Monday, December 06, 2010

Week Thirteen: Holiday Wish List

Washington 7, New York Giants 31

A long, long time ago, back before there was Facebook, compact discs, and online shopping,
Sears printed and mailed a Christmas Wish Book to homes across America. The Wish Book was, for children, like receiving Moses' stone tablets every year. The two-inch thick book, containing the latest toys and video games, provided hours of childlike planning, dreaming, and coercion. It was the singular source for wistful hopes of happy days.

The Washington Redskins are, after another embarrassing division loss, hopeless. The offense is rudderless, the defense is a sieve, and the best guy on special teams is the size of a high school senior. You know a game day performance was the center ring in a Cirque de Suck when the
dominating story on Monday is who didn't contribute to the horror.

The fans of the burgundy and gold deserve much, much better. They have been demanding it, in various and sometimes hilarious formats, for years now. But until someone with more money usurps owner Daniel Snyder's power, well, all there is left to do is dream. The Redskins Review has been pouring over the 2010 season like an old Sears catalog. Here, then, in the spirit of the season and the futility in not being able to do much else, are the Top Five Wishes for the Washington Redskins. (Cue the Johnny Mathis...)

1. Find us players with heart, who care about winning more than themselves. Let's get this out of the way now: "Albatross" Haynesworth should be the last high-priced, massive-ego free agent ever hired for the Redskins. His training camp, preseason, and in-season selfishness should be immortalized on a poster in Ashburn, Virginia, with a warning that if anyone acts this way, begin cleaning our your locker. His marginal statistical line and salary should be laminated and charted in the head coaches' office. #92's story is well known: he doesn't want to show up for camp, he can't pass conditioning tests, he whines about having to play 3-4, he doesn't start, he gives half-effort when finally playing, and he shows up late for mandatory team meetings. Oh, and he is the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

He is, unfortunately, just one in a sad history of poor choices by the "talent evaluators" at Redskins Park. It's easy to poke holes at Daniel Snyder, whose checkbook funds this madness. But he
doesn't scout, and he doesn't watch film of free agents. That's Gibbs/Zorn/Shanahan and their staff's job. Apart from London Fletcher, it hasn't been pretty. That must end. Now and forever more.

There's a chap in Pittsburgh who, on national television, took to the field against a top defense and pulled out a thrilling win in freezing temperatures. He did so with a poor defensive line, no running game, linebackers in his face, a bad ankle and an in-game broken nose. When was the last time the Redskins had anyone that dedicated?

2. Call some plays that require pelotas de acero. End the passive, let's-hope-we-can-get-these-seven-yards-on-third-down-with-a-screen-pass mentality that's been pervasive in this and recent seasons. Sure, the Redskins are currently less talented then Auburn, Oregon State, and that blue team from Boise. But does that mean that Kyle Shanahan can't call unexpected, oh-no-he-didn't stabs at yardage? What do we have to lose? Respect?

Now let's use a little wisdom; we're not talking about calling the Worst Play Ever, courtesy Jim Zorn. We're talking Joe Flacco launching not one, but two 60+ yard pass plays on third down from inside the Ravens' own five yard line. That's play calling that says "Screw it, we're here to win this football game. And if we fail in the process, it won't be because we didn't pull out every stop to try."

And speaking of wishing for offense...

3. Get us a Steve Smith. That's right, Steve Smith.
If the Redskins are going to keep old, backside-of-their-prime players on the roster, let them be fearless, soft-handed guys who still can challenge a defense. That's Steve Smith to a tee. At 31, he can still stretch a defense and has the will to play the game, despite being with the less-than-prolific Carolina Panthers. (That alone earns him kudos.) Santana Moss, by comparison, is also 31, the same height, weighs around twenty pounds more, and strikes a quarter of the fear in opponents. Don't even mention Joey Galloway.

Now it's true that Smith hasn't always been a model player or teammate. But his commitment and fire when playing the game at its highest level are unquestioned. The Redskins need to give Donovan McNabb a strong-minded target he can count on; the career-worst season he's having is coinciding with having to work with some of the worst receiver talent in his career.

If that Steve Smith-esque guy could be 6'5", that'd be nice too.

4. Call it old-fashioned, but return to Redskins football. The old heads remember the days when the offensive line dictated the offense. Regardless of what happened in the first half, fans knew that
after halftime, Washington would run, run, run, and then run some more. Kind of how the Giants did on Sunday.

The NFL goes through its phases of so-called success. Some seasons it's about the scrambling quarterback, others it's about the deep pass, some seasons it's about special teams. But one truism is that a strong running game will always keep you in contests. Old coaches used to say that “When you throw the ball, three things can happen—and two of them are bad.” For the Redskins, that 66% usually slides up to around 85%.

So let's wish that Washington finds a Peyton Hillis: a 3rd year, 24-year old back who is, as this video shows, all about "running guys over and scoring touchdowns." He is athletic enough to juke or hurdle, yet with the sheer strength and weight to make road kill of a safety. He is everything Redskins running used to be about.

If Ryan Torain remains healthy enough to be that kind of back, let's use this wish instead to hire solid second and third string offensive linemen.

Last, and most fancifully...

5. Can we get a one-team lockout for 2011? The NFL Players Association recently recommended that players store away their game checks due to the likelihood of a lockout next season. It's wishing a lot, but how about the Redskins simply sit out next season and rebuild? That's right, they forfeit the games in 2011. Dont' dress anybody. Keep the lights of FedEx Field off in the fall and winter. There won't be the excitement of a September kickoff...but there also won't be the inevitable frustration when they lose to a clearly inferior opponent.

Furthermore, there won't be offseason free agent nonsense, no inflated preseason posturing, no disappointing losses to division opponents. No snarky media fixation on the yearly Redskins circus.

In place of the inevitable embarrassments, the fans get to watch Mike Shanahan and the coaching staff dismiss the ineffective, overpaid, and unmotivated. He can actually devise an offensive and defensive scheme using the talent he brings in. Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen actually get to manage a process without the pressure of having to concurrently deliver on the goods.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

There's no SCORECARD this week, on account of the complete failure by the offense, defense, and special teams to reach a level of mild productivity. McNabb, when he had time, wasn't accurate and fumbled. The receivers, when they got the ball, couldn't hang on or catch it. The defense allowed 200 rushing yards to two guys and an offensive line missing three starters. The special teams couldn't stop Redskins castoff Devin Thomas from blocking a punt. The coaches have now lead this team to two massive, inter-divisional blowouts in the last month.

...goes to John Riggins. On his postgame show, he had this wonderful quote: "This team may not win another game. You may be looking at 5-11. I joked that they are getting better each game at a time. So by the time they become a winning team, we'll all be dead."

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