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.