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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week Six: More Fizzle Than Spark

Kansas City 14, Washington 6

There comes a time in a football fan's life that you sense the sad reality that your team just isn't failing to reach its potential, or succumbing to select injuries, or battling through an unusually difficult part of the schedule. That reality settles onto your mind, like softly falling black soot, rendering your explanations, excuses and hope virtually unrecognizable. The ugly, undeniable truth is that your favorite team stinks.

Gentle Redskins fans, that time is now. And the future isn't looking particularly bright, either.

Saying that the Redskins stink isn't perhaps the most accurate way to describe the 2009 team. (Although channelling your inner Thor the thunder god and proclaiming "Yon Redskins stinketh most foul!" certainly feels good.) No, Washington is best described this way: they deserve to be winless. They barely beat two horrible teams--who remain winless--and looked less than competitive in the other four games. They have yet to score more than two touchdowns in a game. They brought in an offensive guru to provide guidance and the team scored six points, its worst performance of the season.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced around 8PM Sunday that owner Daniel Snyder (henceforth Snydely Whiplash) and executive vice president of operations Vinny "Cuttin' Edge" Cerrato have recommended that Currently Coach Jim Zorn give up his game day play calling to "focus on head coaching." So if Zorn was hired originally as offensive coordinator, then promoted to head coach, and now being told that he isn't calling the plays during games...what is his job going to be on the sidelines? Will he stand on the sidelines saying
"What the [philharmonic] are you doing?!?" If he isn't influencing the plays being called, will he even have a headset? If he does, can fans recommend music for him to listen to? ("Learn to be Lonely" from Phantom of the Opera comes to mind.) Does he even need to show up for games, allowing the CPU to play his selected players like it's PlayStation Madden?

The Redskins have officially begun rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. In Zorn's postgame press conference, he conceded that he wasn't calling the right plays, and that he thought that benching Jason Campbell for Todd Collins would provide a spark but managed only a fizzle. But the play calling (horrendous as it has been) is just one piece of this morbid mosaic of a season.

There's been the draft picks like Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis who have barely contributed, there's the questionable pocket decisions of Jason Campbell, there's been the disappearance of Santana Moss for most of the season, there's been the inexplicable continual use of Antwaan Randle-El as punt returner, there's been the poor management of time outs and, ultimately, there is the mismanagement of Snydely Whiplash and Cerrato in refusing to spend money shoring up the offensive line in the offseason.

How much of that is going to change with Sherman "Ladies, we're playing four-corners Bingo this round!" Lewis or someone else calling plays? Does management really believe this to be the spark the team needs?

Uber-coach Tony Dungy had an interesting response to the news on NBC's Football Night in America: " I went through this in Tampa (Bay). This is not a good thing. I made a mistake and acquiesced to [giving up playcalling duties]. If you're Jim Zorn you have to say 'hey I'm in charge of this team on the field. If I'm not, get rid of me.' " That's a bold position to take, and for context remember that Dungy had the luxury of some playoff appearances with the Buccaneers to stand on when making that declaration. Zorn hasn't had even a fraction of that success here.

But come November, this will all be moot.

There was one play during this loss to Kansas City that is simultaneously the best and worst of the day, exemplifying the little that is right and all that is wrong with this team. In the third quarter, Clinton Portis broke free for a 78-yard scamper, his career longest run. A cause for celebration, correct? Maybe. But watch the video. Enjoy it. Cheer if you like. Then watch it again without the sound of analyst Rich Gannon's fawning compliments.

Fullback Mike Sellers--a man paid to block!--leads the way for Portis down the field. The initial blocking is outstanding. And with fifty yards to the end zone, Sellers ends up with just one man to block. Portis has just one man to run around, using Sellers as a screen. Sellers appears to just poop out and fall down at the 25 yard line. Portis inexplicably never cuts back to the wide open middle of the field and continues running an angle directly into the tackler. He doesn't even attempt a stiff arm! Instead of seven points--which in this game certainly looked like it would have placed Washington in position for victory--the Redskins earned a first and goal. The drive ended with a field goal and the Skins went on to lose by the margin of a touchdown. These are the plays that define a team.

Contrast Sellers' blocking effort to the work done by the Oakland Raiders rookie wide receiver--a man not paid to block!--Louis Murphy on tight end Zach Miller's 86-yard touchdown catch. Murphy not only completely decimates the first available Eagles tackler, but stays on his feet, catches up to the still-running Miller and makes another block thirty yards down field. Murphy even gets in the way of a third Eagle speeding up as Miller crosses the goal line.

You know things are bad in Washington when the Oakland Raiders show more desire to score than the Redskins.

OFFENSE: F. Ugh. How do you know a coach doesn't believe in his offense? With just over two minutes left, down by six points, Zorn elects to punt on 4th and 14 on the Redskins' 24. When the punt team walked on the field, I screamed "Why are you punting? What do you have to lose?!?" Sure enough, the punt boomed and the Skins had just one more offensive play...which was a safety for Kansas City.

DEFENSE: B+. This loss falls in no way on the defense, who held the Chiefs to four field goals, no touchdowns, and earned a total of five sacks. Only Carlos Rogers' poor coverage of Dwayne Bowe on the Chiefs' last drive lowered the grade.

Sp. TEAMS: D. Aside from kicker Shaun Suisham's continually accurate work, the team really isn't special, having a punt blocked and providing zero short fields for the anemic offense.

COACHES: F. Yon coaches stinketh most foul.

OWNERSHIP: F-. Remember last week when there was unintentional comedy in Snydely's management of the team? Nobody's laughing now.

This is it: the siren song for Jim Zorn. And what better stage on which to gracefully bow off than the national broadcast of Monday Night Football. Washington faces the Philly Egos at FedEx Field. Philadelphia is coming off one of its most embarrassing losses in recent memory, 13-9 to the hapless Oakland Raiders. They, like everyone else in the league, knows that no team can make you feel better about yourselves than the 2009 Washington Redskins. At this point in the season, it is nearly impossible to pick the Redskins to win another professional football game. (Do they play the Riverdale Baptist JV team in December?) Nonetheless, I hold out the very last sliver of hope that the defense scores all the touchdowns. Washington wins, 13-10.

You know a team has lost its Q-rating (that industry standard of measuring commercial appeal) when
the most exciting Redskins promotion teaser is this from Friday night: "This Sunday, on NFL Gameday Morning...find out why Chris Cooley is so fired up...about pottery. Only on NFL Network."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week Five: Impressively Unimpressive

Washington 17, Carolina 20

Another week, another winless team earns its first win at the Redskins' expense. As a fan, you really have to take your hat off to a team that can consistently be inconsistent. It takes work. Sure, there are teams like the Browns and Raiders who perform poorly every time they take the field. There's no fun in watching a team that just stinks. But there really is magic to a team like the Redskins that can, week to week, look better on paper than their competitor, underachieve just enough to lose, yet leave a sliver of hope that they won't do it again next week.

To look this impressively unimpressive, you need an intense week of distractions, squabbles, and general tomfoolery. Take a look at the last seven days in Washington Redskins history and tell me they didn't meet that requirement:

Sunday (Oct. 7): After watching embarrassing play all season, ticket-holding fans are prohibited by FedEx Field staff from bringing paper bags to the stadium to wear in protest. That same day, it is revealed that benched strong safety Chris Horton blasted his defensive coordinator and other teammates on his blog. The post mysteriously disappears pregame.
The Redskins lose--excuse me, barely win--at home against a rookie quarterback-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Wednesday: Owner Daniel Snyder and vice president of operations, Vinny Cerrato, think it a good idea to bring in a "consultant" to help Currently Coach Zorn and his offense.
("Snydely Whiplash" will henceforth be the reference for the owner of the Redskins due to the way he's ruining the team, like Dudley Do-Right's arch nemesis. It's only a matter of time before he grows a mustache, installs train tracks on FedEx Field and ties the players to it.) So where might Snydely and Cerrato locate this Savior of the Offense? Were they currently employed by a successful franchise? Might they be at home, preparing for work by concocting creative NFL strategies?

No, silly rabbit, these are the Redskins. They get their help from guys five years removed from football and currently calling Bingo at a senior center.

Sometime midweek: Reports surface that fullback Mike Sellers looked to attack Clinton Portis after Portis' public criticisms of Sellers' lack of blocking. The players need to be separated to avoid an altercation. In the following press conference, Zorn states that he has no problem with the possible fight between his number one running back and his number one lead blocker...apparently because there was only "nudging and posturing." In fact, he kind of liked it. Against Carolina, Sellers barely blocks on the play which results in the Panthers tackling Portis for a safety. Hmm...

Thursday: Defensive coordinator Greg Blache meets with the press for his weekly news conference to discuss the defensive game plan for the Carolina Panthers. Instead of meeting as usual near the player lockers, he conducts it outside in the sun. Total time of the conference? One minute, twenty seconds. Currently Coach Zorn's explained the change.
"For Greg, he's really needed a break," Zorn said. "And so from his standpoint, we've talked about it. I actually have talked to the league about a break for him, and they've agreed, so I would put it as personal reasons. ... It's something that is important and he's doing it for the right reasons, but it is a needed break for him so that's why I've allowed it." Well, then. Next question.

You know these be dark days in Washington when even the Hogettes have to post a public cease and desist against impostors. You remember the Hogettes: grown men celebrating the stout, championship-winning offensive line from the 1980s by dressing like pig snout-sporting Mama from Mama's Family. Frankly, I can't see why any fan would bother trying to imitate such an outdated football reference; the Skins haven't had a worthy offensive line in more than a decade. It's like arranging a group of dedicated middle aged men to recreate the Fun Bunch high fives in the parking lot before each home game.

Sunday (Oct.11): With guru Sherman "B-20, I-85" Lewis observing and reporting on ways to make the offense better, the Redskins manage a paltry 22% third down completion rate and 74 rushing yards on 24 attempts against one of the worst rush defenses in the league. The offense never adjusts its scheme after losing Chris Samuels to injury and it can't sustain second half drives to ice a winnable game. The offensive line allows five sacks and the team's best receiver, Chris Cooley, has zero receptions.

There you have it. Seven days, whether intended or not, to further cement the Redskins in the Hall of Mediocrity. Let's see what the next seven days bring. I'm hoping for a full page apology in the Washington Post from ownership.

Now that would really be impressive.

OFFENSE: D If I were Campbell, I'd seriously begin looking into reputable cross-country moving companies. His numbers may look good, but the on-field product is still lackluster.

DEFENSE: B My Pops and I agree that if a defense can keep its opponent under 20, they've earned a satisfactory grade. Given the two points and general ineptitude offered by the offense, the defense earns an even higher mark this week. Remember earlier this year when I faulted DeAngelo Hall for tackling like Deion Sanders after a manicure? Not so funny now, is it?

Sp. TEAMS: C- Don't punt returners practice yelling "ball!" or "pepper jack cheese!" or something to alert their blockers that the ball is coming their way? Does Randle-El know any of these code words?

COACHING: D- Currently Coach Zorn has managed to take a team at 6-2 (from last season) and rally off just four wins in his next thirteen games. Wow.

OWNERSHIP: F+ Snydely manages a "+" on the pure unintentional comedy that is his management of this team.

Allow me to pat myself briefly on the back for being oh-so-close predicting the scores for the last two games. Last week I predicted a 20-17 Redskins win on a defensive touchdown and before that I predicted a close game against Tampa Bay.

What has this team come to when you are nervous about the winless Kansas City Chiefs sauntering into FedEx Field? Even after their narrow loss to the Dallas Cowchips, there isn't a single reason to fear this team. Nor is there a single reason why the Skins should lose this game. The Chiefs lost to the Oakland Raiders, the universally agreed worst team in all the NFL. For crying out loud, how could it possibly be that I'm fearing yet another upset?

Redskins win. Heaven knows I want to give the Skins offense credit for more than two touchdowns, but I can't bring myself to do so in good conscience. Redskins win, 17-14.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Week Four: We Don't Need Another Hero(es)

Tampa Bay 13, Washington 16

Not too long ago, I was a huge fan of Heroes . Since I grew up reading Spider-Man, the X-Men, and (yes, I admit it) G.I. Joe comics, I loved that NBC gave we geeks a show that looked like it jumped off those color pages. The first season featured a cadre of super powered guys and gals working to avert a prophesied New York apocalypse. There was drama, romance, and a bad guy who ate people's brains to gain their powers. Yeah. That was great television.

Then came Season Two. Peter Petrelli, a hero with around twelve powers, was placed in box, given amnesia, and sent to Ireland. One of the most popular characters, the time-bending Hiro, was isolated in a feudal Japan plotline for most of the season. That cool antagonist who ate people's brains? He became a threat to no one, spending the better part of the season travelling from Mexico with two new throwaway characters. Midway through the season, I felt like I just couldn’t take another lame plot contrivance and I was ready to jettison my support and catch up with Marie Osmond’s progress on Dancing with the Stars.

But then Heroes would do something just awesome enough to keep me watching. One time it was the introduction of the New Orleans fast food worker who could mimic the fighting style of anyone she saw. Then there was the great showdown between Matt Parkman and his father the Boogeyman, two men who could manipulate reality. And in those moments, I remember looking over at my wife and saying "There may be hope for this season after all."

One scene later, I'm watching the indestructible cheerleader Claire and her boyfriend recreating teen angst with all the skill of a high school rendition of The Breakfast Club. And my thumb began hovering over the channel skip button. I just couldn't bear to watch any more.

Welcome to the 2009 Washington Redskins.

For every moment of satisfaction, like Clinton Portis rushing for nearly 100 yards, DeAngelo Hall finally making a game changing interception, or Jason Campbell lobbing a gorgeous touchdown to Santana Moss, there are ten to fifteen moments that inspire nausea. Like Campbell following up that touchdown with his third horrific interception. Or Campbell fumbling on the first drive. Or the sad realization that if the Buccaneers had a decent quarterback and field goal kicker, it is very likely that the Redskins would have lost this game.

Come to think of it, the entire first half of Sunday's game seemed to be one long Heroes scene with Claire and her father arguing about whether she deserves a normal life. You know it's bad when Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen are stifling their laughter at the offense during the Skins' game broadcast.

After the win, there appeared to be a celebration of the Redskins' aggressiveness and poise, as if Jim "Currently Coach" Zorn had somehow unearthed Washington's inner Indianapolis Colts. I'm not buying it, not after essentially one good quarter of progressive football. Squeaking by two of the NFL's worst teams (the Rams have lost by 35, 28, and 19 points in their other games) is hardly time to cheer anything. This team must fear their second half of the season.

[Jeff's finger begins to hover over the channel skip button...]


OFFENSE -- C. The jury is still out on Campbell and his future in the burgundy and gold.

DEFENSE -- B. Wouldn't it be nice to see our defense pitch a shutout on the lesser teams?

Sp. TEAMS -- C. Didn't I read somewhere that Antwaan Randle-El was hired to also return punts? Effectively?

COACHING -- C-. You're the coach and your quarterback has looked like JaMarcus Russell for three and half games. It's halftime and you haven't scored. If it's me with the headset, I'm seeing what my backup can do.


The Redskins travel to no-win Carolina as the Cakewalk Tour continues. Don't let their 0-3 record fool you--they are actually competitive, if not mistake-prone. Unlike Washington's previous cakewalk opponents, the Panthers can actually score points and the defense again will have to shoulder the burden of respectability. Washington wins on a defensive touchdown, 20-17.


Here's something that made me stop eating my curly fries, pause the TiVo, look off in the distance, say "uh, what?" During the Bucs/Skins game broadcast, the viewers were reminded that safety Reed Doughty is hearing impaired. Not a tremendously big deal. In fact, it's quite admirable that he excelled at Northern Colorado and made it to the highest level of professional football.

What made me roll my eyes was that the Redskins didn't know he was hearing impaired until after he was sitting in team meetings reading lips during his rookie year. Let me get this straight: the Redskins scouted, interviewed, drafted, and paid money for a player and didn't realize he couldn't hear? This is the team I root for?