box, FOX?

I have been saying for some time now that the Redskins have mastered the art of playing up or down to the level of their opponents. Weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders looked like the one guaranteed win for Washington. Now, after they have knocked off the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, and the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, it's hardly a foregone conclusion. The Raiders, statistically, are horrible. They are 31st in points and total yards. They're dead last in passing yards. Is it possible for Washington to go toe to toe with the best in the NFL, then do the same with the worst? Absolutely. But Campbell continues his improved management of the offense and the Redskins win, 21-13.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Week Twelve: The Look of Flub

Washington 24, Philadelphia 27

The 2009 Redskins find themselves at a dismal, we're-playing-for-pride-and-paychecks 3-8. For the second consecutive week, the Redskins faced a division opponent, held that team's offense in check for three quarters, began to smell a win...and then flubbed the finish. They once again began to take on the persona of a competent and competitive team; but when the game's most deciding moments loomed, they yielded big plays on defense and failed to make big plays on offense. When the Redskins again had opportunities to aggressively attempt to distance their lead, the coaches opted instead to protect rather than conquer.

Nonetheless, this was Washington's most complete, best team performance of the season. The good news is that the Redskins succeeded in holding ground against a longtime rival while fielding a team of third stringers and league-minimum salary makers. And though journeyman-now-starter tackle Levi Jones was beaten like a night burglar by Eagles defensive end Trent Cole for much of the contest, quarterback Jason Campbell was only sacked once. The offense had, at one point, completed eight of their eleven third downs and chewed up clock with a nine play scoring drive. The play calling from Sherman "Sherm In the Box " Lewis actually resembled a smart, effective attack that protected Campbell with shotgun sets. The Redskins' fourth-ranked defense provided another stellar three quarters of a game performance, which combined with Eagles coach Andy Reid's questionable game plan, placed the Redskins in a solid position to win.

But oy vey, these be the 2009 Redskins. When cornerback Justin Tryon intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass early in the fourth quarter, placing the Redskins' offense near the opponent's 20 yard line, the team went limp, never attempting a pass in the end zone. They settled for a field goal, never got anywhere near the end zone again and--surprise!--those missed points were the difference in the game. Not much later, the defense needed to nurse an eight point lead in the fourth quarter but gave up a ten play, 90-yard touchdown drive. And then a two point conversion. Forty-six yards of that drive came on just one play, a pass to wide receiver Jason Avant who bounced off of an unnecessary shoulder tackle from safety Laron "Highlight Stick" Landry and rumbled forward for a nice chunk of those yards. The secondary had a repeat performance from Dallas, proving vulnerable in man coverage and at the worst possible times.

FOX color commentator Daryl Johnston exalted the Redskins at halftime of Sunday's game against the Eagles, saying "When you look at the performance in the last two and half games, these Redskins don't look like a 3-7 team."

Actually, Mr. Johnston, the Redskins look precisely like a team that has won just three games. Teams at or near .500, like the Titans, Ravens, and 49ers, give their fans a confidence that their team has the playmakers to mount a big comeback against a division opponent with a two minute drive. Or simply wallop an opponent so that the game is over before the fourth quarter.

But the Redskins? They are in the summer school of Fan Confidence Building, possessing the unique power to play up or down to their opponent but usually ending up defeated. Did any of the Washington faithful really think Campbell would lead this team into field goal range from their own 15 yard line with 1:44 left and no timeouts?

At least the 2009 Redskins haven't gotten blown out. Then again, the New Orleans Saints and their league-leading offense come to town next week.

OFFENSE: B-. Campbell's continued audition for 2010 free agency is showing signs of improvement, even if he still stares down his intended receivers too often.
DEFENSE: C-. At this point, even slow-motion President Obama could get open deep on the Redskins' secondary. Kudos for outstanding work by Chris Wilson, Andre Carter and the defensive line for pressuring McNabb most of the game without $100 million man Albert Haynesworth sucking up their oxygen.
Sp. TEAMS: C. They had the opportunity to put the offense in position to win with a good run back before Washington's last drive. Instead: first and ten at the fifteen.
C. For the record, Pittsburgh's third string quarterback, who'd only thrown one NFL pass, started against the Baltimore Ravens defense on Sunday night and attempted more deep passes than Jason Campbell.
OWNERSHIP: D. Better than an F, and that's only due to the Cyber Monday specials at the store.

New Orleans visits FedEx Field, averaging just over 420 offensive yards per game. I can't do that in a Madden franchise season unless I adjust the CPU difficulty from All Pro to Pro. Fortunately, the Saints' defense allows an mediocre 330 yards per game. Will the Redskins' resistible force triumph over the Saints' movable object? Of course not. But the entertainment level should be sky-high. Get your fantasy players ready. Skins win (and this is pure imagination), 21-20.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week Eleven: One for the (Back of the) Books

Washington 6, Dallas 7

I love Redskins/Cowchips games. This series is the most angry of sports rivalries. These are the games that, despite the respective records, always contain quietly simmering, long-standing bitterness just waiting to explode. When Washington and Dallas collide, it's often either an epic beatdown by one team or a shocking, "I may have soiled myself!" finish that leaves sends one group into euphoria, another into a week's worth of therapy. In fact, all week on Redskins radio shows, callers proclaimed that even if this season was essentially a wash for postseason play, it would all be better if the Redskins beat Dallas.

But if ever there was a game destined for the forgotten, dust-filled corner of the rivalry vault, this was it. At halftime, there were more injury timeouts than points. In the second half, even the Dallas faithful were enthusiastically booing every three-and-out and missed field goal. You know it's a slow game when viewers eagerly wait for FOX game breaks of the Cleveland versus Detroit contest.

Kudos are deserved for the Redskins defense, which is able to hold its head high and say "hey, this one ain't on us." Anytime a defense goes on the road against a well-known opponent and holds one of the most prolific (at least statistically speaking) offenses to a mere seven points, their quarterback to a less than 50 rating for more than three quarters, and their wide receivers without a catch for most of the game, they've done their job. The 153 net yards rushing are even forgiven, considering that $100 million man Albert Haynesworth didn't play.

The offense came right back to earth after the moderate liftoff shown last week against the Broncos. Jason Campbell and Sherman "Sherm in the Box" Lewis must have some secret, unspoken plan for Campbell's post-Redskins future because Lewis continues to call a short-to-intermediate passing scheme that allows Campbell to finish with decent statistics but few points to back them up. Campbell threw for more than 250 yards on 24/37 passing and his only interception was off a tipped ball. And sure, he made a couple of good throws against Dallas' blitz. But at what point does this offense say that yes, they have patch worked protection, but no, they're not going to live off of running back dumpoffs, wide receiver screens, and seven yard routes?

The future for the offense looks all the more bleak with late news that Ladell Betts is likely out for the season with a ligament injury. One of the ironies for Washington is that despite their offensive line not having any depth, the Skins are (bad pun alert!) rock solid at running back. Third stringer Rock Cartwright filled in for Betts admirably, accounting for more than 100 yards from scrimmage. He was a nonfactor in the fourth quarter, rushing just two times. Nonetheless, he appears to be able to fill in adequately if Clinton Portis is unable to continue next week.

It's said that close games are lost by the coaches, blowouts by the players. This game certainly lends some validity to the cliche, thanks to yet another week of simple errors and questionable decisions. To wit: Dallas had just missed a field goal to tie, and now with fifteen seconds left in the second half, Washington reached its best field position of the day, the Dallas 20. A lengthy booth review process left Washington with a full six real time minutes to look through the playbook, determine a pass play into the end zone, and take an opponents' heart by taking a 10-0 halftime lead. Or, they could stand around talking with the referees, leave their kicker on the field the entire time, then wimp out and kick a field goal. Zorn and Sherm opted for the latter, and it severely cost them as Shaun Suisham shanked the 39-yard kick. If a team is relying on their kicker to score their points, well, something is terribly wrong.

But that's the byline for this entire season, isn't it?

OFFENSE: F. Six points? Really? As my disgusted Pops said, "If you can't score a touchdown, you don't belong in the playoffs."
DEFENSE: A. Outstanding tackling and coverage, particularly from the good-on-paper secondary.
Sp. TEAMS: C-. The miscues include two missed field goals and an illegal wedge penalty on the kickoff when the team needed yards to retake the lead. Credit goes to Devin Thomas' strong kickoff returns.
COACHING: D. Zorn at least admitted that he screwed up the time out usage in the second half.
OWNERSHIP: F. I challenge Snydely to name his starting offensive line. Without notes.

The Redskins travel north to Lincoln Financial Field to face Macho Harris and the Philadelphia Eagles. (And yes, "Macho Harris " is one of the best names for a football player, alongside "Dick Butkus," "Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala," and "Fair Hooker.") Despite perennial thorn Brian Westbook's likely absence, the Skins' defense will have its hands full of McNabb-to-Avant, McNabb-to-Jackson, and McNabb-to-Celek. Stopping them is possible. What may not be possible is for Washington's offense to live off of the legs of Rock for sixty minutes. I wish them well, and let's hope that Washington wins, 16-13.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week Ten: Old School Lovin'

Denver 17, Washington 27

During the CBS telecast of the Redskins game, the station began the second half with a promotion celebrating their 50th year of NFL broadcasts. For fifteen seconds, CBS took the viewers back to the grainy video of the NFC Championship game on January 8, 1984. There they were: the Redskins of old, playing on the wonderfully mushy turf of RFK stadium. The smooth tones of announcer Pat Summerall narrated quick highlights of Washington's win over the San Francisco 49ers. There was Joe Theismann with his single-barred helmet, protected by Hogs like Joe Jacoby and Jeff Bostic, orchestrating a perfect play action fake to John Riggins and decisively locking in a laser pass to "Downtown" Charlie Brown, who outran future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott for six. RFK's cheap seats was rocking after Mark Moseley straight-kicked the go-ahead score. For the lifelong Redskins fan, seeing those Days of Glory felt like being surrounded by that tattered, stained, but still comfortable Redskins sweatshirt you received for Christmas as a kid.

That 1983 team outscored every other team that season and averaged 164 yards on the ground per game on their way to a 14-2 record and Super Bowl appearance. There was a confidence back then that even if the 'Skins fell behind in the first half, Coach Joe Gibbs would make some halftime adjustment, usually involving two things: (1) running the ball and (2) running the ball. The Hogs up front knew it, the fans knew it, and even the opposition knew it. But there was just no stopping a determined, well-executed, single-minded game plan. "We're gonna run 'til you ##$# stop us!" was the identity for the Redskins not just for that year, but for nearly a decade to come.

As Earth, Wind & Fire once sang, "Something happened along the way..." and Washington lost that identity. And a whole lot of games. But for thirty minutes on Sunday, modern fans felt a portion of the experience coveted by the longtime diehards. And the result was an old school beatdown of the Denver Broncos.

Backup running backs Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright followed the outstanding blocking of the patchwork offensive line for more than 150 yards on 35 carries. You know the offensive line is doing a great job when the Broncos' free safety, Brian Dawkins, leads his team with twelve tackles. The ground attack, combined with completing 50% of their 3rd downs, gave the home team an eleven minute time of possession advantage. The opposition simply had no answer for the pounding they received. Ah, just like the old days.

But make no mistake, these aren't the Redskins of previous decades. No, the 2009 Redskins ran the ball in the second half because, frankly, they had no choice. Jason Campbell finished another game with deceptively good statistics (17 for 26, one touchdown, no interceptions) but after the game's first series he looked uncomfortable and wasn't accurate on his long throws. He was bailed out of incompletions by his receivers because his passes were high, hard, and behind their targets.
Sherm In The Box must've recognized the inaccuracies because the play calls showed much more trust in the run than the pass. Campell's only second half pass completed for more than 18 yards required the receiver, Devin Thomas, to break four tackles along the way. And don't forget that Campbell held the ball too long, resulting in sacks on three of the twelve pass plays attempted in the second half.

If calling for run left-run right-run center was obvious for Washington, it should have been equally so for Denver. The play of the game for the highlight shows was the Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers touchdown trick play, but in truth the game changed when Denver's quarterback Kyle Orton was injured and had to be sat down for the second half. For the first half, Orton had carved the Redskins' secondary for two touchdowns and nearly 200 yards. In fact, had he not overthrown a ridiculously open Eddie Royal, the Redskins could have been blown out early for the second consecutive week. Nonetheless, Orton still efficiently lead his team on a Madden-esque 18 play drive in response to Sellers' score.

With the injury to Orton, backup Chris Simms stepped in and he looked every bit like a man who plays football without a spleen. He completed just two passes for six yards before earning one more garbage time completion for seven yards. He also completed a pass to the Redskins via an unnecessary, horrid deep interception into double coverage. Meanwhile, Denver's curiously named running back Knowshon Moreno ran for 97 yards and the team averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. So for all the "we shut 'em down!" chest-thumping that the Redskins defense did post game, the reality is that they were very fortunate that a man named Simms stood opposite under center.

The Redskins now sit at a poor-to-mediocre 3-6 record and without any identity. They face a murderer's row of upcoming opponents with a running back controversy, a porous secondary, and with a continuously injured $100 million Albert Haynesworth. But this win is a moment, like that clip from 1984, that is just enough reason to smile.

OFFENSE: B. The offensive line and running backs deserve Monday off, if for nothing else than to recuperate from pushing the Broncos' defensive line and linebackers up and down the field.
DEFENSE: C. If the defensive line and linebackers are the Beatles, the secondary is Ringo Starr. There's no excuse for the blown coverages seen every week.
Sp. TEAMS: D. Suisham pushes two kickoffs out of bounds and Randle-El watches a punt bounce at the 31 and makes no effort to stop it from rolling to his team's nine. Egad.
B. Was that Zorn taking credit for play calls after the game? Or did he mean "I" in, like, an organizational sense?

F. Snydely rescinded the ban on fan signs at FedEx Field...just over an hour before kickoff when most fans were likely already on their way. Man of the people, that Danny.

The Dallas Cowchips and the Big D faithful welcome Washington to the home of their monolith jumbotron. Now that the afterglow of this week's win has faded, the truth of the Skins' deficiencies is still too blinding. Can the offensive line have two great weeks in a row? Will the real Santana Moss please stand up? Will Miles Austin be open for a 30, 40, or 50 yard touchdown? I am standing firm that without more evidence of improvement, I cannot pick the Redskins to win. I also stand firm on my lifelong pronouncement that I shall never root for Dallas. My dilemma is solved thus: Dallas 13, Washington 13.

Coach Zorn revealed in a post game interview that during this past week he fielded a call from Albert Haynesworth's mother, who advised that the players weren't having enough fun on the field. Seriously. Can you name any other professional coach who consults players' mothers? Do you think Mike Ditka ever chatted with Momma Singletary or Aunt McMahon? And what professional coach has that much time on their hands, anyway?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Week Nine: No Code, No Honor, No Fear

Washington 17, Atlanta 31

With all the confusion, discord, and general malaise surrounding the 2009 Washington Redskins this season, it has been difficult to narrow down a reason for their poor record. Have there been too many injuries at key positions without strong second string players? Have the plays signaled in by Currently Coach Zorn/Sherman Lewis been poorly called and/or executed? Is Snydely Whiplash finally reaping the full measure of what he has sown in his years of mismanagement? Is this offense just great on paper and the defense overrated? Have they incurred the burning wrath of honored veterans John Riggins and Sonny Jurgensen? The answer to all of these questions, sadly, is yes.

However, in Sunday's loss--another in a now four-game Parade of Patheticisim--the 2009 Redskins have revealed yet another reason for their bottom-feeder performance: they have no fear of their leader.

Let me qualify that conclusion, somewhat, by stating that I haven't attended Redskins player-only team meetings, or been hiding in the dirty jersey bin and overheard the players' locker room conversations. Nor was I out golfing with NFL insiders Peter King or Chris Mortensen and picked up the latest clubhouse rumor.

Instead, I watched Sunday's game and here's what I saw

With just under two minutes left in the first half, the Redskins are getting completely blown out of Atlanta's Georgia Dome, 21-3. The offense has produced 69 total yards, given up five sacks, and earned three first downs. The defense, supposedly ranked fourth best in the NFL, has already given up two touchdowns and allowed two 30+ yard runs to Michael Turner. The defense is on the field once again, hoping to preserve some measure of respect. Another Atlanta touchdown and the twenty Redskins fans in attendance might consider beating the traffic home.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan scrambles right and heads out of bounds at the Atlanta 44-yard line to preserve time. Redskins safety Laron Landry, in pursuit, doesn't pull up and extends himself to hit Ryan
into the Falcons' sideline as he (Ryan) is already out of the field of play. The referees throw an unnecessary roughness penalty on Landry. Cornerback Deangelo Hall, near the area, ends up in a shoving match with more than five Falcons players and two coaches (!) and eventually is pulled away by Redskins cornerback Justin Tryon. Redskins tackle Albert Haynesworth comes over and hits a Falcons player and is also flagged for unnecessary roughness. Cut to a shot of Currently Coach Zorn and he appears to be walking on the field, deciding whether to talk into his headset. Watch the whole brouhaha here.

As I saw this play happen live, I felt that this team had sunk to a new low. Not just in performance--I kind of expect that now--but in professionalism, in code, in honor. Where is this team's self-worth? Its respect? Its fear of consequence?

First, Laron Landry played without discipline on his hit. Ryan clearly exhibited an intent to get out of bounds on his scramble, and he certainly looked far enough ahead for Landry to accept that Ryan had the necessary yards for the first down. Why would Landry nonetheless launch himself into a quarterback, the most protected of all players?

Even if Landry gets a "heat of the moment" pass, take a look at Deangelo Hall. Pregame reports stated that Hall announced that he was looking forward (and not in a good way) to playing his former team. The first opportunity Hall has to mix it up with the Falcons, he's right there and is posing a potential detriment to his team. I don't buy his postgame explanation that he was just trying to help Landry. Justin Tryon, #20, is trying to help Landry. These are vastly different interpretations of "help." The video clearly shows Hall jawing and shoving with the Falcons even as Landry has already calmly left the scene.

Next, $100 million free agent Albert Haynesworth enters the fray
after Hall has been separated from the Falcons and a full twenty seconds after the play is over to land an unprovoked punch on a Falcons player. This is the same Albert Haynesworth who had two penalties (one on the first play!) that helped extend the Falcons' first touchdown drive. What was he thinking--that he had a free hit since Landry's personal foul would be accepted? Did he think no one would notice? And most troubling of all, did he care?

And what did Coach Zorn have to say about three of his premier players committing unnecessary and unsportsmanlike conduct? Was he ready to tear some heads off? Was he considering some great punishment for the offenders? Here's his postgame reaction:

I thought everybody kept it together. I thought the officials handled it very well. I was watching on the big screen and I knew that DeAngelo was over there and I knew that was a bad place for him to be so I tried to get over there and help the situation. But even DeAngelo coming back to me, he had a real sense of control about the situation, too.
You're reading that right: Currently Coach Zorn thought that mess of a moment--the Associate Press called it a melee--was under control. (Zorn's interpretation of "help" apparently involves walking slowly and looking confused.) This was his chance to make clear that such unprofessional, undisciplined actions would not be tolerated. This was Zorn's Shaka Zulu moment, where he could publicly demand the strictest discipline, perfection and loyalty from his followers. He could have at the same time remind Snydely, Cerrato, and, most importantly, the fans that he is ultimately responsible and in control of this team.

But he didn't. That video clip isn't just a routine, harmless professional football scrum. This, and the other nine penalties (four giving Atlanta first downs), multiple dropped passes, and first half listlessness is evidence that the players don't fear what their coach would do to them if they embarrassed their fans and franchise with underachievement. This team has allowed itself to be defined by its circumstances. And while those circumstances are grim, frustrating, and dark, there is no reason for the players to relinquish one of the few things left to hang their hat on: the honor.

Now all that's left is the possibility that the Redskins can achieve yet low point in this season of low points. Maybe the fans will be graced with another public Snydely "I feel your pain!" statement.

OFFENSE: C. I'm not impressed with their ability to have two good drives per game.
DEFENSE: D. If this team can't stop the opposition, there's the possibility of the Skins being blown out of nearly all their remaining games. Egad.
Sp. TEAMS: C. Wouldn't it have been a better measure of revenge for Deangelo Hall to return a punt for a touchdown?
COACHES: D. That first half was the result of two weeks of game planning?
OWNER: F. Thanks to a Redskins fan in Atlanta who held this sign up during the broadcast: "Confiscate This Danny! Fire Vinny!"

With teams like the Denver Broncos, the Cowchips, and Saints still on the season menu, these 2-6 Washington Redskins may be remembered as having one of the worst seasons in modern Redskins history. Given their consistently poor performance, I can't in good conscience predict them to win any future games.
Broncos win, 24-13.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What Would Jemima Do?

Editor's note: For all of my analysis, devotion, and, yes, love of the Washington Redskins, it did not occur to me until the last few years that my favorite team's namesake was possibly politically incorrect. And maybe just a little mean. As I read recently that the trademark lawsuit alleging that the Skins' name and symbol are derogatory will be ruled on soon by the Supreme Court, I decided that I had to take some position on my own. Hence, the following. I welcome your feedback.

[Fade in to: studio audience applause and "The Next Movement" instrumental by the Roots]

Jeff Jones: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the Redskins Review. If there is one issue that continues to be a source of controversy within the proud heritage of the Washington Redskins, it is, oddly, with the very name of the franchise. Here today to give her unique perspective is a well-known American icon, a woman whose name and face have been a part of the first meal for generations. Please help me welcome… Aunt Jemima.

[Enthusiastic audience applause]

Aunt Jemima: Great to be here, Jeff. How is the family?

Jeff: They are eating well, I assure you! [Polite audience laughter] And you’re looking great for 120 years old. What’s your secret?

Aunt Jemima: Well Jeff I don’t let my mind rest. Waste not, want not! I recently finished my master’s degree in social and behavioral sciences and I plan to pursue work with the National Women’s Studies Association. I get plenty of sleep…and having breakfast every day doesn’t hurt. [Winks at audience, who laughs and applauds]

Jeff: Indeed! Now, you have enjoyed an impressive record of commercial success, but your image has been no stranger to controversy. What do you make of the lawsuit and issue surrounding the name “Redskins.”

Aunt Jemima: Jeff, it’s all too familiar. Here we have a profitable business that, even though it has a long history, refuses to get with the times because of its own arrogance and naïveté. That football owner, Daniel Snyder, is so misguided that he believes he knows better how to honor a group of people than they do. That’s what this whole situation boils down to.

Jeff: Speaking of profit, the Quaker Oats folks certainly have made some off of you, haven’t they?

Aunt Jemima: You know, I haven’t always been represented on your waffles and pancake boxes with my pearl earrings and permed hair. No, dear, I was once drawn as an overweight, big smiling, bandana-wearing, batter-stirring mammy who was just all too eager to “make y’all summa mah fluffy, energizin’ pancakes!” [Nervous laughter from audience]

I started out as a joke—a joke!—from a minstrel show, and an enterprising person thought that the look, the name, and the image would be a great way to sell some ready-made mix. Yet now my face and name help sell hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of food.

Jeff: Your look today is quite different than in the past. Why is that?

Aunt Jemima: Well, the NAACP and lots of regular folk fought back against the presentation of me as that happy heavyweight. Back then, my image connected consumers to the days of the Old South—a time when the inhumanities of slavery seemed to be justified by the images of people like me smiling, just as happy as we can be. The mammy was to the kitchen what a field Negro was to the cotton field. To make it simple, the marketing was all about convincing white women that they could have the benefits of a southern black woman-made pancake without all that uncomfortable servant-guilt stuff. It was quite successful, even in the face of protests. The press even mocked the NAACP’s efforts to have me better reflect African-American women, saying it was futile and quixotic. But, thankfully, they didn’t believe the corporate excuses and justifications.

Jeff: Even now the Quaker Oats company describes your former image as “large, gregarious, with the face of an angel.”

Aunt Jemima: [Laughs and rolls eyes] Talk about spin city. But that’s what’s going on with the Washington Redskins. History is written by the victors, Churchill once said, and the Redskins’ history of racial intolerance gets spun like drawers in a dryer. The organization acknowledges that they were named by an unrepentant, racist owner, George Marshall, who once said that the team’s colors were “burgundy, gold, and Caucasian.” He didn’t want African-Americans on his team and fought it until he had to give in so he could use the stadium that became RFK. He wanted his team to represent the Old South, just like my old image.

Jeff: Not exactly a good foundation to build on, eh?

Aunt Jemima: Hardly. So Snyder and the team really believe that this guy wanted to honor Native Americans with the team name? Right, and the original fight song saying “Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘em — we will take ‘em big score” is a love lyric to the Native American community. I wonder if the coach referenced by the team name was ever asked if he wanted to be honored that way. Heaven knows I sure wasn’t asked if I wanted “Dixieland” sung on my early radio commercials.

Jeff: What about the Redskins organization’s legal arguments, you know, about the percentages of Native Americans not offended by the name?

Aunt Jemima: There’s all this argument about how many Native Americans were polled, how they were asked, and so on. The Redskins may have asked Native Americans if they were offended by the name, but did they ask “Hey, do you feel honored? Do you like how this company has chosen to honor you?” Those are very different questions.

Then I think about the likeness—it’s a dark, red-skinned man on their helmet. Whether such and such dictionary says that “redskin” refers to skin color, or to war paint, or whatever, the point is still that the team has a red-skinned guy as their symbol. Honestly, who in today’s times uses skin color to describe a people? “Black” might be the only exception, and even then it’s inaccurate and refers more to culture, and that is defined by African-Americans. Not other people. That’s why I mentioned the arrogance earlier.

Jeff: So what are you suggesting the Washington Redskins do, lose millions of dollars over the protests of a small minority?

Aunt Jemima: Do you know what would happen if they changed the name on my box to Aunt J’s or replaced my picture with a platter of steaming food? People would buy the box and go make pancakes. Do you know how many Redskins fans would root for the team if the name were Warpath or Monuments? I’ll tell you: all of them. Marketing 101 says that if you have a good product and good promotion, people will buy it. Even--what do you call him, Snydely?--he understands that.

If Danny humbly stated that he thought it over and wants to honor the Native Americans by choosing a less divisive name, he’d win major PR points and also have the chance to sell a whole new style of hat and bumper sticker. Recycle the unsold Redskins products and he’s managed the politically correct trifecta! [Audience applauds]

Jeff: Well said! That’s all the time we have. Thank you, Aunt Jemima, for joining us and sharing your insights. Say, any truth to the rumor that you and Mrs. Butterworth are still not on speaking terms?

Aunt Jemima: Well, you can’t believe everything you hear…!

[Audience laughs and applauds. Fade out]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Week Seven: Dear Diary...

Eagles 27, Redskins 17

With a respectful tip of the pen to ESPN's The Sports Guy, I decided to do a running, real time diary of the Redskins' Monday Night Football debut against the Philly Egos. I mean, Eagles. Enjoy!


7:15PM: On the Redskins Radio pregame show, lovable curmudgeon Sam Huff rambles out a great question, asking why if Zorn isn’t going to be calling plays, why not have Campbell call them? Unfortunately, right before he made it, he lost me by saying "I'm telling you, Jim Zorn is just like Tom Landry!" I hope when I'm that old someone pays me to say whatever I want, no matter how ridiculous it is.

8:10: ESPN's overstocked Monday Night Countdown features its third segment on what's wrong with the Redskins. In this roundtable, marginal analyst Chris Carter goes nuts, shouting "Sherman Lewis couldn’t call plays for my high school team!" It is followed by nearly three seconds of uncomfortable silence from the other four analysts. Let's maintain some perspective here, Chris.

8:20: Twenty minutes before gametime, I’m counting, fifteen, twenty, call it THIRTY THOUSAND EMPTY SEATS at FedEx Field. “You can sit anywhere you want!” says my wife. Fortunately, the Redskins faithful show up and outnumber the Eagles by kickoff.


8:30: Jon Gruden gives the best quote in the analysis of the whole Zorn/Snyder/Lewis brouhaha: “It’s not about who’s calling the plays, it’s about the eleven guys executing the plays.”

8:34: We have our first "Sherm In the Box" television shot. I’m enjoying tonight’s broadcast on my 50” 1080p high definition TV. This really is the only way to watch football. Who needs obstructed views, bad hot chocolate, and narrow parking?

8:40: Hank Williams sings this week's iteration of “Are Your Ready for Some Football?!?” I remember back when he sang the song, some fireworks went off, and they showed the Monday Night Football logo. Now they’ve got a CG concert with forty dancers, football players dressed as statues, and giant space-flying helmets that explode over the football field when they return to earth’s atmosphere. Less is more, ESPN, less is more.

8:43: Finally we have kickoff! First offensive play: a direct snap to 'Skins Killer Brian Westbrook. Uh oh. Someone’s come with trickeration!

8:45: The Redskins nightmare begins on the third play: DeSean Jackson, on an end around, zips past the defense and down the sidelines. He goes more than 57 yards before he’s even touched. Since professional football is tackle, not touch, Jackson finishes the run in the end zone. Uh oh.

8:50: The first two Washington plays: Campbell short passes yards to Cooley. I’m pretty sure I hear someone in burgundy start booing.

8:51: Our second Sherm In the Box shot, which is followed by Campbell dropping a shotgun snap, forcing a punt. Maybe it really is all about the guys on the field, eh?

8:55: Jon Gruden provides this gem of team analysis: “There are a lot of athletes on this Eagles offense.“ The rest of the guys apparently are janitors. Or quantum physicists.

I’d like to try color commenting a game. Come to think of it, what a cool way to watch games with some football friends: turn down the center channel on your stereo and just talk it out. To be fair, flip a coin to see who gets to be Pat Summerall.

8:58: Injury to Brian Westbrook timeout. “Hey, it’s Ugly Betty’s boyfriend!” I shout to my wife when a McDonald’s commercial comes on. And no, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve seen every episode. And yes, Marc is one of my favorite characters. I still have my manhood, thank you very much.

9:07: Campbell winds up, throws, and misses every receiver on the field. The crowd boos for the second play in a row. Cut to Zorn with a blue Sharpie filling out what appears to be a Bingo card.

9:09: For those keeping score, under Sherm Lewis' playcalling: two drives, two first downs, two punts.

9:17: The Redskins nightmare comes into full bloom: Campbell stares down a receiver and his pass is tipped by a linebacker and run in for six by linebacker Will Witherspoon. “Deflections are problems,” deposits Gruden.

9:23: On the ensuing drive, Campbell doesn’t feel the blitz and is stripped from behind by Will "I Am Legend" Witherspoon, ball recovered by the Eagles. The "Campbell to the Bench Watch" has officially begun. It’s over, Jason. God bless you, sir, but it is over. “Disastrous!” says analyst Ron Jaworski. No, what’s disastrous is seeing Chris Cooley carted off the field.

9:28: Philly does next to nothing with their great field position following the turnover. If I’m Andy Reid, if it’s 4th and 5 or less, I’m going for it. The only reason they haven’t converted their 3rd downs is because McNabb has missed open receivers. I mean, it’s not like the 'Skins are going to actually make you pay if you fail, right? Akers knocks in a 47-yard field goal and whatta ya know, it’s 17-zip and we’re barely into the second quarter.

9:30: Viewers get their second Snydely Whiplash shot of the night. He’s slumped over like a guy learning that his car meet was canceled and he has to watch Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with his wife all afternoon. Good times. The first shot of Snydely was pregame, with he and Zorn exchanging pleasantries. I’m thinking that shot was completely staged.

9:33: The refs show mercy on the Skins and give them great field position by calling a penalty on the kickoff. The first play Sherm calls? Clinton Portis right up the middle for two and a half yards. Egad.

9:39: Campbell makes a great read and finds Devin Thomas in the end zone for six. Cut to a shot of Zorn and he’s still staring at his Bingo card. Is his headset even on? I wonder what album he's listening to.

9:44: The Skins defense shows some mettle, forcing a three and out, which included an option run by Michael “Half the Man I Used to Be” Vick that went for negative one yards. The momentum is with Washington!

9:45: Antwaan Randle-El lets the ball bounce right off his head on his punt return. For the love of all that is burgundy and gold, TAKE HIM OFF OF SPECIAL TEAMS. At this point, I’m prepared to go back there and return kicks.

9:47: McNabb skips his third 3rd down pass of the night, keeping this game mildly interesting. Akers boots another field goal and it’s 20-7.

9:52: Cut to a shot of fans holding an “Unconditional Love” banner. No. This ain’t marriage. I pay money and support you, but you have to produce. In that money is contained my right to no longer love you. Sorry to disappoint. To help prove my point, Campbell collapses under yet another sack.

9:58: On third and #$#%% 23, DeSean Jackson gets behind SIX Redskins defenders after a double move on Carlos Rogers and catches McNabb’s pass for a touchdown. It’s now 27-7 and the nightmare deepens. Is it too much to get an impromptu Snydely Whiplash shot? Or did the network decide not to show him tying a noose?

10:07: What do you think the playcalling in the first half, Gruden? “I’m fine with the calling. Sherm is calling plays from the playbook.” And here I thought he imported them from his Madden favorites.

10:10: Zorn celebrates a two minute drive that ends with a field goal like he’s just finished the Boston Marathon. Hey, I’m all for celebrating the little things, but your team is getting effectively blown out at home on national television. Hang your head, raise your finger, and shuffle off the field.


10:27: Here’s where the high-level view of this game really takes shape: in the first half, the Skins had 36 rushing yards, 92 passing yards, three turnovers, and a paltry 3.9 yards per play. Keep callin' them plays from the playbook, Shermster. And oh yeah—the Skins’ halftime adjustments led them on a first drive…ending in a punt.

10:35: By sacking McNabb, Andre Carter reminds the fans that he is one of the few free agent pickups in Snydely’s reign to actually retain some value. (Anyone seen Mark Carrier? Brandon Lloyd?) He’s approaching team MVP status this season, in no small part to the presence of Albert Haynesworth.

10:38: Santana Moss receives a punt and does his best Randle-El impression, running sideways and losing a yard. Not that it really matters. The Skins go three and out.

10:45: Ron Jaworski: “[The Eagles] have only six first downs with 7:44 to go here in the third quarter. So you gotta give some credit to that Redskins defense. Outside of some big plays, they’ve been solid.” I’d agree, except when one of those big plays is on THIRD AND #$#% 23 AND THE RECEIVER GETS BEHIND SIX REDSKINS DEFENDERS FOR A TOUCHDOWN. But otherwise, good job, D!

10:49: Sweet baby Moses, Antwaan Randle-El has been placed back on the field to receive a punt. At this point, it’s like an episode of My Name Is Earl: why tempt Karma? What good could possibly come of this? He doesn’t run them back for touchdowns, and his only benefit—not fumbling the catch—just failed spectacularly. Is there no one else better than he?

10:54: Our third and fourth Sherm In the Box shots show him sharing some paperwork with an assistant after polishing off a refreshing Coke Classic. I wonder if he regrets taking that job in the Bingo hall.

10:56: The 'Skins leave eight players in the box, give Campbell five and half seconds to throw, and he is still sacked for a three yard loss. He never saw the defender coming right at him. Somewhere, a woman screams “You suck, Campbell!” for the home audience to enjoy. Next play, Campbell’s pass is tipped into nothingness.

We have 29 seconds left in the third quarter, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the Redskins will not score again on offense, never mind win this game.

11:01: I gave my Pops a call which led to this exchange:

Me: “Looks like the offense isn't much different than before, eh?”

Pops: “I don’t know what difference Sherman Williams--or whatever his name—is supposed to make. “

Me: “Um, I think Sherman Williams is a paint company, Dad.”

Pops: “Well, whatever.”

Meanwhile, I decide to continue watching this slow train wreck if only to see some of the awesome Tekken 6 commercials.

11:08: Following yet another sack of Campbell, Portis throws his helmet in disgust at the bench. There’s an iconic moment for the 2009 Redskins season DVD. In true Zorn fashion, the Redskins decide that, with the ball on their opponent’s 36 yard line and 14 yards to go, they are going to punt. Have you no backbone? On the play, fifteen yards get tacked on because of a Washington penalty, helping the Eagles move out of their own end. If I was at the stadium, I’d consider beating the traffic.

11:15: Yep, Tekken 6 looks incredible. My night is complete.

11:22: With just over six minutes left in the game, the Redskins finally author a productive drive, reaching the Eagles’ red zone for only the second time all night. Sherm in the Box is stoic, almost statuesque. Hold on. He’s not even moving. Sherm? You okay? Sherm?

11:26: Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the moment that defines this game. With four minutes left, on 4th and goal from the four, the Redskins decide to man up and just go for it. Campbell never gets the shotgun snap, as it ricochets off the center Casey Rabach’s right butt cheek. The Eagles recover the ball and the remaining fans stream toward the exits.

With no sense of mercy for the fans, the Skins attempt to preserve the clock by calling timeouts.

11:34: The Eagles rush five and pick up their sixth sack. ESPN gives us another beautiful high level view of how horrible the offensive line has been tonight: 43 drop backs, six hurries, 14 hits, six sacks. At this point, there aren’t enough Redskins fans left in the stadium to hear boo.

11:42: Fred “Just send me out to catch, thanks” Davis scores a completely meaningless touchdown. Dear Heaven, can we just end this game here? Please? And why was there only one Tekken commercial?

11:50: The Redskins fans begin the “Fi-re Sny-der” and “Sell-the-team!” chants.


OFFENSE: D+. Portis runs for 43 yards while Campbell throws 46 times. That’s right, 46 times. I’d love to hear how and why Sherm Lewis thought they should go with this game focus. But in the end, this offense looked just as confused, inconsistent, and inept as they have been all season. Now with Chris Cooley reportedly having a broken ankle, the potential for this offense plummets.

DEFENSE: B. The defensive line and linebackers are doing great, putting pressure on the quarterback and stuffing the run. The secondary…not so good. I don’t trust ‘em. Landry bit hard on DeSean Jackson's end around run and could only watch him score. Zorn said that DeSean was “wicked fast,” but he looks even faster when you take the wrong pursuit angles and bite on double moves.

Sp. TEAMS: F. Antwaan Randle-El’s fumble was a turning point in the game’s momentum. End this foolishness now.

COACHES: F. Postgame press conference quote of the night: Hey Currently Coach Zorn, what’d you think of Sherm calling the plays? “The results were the same.” ‘Nuff said.

OWNER: Z-. Does the Pro Football Hall of Fame have a basement, where they profile the worst of the league? Can we put Snydely and Al Davis down there?


The Redskins limp into a bye week at a horrendous 2-5. They are a team without heart, a team without direction, a team without a future. Heaven help them.