Thursday, January 13, 2011

Interview with Ken Harvey

It's not often, as a sports fan, that you have the opportunity to have real, honest contact with the players you cheer for. Sure, you feel a connection to a player through game attendance, press conferences, or even Twitter. But there's something very special about talking, one on one, with the people who make you stand up and cheer.

I was fortunate to be able to interview one of the great Redskins, Ken Harvey, recently. It was surprising, friendly, and a lot of fun. Here's my interview, the first video for Jeff's Redskins Review:

The Redskins Review is also now on Twitter: follow me @JeffSkinsReview !

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010 Season Review

Every team's season contains highs and lows; but because it's the Redskins we're talking about, we have to include the supremely disappointing moments as well. Put on your Redskins gear one last time while viewing the best, worst, and facepalm moments in the 2010 Season Review:

There were many to choose from, particularly in the early part of the season when #5 was under center. For a period of time, Washington led the NFL in big plays. But the winner is Ryan Torain's 12-yard touchdown run against the Eagles. This play, against a division foe, was the throwback to yesteryear, when the Redskins had the personnel and guts to run the ball in the red zone. The fact that Torain made road kill of Quintin Mikell makes this play all the better. If there's a run that signaled the impending exit of Clinton Portis, this was it. Honorable Mention goes to Donovan McNabb and Anthony Armstrong's connection for a 48-yard touchdown in week five against the Packers.


While Clinton Portis' phantom fall down in week three against the Rams was a prime candidate for worst play, it simply cannot match the utter despair fans felt in week ten. On Monday Night Football, the visiting Eagles were humiliating the Redskins defense, 21-0 in the first quarter. The Redskins offense didn't have a first down and needed to do something to slow down the Michael Vick scoring juggernaut it, apparently, had not prepared for. The offense came on the field, ran twice for minimal yardage, and McNabb overthrew his receiver on third down. It was the last chance Washington had to put a respectable dent in the lead. The Redskins punted, the Eagles scored moments later, and the fans began streaming to the exits before the second quarter.


In week three, against the one-win St. Louis Rams, the first nine minutes were this: Washington had a punt blocked, lost a fumble, allowed a 42-yard touchdown, had 2 false-start penalties, a crack-back penalty, and were down 14-zip.

I've called DeAngelo Hall a good, not great corner. But in week seven, he was Madden-esque, tying an NFL record with four interceptions of Chicago's quarterback Jay Cutler. See them all here, but watch his second interception, a one-handed snag that he takes back for a lovely, long touchdown. Honorable mention goes to Hall as well, for his week one theft of Dallas' Tashard Choice for a pivotal touchdown.

The Redskins' defense finished far, far worse than last season, when it was a top-ten defense. Blame the scheme, blame the coaches, but there's no doubt that the players shoulder every bit of
the blame for the week thirteen touchdown against the Eagles. Michael Vick and Philadelphia had already carved the defense like a holiday ham, but this three-yard pass to Jason Avant proved that they were completely outmatched. The defensive line got no pressure, Albert Haynesworth rested on the ground for half the play, at least seven defenders roamed the end zone, and somehow Avant was still open.

In a season of great returns, Brandon Banks'
96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in week eight against Detroit stands out most. He showed speed, patience, and even some tackle-breaking ability as he covered virtually the width and length of the football field. Detroit had already given up multiple long returns to Banks; he was simply unstoppable that day.

Actually, the whole series of plays in this video qualify--in week fourteen, Graham Gano had a horrible kicking day capped by a
botched hold by Hunter Smith. His opportunity to redeem the multiple easy kicks missed slipped away, as did the opportunity for overtime. Honorable mention goes to any of the illegal blocks by special teamers that negated touchdown returns by Brandon Banks.

Week Two: "The optimist in me thinks that the Redskins can make 8-8; but with this comical running game 7-9 would be impressive."

Week Seven: "Donovan McNabb is the best quarterback the Redskins have had in recent memory." Some might say this is actually true. McNabb was on pace to hit 4000 yards while running for his life most snaps. But we never found out due to his benching, and it's likely we'll never know because he'll be wearing different colors in 2011. It would've been nice to see him groom a young kid into being the Redskins' future...

This may come as a surprise, but the introduction of the bootleg-play-action-pass-across-the-field into the offensive playbook was the best of the year for Mike and Kyle Shanahan. It wasn't just effective, it was consistently producing long-yardage and touchdowns. I noticed other teams employing it, I like to believe, after seeing the success in Washington. Here it is against Tennessee, the Texans, the Texans again, and the Jaguars. The greatness of this play lies in the quarterback being mobile enough to make distance between the now-free rushers and strong enough to heave a pass longer than normally necessary. McNabb
pulled it off regularly, and tight ends Fred Davis and Chris Cooley made most of their big yardage through it.


It is really tempting to anoint the 3-4 defense as this season's worst coaching decision. The roster was unprepared, untalented, and (it certainly looked) unmotivated to change from the 4-3. Introducing the scheme guaranteed an uphill battle for the players; the result was that the defense routinely gave up 400 yards of offense.

But the worst coaching decision was the week eight benching of Donovan McNabb. With just over two minutes left, and the Redskins down one score, Shanahan inserted Rex Grossman in to run to the drill and pull out a win. First play: Grossman is blindsided (by the defense he hadn't faced all day),Ndamukong Suh picks up the fumble and ices the game with a touchdown.
Shanahan's convoluted explanation after the game didn't help justify the bizarre choice.

Brandon Banks. I get that Santana Moss had a 1000-yard season and had the second-most receptions in Redskins' history. But Moss had critical drops, some of which hit him squarely in the hands. When the Redskins needed somebody to go out, electrify the crowd and energize the rest of the team, Banks answered the call. It's been awhile since the Redskins had a special player on special teams, a guy whom you could believe could take it to the house on any punt or kickoff return. Banks, if he stays healthy (and gets some help with legal blocking), could be that guy.

Coach Mike Shanahan. The 6-10 season result, his pitiful explanation of his last-minute benching of DJ McNabb, and his decision to keep Albert Haynesworth around indicated that, maybe, he's not the great genius of football operations Daniel Snyder, Bruce Allen, and the rest of the football world proclaimed him to be. He may have had a bunch of square pegs to fit into round holes, but the fan base expected better than a two-game improvement over the Jim Zorn train wreck. We expected the prime-time humiliations to division foes to end.

We didn't expect a playoff birth, but a simple return to respectability. And we got none of the above.

Is that the Redskins are on a potential upswing. They have a decent draft position, they played well down the stretch, and Daniel Snyder will keep Shanahan around long enough to right some of the wrongs of past years. It will take time. Maybe a long time--look how long it took to raise pieces of the Titanic. But Shanahan wants to go younger with this team, not unlike the Tampa Bay Bucs, who went from nobodies to 10-6. The good news is that, with patience and wisdom, anything is possible.

Is that the Redskins are still in the NFC East. The Cowchips performed well under interim-now-head coach Jason Garrett, managing to have a better overall record than the Redskins despite losing five in a row. The Giants faded toward the end of 2010, but finished a respectable 10-6. Only two teams in the NFC had better records. And then there's the Eagles, who are favorites to face Atlanta for the NFC championship. Somebody's got to bring up the rear in the division, and in the short term it looks like it's going to be Washington.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Week Seventeen: A Perfect Synopsis

New York Giants 17, Washington 14

If ever there were a microcosm, a conspectus of the 2010 Redskins season, it was this final game against the Giants. Many of the same elements of frustration that
prevented success for the franchise--and joy for fans--were on display Sunday evening. For every positive play that created hope in Washington playing spoiler, there were reminders that Mike Shanahan's team is a work in progress that hasn't progressed nearly as far as anyone hoped. In the end, the the season's final moment was the disappointing view of an opponent in victory formation.

In a month, maybe even sooner, this game will be nothing more than a statistical notation. But a closer examination of this season finale explains a lot of what's good and what's bad about this

Rex Grossman, for example, was good enough to be called a professional quarterback but made the errors that assured that he shouldn't be a starter in Washington. His final stat line included more than 300 passing yards and a gorgeous 64-yard strike to Anthony Armstrong. But he also had two fumbles, an interception, and couldn't lead his team into field goal range with two minutes left. His performances in the last two weeks were hardly an indication of the "he knows the system" advantage coach Shanahan has reminded us of all season.

Santana Moss was Grossman's favorite target, finishing with nine catches for 74 yards. And while it's proper to celebrate his fourth season of more than 1000 yards, he had another fourth-quarter
error, a red zone fumble.

Then there's the coaching: offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ordered ten rushes in the first half for Ryan Torain, and the running back averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry. In the second half, with the game still close, Shanahan got Torain the ball just eight times more while Grossman attempted 29 passes.

And let's not forget the so-called best defensive back on the Redskins' roster, DeAngelo Hall. He had a decent game in run support, finishing with four solo and two assist tackles. But for all of his continued claims that he wants to be matched with the opponent's best receivers, he failed miserably in defending the Giants' last good receiver, Mario Manningham, on a 92-yard touchdown.

Perhaps the best symbol of what the 2010 season has been like was in the first quarter, when Torain and the offense responded to the Giants' first score with a ground-game attack. The drive pounded into the red zone, and the offense, as it has done all season, fizzled. On came Graham
Gano, he who has won multiple overtime games for Washington, for a chip-shot 30-yard field goal for the tie. Gano's kick went horribly wide left, and Washington never came closer to tying the game.

As usual, the Redskins were good enough to make fans believe they could win but lacked the talent to actually pull it off. Here's to eight months of improving on the latter.


OFFENSE: C. I would be very interested to see if Mike Shanahan really believes that Grossman
provides a better chance of winning than Donovan McNabb.
DEFENSE: B+. They didn't give up 400 yards and kept an uninspired Giants team from running away with the game.
Sp. TEAMS: B-. At the stadium, there was a noticeable increase in energy when Brandon Banks took the field for punt returns. At times it seemed like he was one of the few players who has heart.
COACHING: C. For all the criticism leveled at the coaches, their players (backup and starter) came ready to do battle in recent weeks.
OWNERSHIP: C. Another rainy game, another day without free ponchos. The 2011 magnet-calendars are hardly consolation prizes. And what's with the #5 jerseys still being sold for $90.00 in the Redskins store...?

The Best and Worst of the 2010 Redskins season, my interview with Redskins great Ken Harvey, and reviews of the eagerly-expected NFL playoffs.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Week Sixteen: The Expendables

Washington 20, Jacksonville 17 (OT)

When the Redskins' season gets to this annual point--where the team is far from playoff contention, many of the early-season starters are benched or injured, and it's a holiday weekend--the motivation for players to play and fans to watch can be lessened. This year, despite the change in managerial and on-field leadership, Washington found itself in a similar place to Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell's team from a year ago. In week fifteen of the 2009 season, the Redskins were pummeled on
(surprise!) national television by the New York Giants, 45-12, in front of new GM Bruce Allen.

This season, for reasons to be debated well into April 2011, the Redskins stood their ground and pulled off an underdog win against a playoff aspirations. That was inspiring. What made it even
more poignant (and watchable) was that Mike Shanahan fielded a team missing many of the best players on the roster--LaRon Landry, Brian Orakpo, Clinton "Remember Him?" Portis, and Donovan McNabb.

Like the real-life version of a team-up of Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, and Jet Li, it was The Expendables who pulled off what hadn't been done but five times all season: play a full 60 minutes and win.
During the game, the broadcast team joked with the truth that Mike Shanahan and the coaching staff weren't sure of all the names of players they were using. But it was practice squad and castoff guys named Rob Jackson, Macho Harris, and Byron Westbrook who made plays while veterans like Chris Cooley and Rex Grossman had average or sub par games. Jackson, for example, went from not being on the practice squad weeks ago to making three solo tackles and forcing a fumble.

The Jaguars offense, minus Maurice Jones-Drew, had everything to play for but were held to 17
points, 78 rushing yards, and just 336 yards. (Yes, 336 isn't much to be proud of...unless your defense routinely allows 400 yards per game.) Moreover, the Redskins defense provided relentless pressure on quarterback David Garrard, sacking him four times and influencing his worst throw of the game, an interception in overtime.

After Rex Grossman's touchdown-a-thon against Dallas last week, the question in most fan's mind was whether the backup-now-starter was part of the Redskins' future winning equation on just another jersey you'll find on the clearance racks like Donovan McNabb's. The answer, after a medicore,
19-for-39, 182 yards, one touchdown/one interception day, is...don't waste your money. Contrarians might argue that Grossman's numbers are negatively affected by Cooley's four-drop day, which included an easy touchdown.

But when the game was on the line--the dreaded two-minute drill that Shanahan said McNabb hadn't grasped for most of the season--Grossman led the offense to produce one first down, burn a minute and thirty seconds, and produce four net yards before punting. The third down completion
issues from McNabb's leadership continued, as Grossman's team went 0-for-7 before finishing 4-for-15. Hardly an upgrade. How about starting John Beck against the Giants and see what happens?

But this day belonged to the second and third-stringers, who confirmed that this season isn't the total flaming mess of last year. (It's a mess without the flames.) And part of the difference, as shown in the last two weeks is that they players are playing for themselves, their pride, and their fans. Rob Jackson, when asked what this victory meant, put it best: "it means that we've got a lot of potential, a lot of upside."

OFFENSE: C. Why the Redskins ran on 24 of their 64 plays is a mystery for Kyle Shanahan to explain. Torain remains a solid back and should be in the backfield discussion come offseason.
DEFENSE: A. Carlos Rogers nabbed his first interception in forever, the defense got four sacks, and, most importantly, won the game. What more can you ask for?
Sp. TEAMS: B. The punting game was adequate, but isn't much better than when Hunter Smith was playing. Kicker Graham Gano gets his third game-winner and can breathe a little easier.

COACHES: B. Kudos to coach Shanahan for playing his young guys and for Jim Haslett for continually mixing blitzes. The D was energetic, aggressive, and effective.

The Philadelphia area was blanketed by blizzard-like conditions on Sunday, and the NFL postponed the Minnesota Vikings/Eagles game until Tuesday. The NFL's statement cited road safety and stadium clearing as reasons for the postponement, not player safety or impossibility in playing the game. With modern technology, the game could have been played. Instead, the NFL knew they'd lose out on lots of revenue if the seats are partially empty for their nationally-televised game. Even the governor of Philadelphia disagreed with the postponement.

It wasn't that long ago--okay, forty years ago--that the NFL decided to man up and was rewarded with one of its greatest games ever: the Ice Bowl Championship game of 1967. The wind chill was minus-36 degrees, the surface was rock-hard, and the referees' whistles froze right after kickoff. And you know what? They played anyway, because it's football and football is played regardless of the weather. (Um, unless there's lightning.) Who knows how the legends of that game--men like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Don Meredith, Bart Starr and Ray Nitchske--would have been viewed if they preferred to make sure everyone could see the game instead of just playing it? The NFL should remember its own history...

Redskins photo courtesy, the Ice Bowl courtesy Sports Illustrated.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Week Fifteen: Half Full or Half Empty?

Washington 30, Dallas 33

Well, this was unexpected. Given the dwindling hope, negative media attention, and prominent roster change, it was easy to assume that the Redskins would walk into Dallas and provide another lackluster, disappointing performance. Instead, the team looked, well, unusually competitive and competent. But is this one day symbolic of anything substantial, or is it simply Fool's Gold? Let's look at the major headlines from the game:

Mike Shanahan: Genius All Along?
The facts are indisputable: Washington produced their best comeback of the season, twenty points, against their biggest rival, on the road. With Shanahan's choice for starter, Rex Grossman, at the helm, the offense was a perfect four for four in the red zone and converted two-point conversions for the first time in years. When previous Redskins teams would've folded like a cheap tent after a deflating first half, Shanahan's squad rallied to not only make it a game, but could actually have won. (Yes, when you've only won five times all season, you cherish every single one of them.) So maybe we cut Shanahan some slack, let him choose his starting quarterback, defensive linemen, and schemes when and how he likes.

On the other hand...the Redskins needed that wonderful comeback because his offense was indeed absent for most of the first half. Dallas had triple the time of possession and a 13 point lead by halftime. And despite a few defensive stands, the Shanahan/Haslett 3-4 scheme has once again allowed over 400 yards of opponent offense. Dallas spent the first half in the Redskins' red zone, and had they been just a bit more efficient, the final score would have certainly topped 40 points. None of this is a prescription for a winning game.

And let's not gloss over the disrespectful mismanagement of Donovan McNabb, which continued right into the game's beginning. Despite benching McNabb, Shanahan asked him to participate in the ceremonial coin toss. In a show of exceptional maturity and poise, McNabb did so. Why Shanahan would demote a player, then ask him to represent the team--what an awkward position to be asked into--is further circumstantial evidence of the minimal professional respect for McNabb. Hardly a genius maneuver there.

Finally, let's not forget that this was still a loss to a division rival. For all the philosophical and structural changes made, the Redskins are 5-9, just one game better than they were last year, and are again sitting at the bottom of the NFC East once.

Rex Grossman
: One Day Sale or Long Term Investment?
It's been a long time since the Redskins have witnessed a quarterback have a four-touchdown game. And hardly anyone predicted that Grossman would be the man to provide it. But on Sunday he finished with a very respectable stat line (25 for 43, four touchdowns, 2 interceptions, one fumble) and placed the team in position to complete a comeback. His second-half poise, particularly in the red zone, was the difference between scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. His perfectly-thrown pass to Santana Moss was dropped, but it could have capped an exciting, game-winning drive.

But let's not forget...that Rex is equally as capable of tossing interceptions as he is throwing touchdowns. His last season as a starter, 2006, shows him having four games with three or more interceptions. In three of those games, he didn't have a touchdown. It was widely considered that the 2006 Bears made the Super Bowl despite Grossman, not because of him.

Before Sunday, Rex's last relevant action as a starter was in the third preseason game against the New York Jets. After the game (a loss, by the way), Shanahan celebrated Grossman's decision making, quick release, and understanding of Kyle Shanahan's scheme. The reality was that he had third down passes deflected at the line, was solely responsible for a safety, fumbled on a sack, and sometimes tossed right into clear double coverage.

His career touchdown day against Dallas needs to be viewed in light of the two turnovers he had that led to 14 Dallas points. The offense looked no better than under McNabb for half the game, and if the Redskins are going to dream of being competitive against the NFC East's best, that's not going to be acceptable.

There is no denying that, for at least one moment in time, Grossman proved to be a winning hand. Let's see how he does against Jacksonville.

OFFENSE: B. It's an outstanding grade, considering that they were outplayed badly in the first quarter. But 30 points is 30 points. Ryan Torain again proved that he is dangerous in the open field and can make roadkill of opposing secondaries. If he can stay healthy in 2011...
DEFENSE: D. Lost in all the Grossman and Shanahan talk is the continual mediocrity of the defense. For all the upgrades on offense, if this defense can't stop anyone from putting up 350-400 yards per game, well, it's all for naught.
Sp. TEAMS: C. I'm sure many fans were praying that Brandon Banks would save the day with an outstanding punt return in the fourth quarter. It was not to be, though the special teams coverage and punting was adequate on the day.
COACHES: C. Kyle Shanahan, to his credit, called some great plays, including a blitz-beating screen to Ryan Torain. Also, I get that you go with what you think will work against an opponent. But the eleven Torain rushes are exactly why the Redskins fell behind in time of possession and points. Lastly, is it me or did Shanahan seem surprisingly happy after a loss?

The East provided not one but two close, down-to-the-wire finishes on Sunday. On the road in New York, the Philadelphia Eagles scored not one, not two, not three, but four touchdowns in the final seven minutes on their way to securing a hammer lock on the NFC East title. For those who haven't seen the miracle finish, it's breathtaking, even if you can't stand either franchise. The Eagles may not have the best record in the NFL, but I'm certain that, after the Patriots, they're the team you least want to play.

Photo courtesy

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reasons # 545, 546, and 547...

...on why you have to be crazy to be a Redskins fan. For the four people in Des Moines, Iowa, who aren't familiar with the bad reality show that this franchise has annually been, here's a small slice of the ridiculousness endured by the burgundy and gold faithful:

Reason #144:
Daniel Snyder hires Marty Schottenheimer to run the highest-payroll team in the league. Though starting 0-5, the team rebounds to finish 8-8, made the cover of Sports Illustrated and actually began smelling the playoffs. Snyder immediately fires Schottenheimer.

Reason #182:
Starting quarterback Gus Frerotte scores a touchdown against the rival Giants, but cannot finish the game due to a self-inflicted head injury created when he celebrated by slamming his head into a wall. Without Gus, the Redskins finished the game with a tie.

Reason #201:
Deion Sanders wears a Redskins uniform. 'Nuff said.

Reason #391:
In the midst of yet another losing streak, Daniel Snyder bans fan-made signs at FedEx Field. Parking and beer costs remain the same.

Reason #402:
Head coach Jim Zorn calls one of the worst plays in NFL history, where his punter takes a snap and, without any blocking, launches a desperation pass into the general direction of three opposing players. What's worse is that Zorn set the play up, the opponent called a timeout, and coach Zorn re-ran the play anyway. Result: an interception and national lampooning.

One might think, "Hey, weeping only endures for a night, right? I mean, the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints fans didn't wear bags forever...give it some time while [insert coach/GM/QB here] gets things together." You would be wrong. The names, numbers, and press conferences may change, but the results are the same. Here are, sadly, more Reasons You Have to Be Crazy to Root for the Redskins:

Reason #545:
Two days after mishandling an extra point snap that would have helped provide game-tying points, punter Hunter Smith is fired. His numbers this season weren't spectacular, but he demonstrated honesty, ownership, and consequence for the error. He also had nothing to do with the offense's inability to score in the red zone, or kicker Graham Gano's inability to make easy field goals, both of which would have removed the necessity for Smith to make the failed play. So does Shanahan dump the kicker, or consider letting Smith go post-season, given that they're fourteen games into a losing season? No. Coach Shanahan dumps Hunter Smith and brings in some new guy. How refreshingly honest was Hunter, on his way out the door? Here's some of what he had to say to TBD's Parker and Parker:
"Am I a scapegoat?" Smith repeated. "I believe that in the NFL, there are a couple of different types of teams out there. There are some teams that display undying loyalty to their coaches and players. There are other teams that tend to want to make a little more of a statement in times of quote-unquote tragedy or something like this going on, by making an example out of somebody, by partially putting the blame on them for the loss. And I'm not saying that the Redskins are completely that kind of a team, but in this sense, I think that it does come down to that..."
If there's one thing the Redskins are good at, it's straightening the artwork on a sinking Titanic.

Reason #546: An interesting article at the Washington Post revealed a little-publicized fact about the Redskins: they are one of the few teams in the league who don't have a dedicated indoor practice facility. When the weather turns sour, as it did on Thursday when snow moved through the Washington area, practices are moved to odd venues like basketball courts or, in some cases, canceled. The article notes that in this season alone six separate practices were moved or postponed due to bad weather. Or more specifically, practices were altered because the Redskins lack the basic facilities with which to prepare for games.

Seriously? Daniel Snyder owns one of the top money-making franchises in the most popular and profitable sports franchises in America, yet
hasn't kicked out the cash so his team can prepare in less-than-ideal weather? Is it any wonder that the Redskins are 5-17 since 2008 in games after November? How is it that this team, in this climate, in this division, doesn't have anything comparable to its rivals, whom they're guaranteed to see twice a season? As a fan, wonder no more why the Eagles, Cowchips, and Giants mop the floor with the Redskins. But hey, at least FedEx Field has new giant video screens.

Reason #547: The Donovan McNabb Era has come to a close, with him on pace to reach 4000 yards, and in possession of a Redskins franchise record for consecutive games with a passing touchdown. It's hard to believe, but Mike Shanahan has officially benched McNabb, placing him behind Rex "Wrong Answer" Grossman and unknown commodity John Beck. Shanahan can't guarantee that DJ McNabb is coming back next season and McNabb's agent is furious, calling the move "beyond disrespectful."

There are plenty of angles with which to view this national-attention-grabbing story. (Was it justified? Why do this now, before a game against rival Dallas? What does this reveal about Shanahan's egotistical hold on his players?) But the must hurtful one is this, and it's a familiar one for longtime Redskins fans: Here. We. Go. Again.

If it's not Albert Haynesworth, Mark Carrier, Jeff George, Joe Gibbs, Steve Spurrier, or Dana Stubblefield, it's Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, Mike Shanahan, and, now, Donovan McNabb. This show is as scripted as "The Real Housewives of Washington, D.C." Regardless of the so-called philosophy, this franchise continues to pay big money and get small results. The veteran walks in town, takes money, and, by hook or crook, flies out quickly to new pastures with fatter pockets.

And the fans are fools for ever paying $80 for their jersey. They sport the colors on their car, they buy the Christmas ornaments, they spend three hours every Sunday hoping that the inevitable won't happen.

You have to be crazy to do that.

For the record, it was noted here at the Review, on April 5th, a note of caution about McNabb's trade to Washington. It bears republishing, if for nothing else than it's sad prophecy:

Now the Philadelphia front office won't admit it, and I'm sure head coach Andy Reid won't divulge the truth even under a cheesesteak lie detector test, but it's clear to me that the Eagles think that McNabb's best days are behind him...the Eagles did more than just trade a guy because they thought his skills were in sunset. No, they traded their franchise quarterback to a hated division rival who they knew had questions at quarterback. McNabb isn't going to Kansas City, a team they play once or twice every four years and has minimal effect on their overall record. He's landing with a team that impacts their Super Bowl chances at least twice a year.

In his post-trade press conference, Coach Reid spun a carefully crafted web of "been a great player here for 11 years...set every record you can set for this organization...nothing but good things to say about him...we're doing what's best for Donovan..." and other oddly pleasant reviews of McNabb's work in Philly. Which raises the question: if he's been that good, why let him go? This guy got you to the playoffs with no-name receivers and then again with managing the cancerous Terrell Owens. Might their training staff know something about McNabb's past injuries that the Redskins don't? Could the Eagles think McNabb is really toast?

Simply put, are little green men with wings on their helmets going to jump out of Donovan's [backside] and sabotage the Redskins' season?

Photo courtesy the Bleacher Report.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week Fourteen: Rough Torain

Tampa Bay 17, Washington 16

Mike Shanahan and the 2010 Washington Redskins have been trying to establish some sort of identity, some form of consistency that defines the team. Are they a deep threat, high-powered offense, as shown against the Texans? Is their defense all about giving up yards but forcing turnovers, like the Indianapolis loss? Or are the hard-hitting special teams the x-factor that can snatch victories from defeat?

In Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (dropping the Redskins to 5-8), what became clear to fans is that whatever persona this team is going to establish will require a whole lot of their patience. The kind of patience necessary to sit in more than three hours of cold, rain, and wind, only to see a game lost on the simplest and most fundamental plays in football. Pack a valium lunch, Redskins faithful. It's going to be a long, difficult, rocky road.

The easy person to pin this loss on would be Graham Gano, who missed or nearly missed, every extra point or field goal he attempted. To his credit, he admitted that this was the worst game of his career. The weather should mitigate some of that criticism, but it's hard not to point a finger at any kicker who misses two easy field goals that would have kept the home team comfortably ahead. (Meanwhile the Bucs' kicker, Connor Barth, went 3-for-3, including a 44-yarder.)

The Donovan McNabb offense is more to blame. The stat line for the quarterback wasn't too bad--22 for 35, 228 yards, 2 touchdowns--but it doesn't begin to show how inconsistent he was. He was skipping passes off the ground often, and, ironically, if two of them hadn't been poorly thrown, they would have been easy pick-six interceptions for Tampa Bay. When Ryan Torain and the offensive line got the ball in six-point striking distance, the team consistently ran out of gas. After dominating the first half in production, they had ten points instead of 28. The offense disappeared in the third quarter, and ran the ball for just 12 net yards in the second half.

London Fletcher and the defense did a solid job holding back Tampa Bay from mounting a comeback, but they again neared 400 yards of offense allowed and gave up the winning touchdown with less than four minutes to go.

The good news, from this landfill of a season, is the emergence of running back Ryan Torain. In the Week Six review, Torain was crowned the future franchise rusher, and his return to the lineup certainly confirmed that coronation. From his first carry back from injury, he was in strong form. He patiently picked his holes, he ran through arm tackles, and he had a burst of speed when in the open field. He was positively Maddenesque in his first half production (18 rushes, 158 yards, 8.8 yards per carry) and seemed a lock for 200-225 yards and a touchdown by game's end. What you might notice in his highlight reel, however, is how the score barely changes.

These are the Redskins, so instead of preparing for Tampa Bay's halftime adjustments to the run, the burgundy and gold decided to more than double their first half pass attempts. Torain rushed just six more times for 14 yards. Sure enough, the Bucs won the time of possession battle in the second half and it was Washington scrambling down the field to try to tie the game.

Nonetheless, this may be the game that solidifies Torain as the favorite to run the rock in 2011. He's one of the few bright lights on this dark, frustrating road ahead.

OFFENSE: C. This offseason should be very interesting. Keep McNabb but draft a young QB? Draft only o-linemen? Find compliments for Moss and Armstrong? Jettison Portis? Every area needs help.
DEFENSE: C. Perhaps LaRon Landry's presence is more vital than anyone originally thought. The D allowed young Josh Freeman to continue to look like a future star in the league.
Sp. TEAMS: F. Their only good play of the game--a much-needed return by Brandon Banks, was foiled by a penalty. Otherwise, it was muffed routine plays, missed field goals, and ineffectiveness.
COACHING: D. It's tempting to think back to the Gibbs days, when in cold, rainy weather, the offense would pound the ball and eat up the clock. Kyle Shanahan put the game in the hands of his QB, and the results were unnecessarily dramatic.
OWNERSHIP: C. Would it hurt to have cheap, Redskins-logo'd free ponchos for fans when they've decided to spend their Sunday afternoon in the rain, rooting for your out-of-the-playoffs franchise?

...comes from Facebook. The Redskins, like every other business in America, has their own page on the social networking site. During and after games, they post updates and results. The comments section, particularly after losses, is where fans get to lay bare their frustrations with the team and ownership. After Sunday's loss, this comment surmised the burgundy and gold experience: "T
he biggest problem with being a Redskins fan is that when you run into someone who wants to talk $^%*, there's really nothing you can say back to them."