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.

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