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.

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