Sunday, January 03, 2010

Week Seventeen: A Fitting End

Washington 20, San Diego 23

It was as if the Washington Redskins wanted to leave its fans with a solemn, stinking reminder of the inferior mess of the 2009 season. Midway through the fourth quarter, Washington held a one-point lead and effectively drove twelve plays to reach San Diego's three yard line. A touchdown wouldn't have immediately won the game, but it would have forced San Diego, whose playoff-bound team fielded its second and third string, to score a touchdown and two-point conversion for overtime.

So what happened? After failing on third and one, Currently Packing Coach Zorn called the second of his three time outs to set up his fourth down attempt. The offense lined up with a heavy package...and Derrick Dockery, one of the few veteran offensive linemen still able to play, commited a false start penalty. Faced with the opportunity to display a win-at-all cost courage (that critics say was absent in losses to Philadelphia and Dallas), Zorn elected to kick a field goal.

San Diego's offensive backups, led by household name Billy Volek, needed just ten plays in three minutes to reach first and goal at the Washington one yard line. During the drive, cornerback Justin Tryon had an interception hit him between the numbers that would have ended the game. And just as they did in Detroit, the Redskins spent a precious timeout after standing around during a booth review because they didn't have the right personnel on the field. Then, the proper personnel cannot cover fullback Mike Tolbert, and he easily received the go-ahead pass.

With no timeouts left and just 35 seconds left to save the sliver of dignity left in Washington, Campbell threw passes that sailed over his receiver's heads. The final play of the 2009 season showed Jason Campbell, under light defensive pressure, winding up and launching a pass...that sailed so far out of bounds that it likely struck a Chargers fan in the fifth row.

After all the ridiculousness of this year, there was the smallest of hopes that the Redskins would send off this season with a win. After all the talk from players and staff of how much winning a fifth game would mean, there was the possibility that the Redskins would play with enough heart to at least hold their heads high in January after a forgettable December.

No, this is the Season of Discontent, one some call the worst season ever, if not in decades. For at least the next six months, the Redskins have forced their fans to have to find an answer to "Y'all couldn't beat San Diego's benchwarmers?!?"

Some analysts have dismissed this game as a glorified preseason contest, a forgettable footnote to the season. I disagree. You know what the Kansas City Chiefs, a 3-12 franchise with a coach on the hot seat and no reason to care, did on Sunday against a Denver team fighting for a playoff spot (with its starters, no less)? They went on the road, played with pride, and had their best output of the season in defeating the Broncos, 44-24.

It should be professionally demoralizing for Washington to eye Kansas City with envy, except for the fact that the 'Skins weren't good enough to beat them at home.

And thus the season draws to a close. The clock is ticking on Jim Zorn; reports from ESPN, the Associated Press, and heck, even my Aunt Gladys say that he will be fired by Tuesday. In his last interview as coach with the Redskins' broadcast crew, Zorn found the right word to sum up this game, this season, and the taste in every fan's mouth:


OFFENSE: B. Never mind the final score. Facing the Chargers' defensive starters, the offense had just one decent drive and zero points.
DEFENSE: F. Never mind the statistical rankings. If your starters can't stop their backups to win a game, then you have failed. The secondary has 17 takeaways in 16 games, none for a touchdown. That's the worst in NFL.
Sp. TEAMS: C. When it mattered least, Antwaan Randle-El had his best return of the year, 43 yards. He then reverted to form and returned the next punt for one yard.
COACHING: F. In the NFL, at the end of the day success is measured not just in wins, but how you lost. This game was yet another (of the six or more) that was easily within grasp for the coaches but slipped away.
OWNERSHIP: F. Snydely emasculated Zorn mid-season with the arrival of Sherm in the Box, then sabotaged any remaining confidence by interviewing Mike Shanahan and Jerry Gray with games yet to play.

The Redskins begin the arduous task of repairing all that is wrong with this franchise. Post-Zorn Reviews will follow as developments warrant; I will also review the intriguing question of whether Jason Campbell's final series in burgundy and gold will be that four-incompletion laugher in San Diego.

I will add that for as frustrating, bewildering, and downright sickening that this season has been, I count it a pleasure to have resurrected the Redskins Review for this year. If nothing else, my favorite team is the Britney Spears of professional football: a high-profile, moderately-talented soap opera that may never be as attractive as it used to be. However, it never leaves its audience without something to talk about. Here's to the Redskins winning the 2010 Offseason Super Bowl!

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