October 28, 2009

Dan Snyder's Not Happy

No, I do not equate the Dan Snyder Era in Washington DC with the Third Reich (remind me to tell you my family history one day). And yes, there are a million variations of this Hitler meltdown scene out there.  I just think this one is superb. 

As a Redskins fan it's so funny it hurts.

October 27, 2009

Eagles vs Redskins: Random Reactions

Eagles 27
Redskins 17


Some day-after reaction, shotgun-style:


Can I get you all to raise your right hands for a second?


Everyone who reacted to Eagles WR DeSean Jackson's 67-yard end-around TD romp up the left sideline less than two minutes into the game last night by turning to whoever you were watching with and saying, "Game" ... please put your hands down.

Okay, now those of you who turned to whoever you were watching with when QB Jason Campbell's deflected pass/INT went the other way for an Eagle touchdown to put the Redskins down 14-0 before the end of the first quarter, please put your hands down.


Due respect, some of you with your hands in the air aren't being honest.


Each and every time I see WR Antwaan Randle El go back to field a punt these days (muff or no muff), as another season slips away, and WR Santana Moss, CB DeAngelo Hall and even WR Devin Thomas stand idly on the sidelines, I get more irritated.


With an understanding nod to Redskins Official Blogger Matt Terl—having written for Redskins.com for three seasons myself, I am well acquainted with the fine line he has to walk—no, the playcalling thing with Sherman Lewis was not a debacle.  Unfortunately, that’s rather like pointing out that the trees in the Fire Swamp are really quite lovely.

Here’s to the day Redskins fans can once again celebrate something good happening ... not just failing to be as godawful as it might have.


So I'm trying to figure out how to spell the admittedly derisive, disgusted involuntary snort/guffaw I seem to be making more and more often during games these days. The one I made—suspecting I'm not alone here—last night when the Redskins botched the fricken SNAP on fourth-and-goal.

Here's the best I've come up with so far:


Meh. Not satisfying in print.


No, the defense is/was not the problem. That said, unless I've overlooked something the last defensive touchdown scored by the Washington Redskins came back in the late Cretaceous. In Game 4 of the last season of Gibbs II, Oct. 7, 2007, CB Carlos Rogers (oh irony) returned an interception 61-yards with less than a minute left in the game to put the exclamation point on a 34-3 romp over the hapless Detroit Lions at a rocking FedEx Field.

For those keeping score, that was 2161 game minutes, or 36 games ago.

As to the last meaningful defensive touchdown—one that made a difference in the outcome of a game—I have not completed my research yet. Meanwhile, if anyone has that information at hand, please feel free to share.


S LaRon Landry must suck at pool.


It's pretty clear where the problem areas lie, be it reflected in the latest unsurprising loss or the general direction of the organization at large. 

In no particular order ... neglected for a decade, the offensive line was/is a predictable failure, the game moved/moves too fast for the erstwhile Franchise Quarterback, the Official Brain Trust has been/remains in over its collective head and ... oh never mind.


Nine to go.

Strength, my friends. There will come a day.

October 23, 2009

Redskins '09: Dead Team Walking

By the end their embarrassing week three loss to the Detroit Lions, a team doing its best to threaten the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ all-time NFL futility standard, it was becoming clear the 2009 Washington Redskins were not going to contend for a championship.

By the end of their stultifying, belly-up week six loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, winless in 2009 and losers of 28 of their last 30 coming in—compounded by the Redskins brass’ knee-jerk reaction to humiliate Head Coach Jim Zorn, “strongly suggesting” he cede playcalling duties to a man five years removed from the game, living out of a suitcase and (presumably) still busy learning the names of the players he will be directing this weekend—it was clear the 2009 Redskins were not only going to fail to make the playoffs, but have a chance to go down in history as the single most embarrassing Redskins team in the storied history of the franchise.

That isn’t hyperbole. There is more to being a “bad team” than taking up regular residence on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Every team goes through hard times. The pendulum inexorably swings. Eras come and go. But few modern sports franchises have wandered as far off the reservation as the 2009 Washington Redskins in such vital areas as professionalism, direction, accountability ... basic competence.

There are a million earnest opinions out there as to why and how this train wreck came to pass; even more about what ought to be done about it. What I keep coming back to this week, however, is exactly how emotionally invested fans of this team will approach the long remainder a lost campaign.

With the competitive part of the season realistically over, just six weeks in, what exactly does a passionate fan of this team watch for? How does he view each game, each month, the totality? It isn’t like we are in week thirteen and there are just three meaningless “playing out the string” games left. There are ten games left—an NFL eternity.

Now before you get upset with me, oh positive and ever-faithful burgundy and gold aficionado, for the record, yes, I recognize there could still be a midnight call from the governor.

Perhaps newly installed playcaller Sherman Lewis will find a rhythm and rapport with Jason Campbell that will at long last allow / motivate / cattle-prod the strong-armed young quarterback to throw the damn ball on time.

Maybe mercurial running back Clinton Portis will look in his hall closet for a new antihero outfit or pithy Monday-after quote, and instead find the step he lost two years ago.

Perhaps rumored young pass-catchers Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis will have epiphanies, understand they are not facing Oklahoma St., Purdue or Stanford this weekend, and finally dial it up to NFL speed.

Maybe star-crossed Jim Zorn will discover that in not calling plays, he gets a fuller sense and feel for the flow of the NFL game from a head coach’s perspective, “figures it out” and emerges as a top-flight NFL sideline leader.

Perhaps grumpy old man defensive coordinator Greg Blache will decide, “hell, only ten weeks left before Miller Time; think I’m gonna just turn the dogs loose.” What’s the worst that could happen ... the Redskins could lose?

So yeah, it’s possible. It could happen.

Just don’t hold your breath.

What seems far more likely that the 2010 Washington Redskins will hit the field next September with a new head coach, new coordinators and position coaches, new offensive and defensive schemes, a new quarterback, a new lead running back and other skill position players, a revamped linebacker corps ... perhaps even a reworked offensive line and—a man can dream—front office structure.

So what will this fan do with the next ten weeks? I know one thing I won’t do: With the sea changes sure to come, watching this year’s team for indicators of future success is next to meaningless.

On the aforementioned Malcolm Kelly, to name just one of many possible examples ... if the Redskins were going to be heading into Year Three of Zorn/Campbell Era next year, Kelly’s development the rest of this year would be highly pertinent. If next year brings a new system, new coach/coordinator, quarterback, line, etc., as seems likely, how Kelly fares in this modified West Coast Offense, triggered by Campbell or Todd Collins (and called by Sherman Lewis or whoever else is handed a headset between now and then), could mean absolutely nothing.

But I am going to watch the games. Why? Quite possibly because I’m a fool. I’d like to think, however, it’s because I’m a fan—it’s what we do. And because, be they championship-caliber, well-oiled machine or broken-down heap of scrapmetal, they remain my Washington Redskins.

One good thing about getting (a little) older is that perspective—not to mention vision—changes.

When I squint (or drink) enough, truth is I can still “see” Lombardi and Jurgensen on the RFK sidelines.

I can “see” George Allen and this Over the Hill Gang overachieving, kicking Dallas’ ass in the '72 NFC Championship Game, on their way to a date with destiny and the only undefeated team in modern NFL history.

I can “see” Dexter Manley steamrolling Danny White in the '82 NFC Championship Game, and John Riggins sloughing off Don McNeal on his way to Super Bowl immortality.

I can “see” Doug Williams throwing ropes through, over and around the Denver Broncos in what remains the greatest football high of my life ... the magic and madness that was the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII.

I can “see” the overwhelming machine that was the 1991 Championship team, the culmination of the once-in-a-lifetime fusion of men and circumstance orchestrated by young football genius that was Joe Gibbs.

For those of us who have watched the cartoonishly inept Redskins offense of recent vintage, the words of venerable SI writer Rick Telander, describing that offense after it dismantled the Detroit Lions 41-10 in the NFC Championship are particularly poignant ...

A gigantic Redskin-red farm machine, a shiny, newfangled thresher with zillions of arms and gears fully hydraulic, with AC, AM-FM radio, CD player, tinted glass, the works—methodically rolling up and down a field, ripping something silver and blue to pieces. At the wheel sits quarterback Mark Rypien, and every now and then he peers out of the cab, adjusts the toothpick in his mouth, sees all is well and turns up the volume on the rap version of Hail to the Redskins.

And yes, I can also “see” the precipitous fall from grace that followed Gibbs’ retirement after the ‘92 season, and the steady descent into mediocrity, irrelevance and now embarrassment that has befallen this proud franchise ever since.

This coming Monday night my favorite team will hit their home field under the national TV lights, and will in all likelihood get rolled by a Philadelphia Eagles team that does possess underlying organizational competence. The difference in the two programs will be stark, and particularly painful to those of us old enough to remember a time not that long ago when it was the burgundy and gold that set the standard for NFL professionalism, class, competence and their inevitable byproduct—success.

My instincts may be conflicted at times. In the privacy of my own darker moments, I will probably find myself thinking that the Redskins should just go ahead and get blown out, finish the year 2-14, and have things spiral so preposterously out of hand that owner Daniel “I Seriously Don’t Care What You Think—I’m 44 Years Old And Own The Washington Frickin’ Redskins” Snyder finally finds it in himself to do what every thinking person outside of the Executive Suite at Redskins Park knows has to be done ... swallow his pride, subsume his ego and turn operation of his favorite asset over to someone qualified for the job.

But I also know that during those few hours when the game is being played, I will be unable to really wish for a loss. It would go against everything I have spent a lifetime building ... an unyielding, if sorely tested, desire to see “my” team, wearing “my” colors, do itself proud.

So for ten more gamedays I will squint at the men currently wearing those colors, pretend they care about them as much as I do, and hope for a taste of victory.

Then I will turn the page and steel myself for the purge.

Because unless the gridiron gods are truly just toying with us, and plan to snap Their fingers on our behalf very soon, what I will be watching for the remainder of 2009 is not so much a team, but a bunch of guys, staring down a long cold prison corridor toward a certain fate ... and the phone lines are down.

Dramatic? Sure. But dammit, some of us still care.

October 20, 2009

What Redskins Fans Know

If you haven't read this piece from my dear friend and BGO partner John "Boone" Jeffries, may I humbly suggest you should.

Nobody does it better.

"The fans don't know. They think they do. But they don't."

These were the words of a Redskins bigwig during a meet and greet over more than a few drinks 6 years ago. The staff of another burgeoning Redskins site had been invited up to Landsdowne Resort in Ashburn to discuss a possible relationship. I was lucky enough to tag along for the ride, and get a glimpse at the views of a man behind the man running an NFL franchise.

Over and over we heard the same thing, categorically, emphatically, knowingly, smugly.

'The fans don't know. They think they do. But they don't'

Bigwig's point was (beyond fans being glorified idiots who lack the sheer brain power to comprehend such weighty matters as managing an NFL team) that fans lack the insight, wisdom, and information needed to have a viable opinion.

His example (he only had one that I recall) was the departure of Champ Bailey. While fans felt the front office was stupid, perhaps even irresponsible trading a Redskins Pro Bowler and DC icon like Bailey for some systems back in Clinton Portis, Bigwig begged to differ. Bailey (per Bigwig) had gotten into some naughty business which the wife was understandably none too fond of. According to our man, Bailey was told, he'd either find a new team in a different city to play for, or he'd be looking for a new wife. We fans were too stupid to have considered factors like this, Bigwig smugly informed us.

And he had a point. We don't know these players, coaches, or key players. We really don't know the details of their lives, the daily dynamics of their existence, or the inner-workings, politics, and relationships within the Redskins organization.

But we're a hell of a lot smarter than Bigwig thinks. We might be smarter than a lot of those who hush their voices and appear busy at Redskins Park when he walks by. We might even be smarter than some of them he's helped hire.

Lets take a look at what we fans did know...
CLICK HERE to read more

October 9, 2009

Jason Campbell, Speed, Defense & Hope

Some general, getting-back-in-the-saddle thoughts, heading into the second quarter of a dispiriting start to the 2009 Redskins season:

The game is still moving too fast for Redskins QB Jason Campbell. On the rare occasions he drops, reads and throws on rhythm, he’s pretty good—not Aikmanesque in accuracy, but certainly NFL caliber. Problem is, Jason doesn’t throw on rhythm very often.

Whether the offensive line gives him time or not, he is pretty much always a beat late, or even worse, has developed a dangerous habit of pulling the ball back down, double-clutching and starting to drift in the pocket. The young quarterback’s distinct lack of progress—and, arguably, regression—in his second year in Jim Zorn’s offense has been the 2009 season’s biggest disappointment to date.


I had hoped to see more team speed on display this year, an area in which the Redskins have been sorely lacking for years. I haven’t seen it .

Offensively, the Redskins look slow from the time they break the huddle to the time the whistle blows each play dead.

WR Santana Moss has great speed but doesn’t get the ball in space often enough to show it.

Sophomore WR’s Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas don’t get the ball at all.

Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley gets open, catches well and is a deceptively good open field runner, but couldn’t outrun a congressional health bill.

Veteran RB’s Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are efficient at best, plodding (by NFL standards) at worst. The “speed back” option the team entered the offseason looking to add turned out to be one RB Anthony Aldridge ... who has yet to see the ball.

The starting offense is running in sand.

On punt returns, the potentially dynamic three-headed monster of Antwaan Rangle El (4 returns, 8.8 avg., long of 15, NFL rank: 23), Santana Moss (2 returns, 2.5 avg., long of 4, NFL rank: 48) and DeAngelo Hall (no returns) has effectively pulled its own teeth, opting to use Randle El’s admittedly good hands to make safe fair catches, regardless of field position or game situation.

While the result has limited negative plays, it has also bypassed a major opportunity to put pressure on the opposition and give Redskins playmakers, sorely missing in action, a few more chances a game to touch the ball and actually make plays. On an offensively challenged team, this strikes me as a serious oversight.

Oh, and one of my favorite Redskins “character guys,” RB Rock Cartwright, bless his heart, continues to field kickoffs, run straight upfield into the pile, and fall down. Love ya Rock, but geez.


The same frustrating pattern we have seen over the past few seasons from the Gregg Williams/Greg Blache defensive philosophy has emerged again, despite lip service paid in the aftermath of DT Albert Haynesworth’s arrival, that the scheme would be tweaked in 2009 to allow more aggressive upfield pass rushing.

The reality through four weeks is that the team still cannot pressure the passer ... partly due to the bizarre decision to use the sole true speed rusher on the roster, rookie DE Brian Orakpo, as a run-stopping SAM linebacker, and the limited opportunities afforded promising rookie DE Jeremy Jarmon.

But mostly, what this observer has seen is the same thing that has been the case for the past few seasons—the NFL has long since figured out the Williams/Blache pass rushing scheme.

The linemen are not aggressive or effective going upfield, be it by design (directed to stay in their lanes at all costs), physical limitations or both.

And if anyone can remember the last time a Blache-schemed blitzer came free up the middle for a cheap sack and even (gasp) the occasional resulting forced turnover or even momentum-swinger, as other teams seem to do week in and week out, please let me know.

I may still have it on tape somewhere and could go back and relive it come bye week.


Pretty negative stuff, I admit. But, given the expectations (again), it’s hard to get excited about a team pretty damn lucky to be 2-2 and struggling mightily to field an offense that can even be deemed NFL competent.

Hope remains, however ... squarely on the shoulders of two men, Jason Campbell and Head Coach Jim Zorn.

Campbell could still have a "Eureka!" moment. The light bulb could still come on and the game could still slow down, allowing Jason to see the field and make his throws when they’re supposed to made, to the guys they’re supposed to go to, in the spots the twain are supposed to intersect. 

I’m just not counting on it. Until I see otherwise, I’m 98% convinced the nice young gentleman has maxed out.

The second man, therefore, is Head Coach Jim Zorn. He’s the only guy in Washington (this side of owner Dan Snyder, who I know some of you are convinced will do so himself) who can pull the trigger and sit Campbell down in favor of the only other option at the moment, veteran Todd Collins.

That Zorn opted not to pull Campbell at halftime last week against the Buccaneers, with his quarterback conjuring echoes of Heath Shuler, was a bit stunning given his team was looking at 1-3 ... trailing arguably the worst team in the league by ten points at home, his offense was ten games into the highly dubious streak of not scoring a first-quarter touchdown, was averaging less than 15 points a game, and, candidly, was well on its way to redefining NFL awfulness.

Campbell did have a brief stretch in the third quarter when he looked like a pretty good NFL quarterback, however ... which is why I’m holding on to the missing 2% noted above.

He seemed to catch a spark, throwing two TD passes to rally the team to a lead ... but then promptly handed the momentum, good vibes and potentially the game back to the moribund Bucs with an awful interception—his third of the day. Had they had a quarterback, we would in all likelihood be talking today about a 1-3 team looking a whole lot like Chuck Wepner after his brief dance with destiny.

The short third quarter renaissance did show one thing clearly, though, and that’s the impact real NFL-level quarterbacking has on not just on an offense, but an entire team and the thousands watching.

When Campbell hit Moss on the 59-yard TD bomb to take the lead the entire Redskins universe—from the owner to the coaches to the players on both sides of the ball to the fans—were uplifted, energized, rocking.

That is what a big-time NFL quarterback brings to a team in the 2000's. And it’s the single most glaring missing ingredient—as it has been for many, many years—keeping this team from breaking out of the rut they’ve been in so very long.

We saw The QB Effect not that long ago in the 2007 stretch run. Campbell went down, and an offense that had been stuck in neutral, and an entire team (at 5-7) that had lacked energy, focus or synergy in a fading season suddenly caught fire, won four straight in impressive fashion and stormed into the playoffs. There are those convinced the reason for the surge was the tragic death of S Sean Taylor.

With respect, I have never agreed.

Todd Collins was, and is, no superstar—he was not and is not the kind of QB who can put a team on his shoulders. But he was, in 2007, and may well still be, a steady, smart veteran who can read the field, get rid of the ball quickly, efficiently and accurately, and jump start a unit stuck in neutral.

In short, he was, and may well be, everything I’m afraid we have seen Jason Campbell is not .... at least not today, not in this “modified West Coast Offense” he appears so miscast running.  This offense isn’t about arm strength, it’s about timing, savvy, precision.

So I will watch Campbell hit the field Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, hopeful as always this will be the week he turns it around ... but expecting to see what I have seen over the past couple of years—a gifted athlete with a big arm and decent mobility, struggling to orchestrate an offense badly suited to his strengths. A quarterback who does not process the field fast enough, and is, as a result, holding his team back.

I don't buy into the argument you don't bench your starting quarterback for fear of ruining his confidence.  If my starting quarterback can't or won't take a benching as a challenge and come back chewing nails, ready to show me the error of my ways, and instead sulks and lets it get the best of him ... I don't want him as my quarterback anyway.

But, I fully expect to watch Jim Zorn, for whatever reasons he might have, continue to hang his own head coaching career over the precipice, unwilling to “make the move” to Collins.  Even if only temporarity ... and even if for no other reason that to see if he can breath life into an offense currently bereft of speed, pace, rhythm, dynamism, success. 

I would dearly love to write a humble pie entry next week, however, so please, gentlemen ... feel free to prove me wrong.  I'll be big enough to admit it.