Week One: Back on Familiar Ground
It has been nearly three years since the Redskins Review dove into the exciting, hopeful, and heartbreaking world of the Washington Redskins. When last we spoke, it was November 2006, and the Redskins were enduring a painful 5-11 end to a their season. Under center was the rapidly deteriorating southpaw, Mark Brunell. (Would you believe that he's still earning an NFL paycheck? Is he 60 yet?) The last Review post, ironically, noted that Jason Campbell, a 2005 Auburn draft choice by Coach Gibbs, was to be named the starter on November 19, 2006. At the time, Gibbs said, "When we drafted him we felt like we had a very talented person there, and certainly when we give him the starting job we're going to do everything we can to support him, and hopefully it's going to be something that he takes and makes the most of."
In 2007 the Redskins fans finally got to taste a bit of the sweet nectar that owner Daniel Snyder has been spending gazillions on: the playoffs. The team endured a mid-season four game losing streak (including Gibbs' infamous double-time out gaffe versus the Bills) and the unsettling murder of Sean Taylor to make a wholly unexpected late season run into the playoffs, where they self-destructed in Seattle.
In that offseason, Coach Gibbs downshifted into the NASCAR sunset, defensive coordinator and fan-nominated successor Gregg Williams left after being snubbed for the head coaching position, and the Era of Zorn began in 2008. Jim Zorn, whose previous claim to NFL fame was as the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback coach, rode into a town where virtually none of the residents knew his name. That's not necessarily a bad thing--a virtually unknown Illinois senator managed to earn D.C.'s most powerful position when two years prior few could spell his name correctly. But it had to be clear to Zorn when he signed on the dotted line: win now or else. (Or as I like to say, "you can't spell 'Washington' without the 'win.' " Something like that.)
To what heights did Zorn take the Redskins, a team who has had only two winning seasons and hasn't won their division since 1999? What did his West Coast, zippy-pass offensive stylings produce? Might the Redskins destroy the teams they're supposed to beat, and stand tall against superior talent? Would there be, finally, a prime-time worthy performance during prime time? Could they win against a four-fingered Tony Romo?
The team lost 7 of its last 11 games after starting 4-1, losing to mutton chops San Francisco, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.
Let it be said that from 2006 until now, I have been a card carrying member of the Campbell the Hero Apologist Society of Maryland (CHASM). We meet on Tuesdays. Our once vivacious and vocal group has slimmed from hundreds of members to, well, a few hard core dreamers. (The initial meetings were held in the luxury boxes at FedEx Field. Now we're relegated to the "executive dining area" of the Route 100 Golden Corrall.)
In our manifesto it is decreed that: 1.Sir Campbell, when given the same benefits of consistent coaching enjoyed by the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world, will prove to be the man worth three draft picks. 2. Campbell simply needs a good offensive line, a fair amount of time to pass, and a moderate running game to be able to take the Redskins offense to heights nary seen in decades. 3. Campbell is a great guy, a God-fearing gentleman who not only gives back to D.C.'s community, but dates Miss District of Columbia 2007. (Now if that's not commitment to your new home town, I don't know what is.) By this we stand, ready to defend what some might see as inconsistent/nonexistent decision making in the pocket.
This brings us, fatefully, to Week One of the Redskins' 2009 NFL season. The talk before kickoff was that this season--a contract year for Jason Campbell--is to be the Year We Get It Together. After dumping more than $100 million into Albert Haynesworth and the defense, now that draft picks Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are fully healed, given that Campbell has finally learned one playbook under one offense, it is assumed that it will all come together for positive, postseason success.
Giants 23, Redskins 17.
Egad. Don't let the six points fool you: the Redskins were handled for the entire game. The Redskins looked, aside from one brilliant (or was it desperate?) fake field goal touchdown, exactly like the Redskins of last season...of the previous season...of the one before that. Even when it looked like it was maybe-just-maybe possible that they could score once, get the onside kick, then score again, the team had already emitted such a mildly irritating odor that Redskins fans just knew it wasn't going to happen.
(One quick aside: the New England Patriots faced nearly the exact same circumstances on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills, yet I watched expecting Brady and company to pull off some miracle. I was sure that Magic Tom would somehow score quickly, then alter time, space, and NFL rules and get the ball back again, then score a last-second touchdown. How did it turn out? See for yourself.)
So how quick was the fallout from the Redskins' performance? Let's see what the Washington Post columnists thought: It's Early, But Soon It May Be Late, New Year, Same Results So Far , Waiting for a Huge Impact ,Under Center and Under the Gun. Here are the cliff's notes: Campbell and the Redskins had better win, and do so soon. As in, Sunday against the doormat Rams.
CHASM would humbly add this as well: Campbell simply cannot have another "garbage time touchdown/interception/two fumble" day. He cannot get happy feet in the pocket before getting sacked. He cannot stare down Chris Cooley before he throws his way. He must manage the game, not be managed by it.
Jason Campbell must manage this game to success. The future of CHASM, and perhaps his future as a Redskin, depend upon it.