There was a moment, during the fourth quarter of this game, when the sideline cameras caught Jim "Currently Coach" Zorn's emotional reaction to one of the many errors made by the Redskins. His eyes were moist with desperation, his eyebrows furled with disbelief. Even his headset was off kilter in frustration. Though the viewers couldn't hear his voice, it was easy to read his lips. This is a family column so I will give it a gentle translation.
"What the [naughty word] are you doing?!?"
Zorn wasn't alone: my Pops and I watched the Redskins' performance against the Lions and said some variation of the same thing. For sixty game minutes. I practically screamed it as Zorn called a Hook and Ladder with eight seconds left that began with Santana Moss, who lateraled to Antwaan Randle-El, who tossed to...Ladell Betts. Watch the play. There's no one else in position to receive a Betts lateral. That's right: Zorn actually called a play designed for his backup running back to weave his way through the entire Detroit defense. (Equally egregious was Betts' decision to not run out of bounds when the final two seconds could have been saved.) Even still, why would you draw up a Motor City Miracle that begins with your best receiver catching the ball thirty yards from the end zone?
"What the [flip-flarn-filth] are you doing?!?"
It really is difficult to quantify how pathetic it is to lose to the Detroit Lions. This is a team which hadn't won a game since before the recession. They were on pace to earning the title of Consistently Worst Team in NFL History. (Yes, I made that up.) Their starting quarterback was heretofore leading the league in interceptions. Googling "How bad are the Detroit Lions?" produces more than a million hits. Even the Baltimore Orioles would point and laugh. Watching Detroit for the last year and half was worse than enduring a marathon of those painfully unfunny Coors Light press conference commercials. (Though I would submit that viewing Jared the Subway Guy "singing" with Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck comes a close second.) There was zero mystery in facing this team. With apologies to Dennis Green, the Lions were who we thought they were.
Armed with this information and the knowledge that the Redskins needed desperately to salvage the remaining slivers of league respect, Currently Coach Zorn's team led the Redskins...to perhaps the worst thirty mintues of football in franchise history. Zero rushing yards. Eight minutes of offense. 94 passing yards. Detroit converted 9 of 11 third downs. Scoring drives were allowed of 11, 12, and 17 plays, including one drive of 99 yards. Detroit's quarterback was having a ball, winking to receivers, slapping buttocks and wagging his tongue like Jordan as he embarrassed the Skins' defense.
As the FOX halftime circus began, Pops and I played a depressing but nonetheless entertaining game of "Who Screwed This Up?" We don't really call it that, but that's where the discussion usually ends up. Pops, never a member of CHASM, laid the goose egg of scoring at Jason Campbell's feet. (It didn't help that Campbell let a dry football slip from his hand while trying to pass, Bad News Bears-style.) I argued that Zorn's horrendous decision making raised the stink--who doesn't take the easy field goal but instead calls a lazy off-tackle run on 4th and goal? Who accepts a third down penalty, giving a red hot Detroit offense another attempt when they'd just effortlessly moved the ball 60 yards on your defense?
"What the [cheese 'n grits] are you doing?!?"
Pops always gets the last word in Who Screwed This Up?, and his pearl of wisdom was "You know, George Allen always said that 'Your first drive of the second half determines how you'll finish. '" Um, I didn't think Allen ever said that, but I deferred on the grounds that I was around five years old when he coached. The Redskins did register a pulse by scoring quickly on their first drive of the second half. But then they reverted right back to the inepticalities (trust me, it's in the dictionary) and had to scramble at the end to try and save face.
Mike Wise asked the question "if you lose to the worst team in football, doesn't that make you the new worst team in football?" Ouch. Allow me, sir, to proffer another question: "If Jim Zorn can't prepare his team to face the worst team in football, and can't rally his troops to come back after half time against the worst team in football...then why are you here?"
What the [shizzlesticks] are you doing?!?
Offense -- C. Kudos to Santana Moss for gouging their secondary for nearly 180 yards. And not getting into any fights.
Defense -- D. No, make it an F. The defense was so bad it made Pops run to the computer to add Matthew Stafford to his fantasy team. "He's gotta be good!"
Sp. Teams -- B.- I said it last week, I'll say it again: could we run back a kick for a touchdown? Once? Please?
Coaching -- F. My buddy Big Wes sent me this text: "The Saints called. They would like to donate their holey paper sacks to wear for your next home game." Well that was hurtful. Believe me, if I was attending, you'd see me sporting a Whole Foods chapeau. Perhaps Zorn could use one to escape off the field next week.
When this season started, fans looked at the home game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as just another of the candy canes the Redskins would beat on their way to a probable 5-2 start. (Lose to the Giants, beat the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Panthers, Chiefs, lose to Dallas.) At this point, there are no easy games, no guaranteed wins, and no room for error. If I were Daniel Snyder, I'd place a cardboard cutout in the owner's box and watch from home. Just in case the fans realize who really is at the center of this mess of a team and storm his suite with flaming seat cushions.
I am hoping against hope, wishing all I can wish, dreaming of what might be. Skins win, 17-10. I need to lie down. The percocet's setting in...