Sunday, October 02, 2005

Are the Redskins Teasing Me?

We are going into the third game of the 2005 season. The Redskins and their fans have had two weeks to bask in the glory of their dramatic victory over the hated Cowboys. Fifty-three minutes of ineptitude followed by thunderbolts from the blue for an enjoyable, if unexpected 14-13 win -- the second in sixteen tries. The upset adds spark to a fabled rivalry gone dormant when, ironically, the 'Skins hired Norv Turner, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, as the head coach. Norv was cleaver, creative, with a fine offensive mind. What's more, from everything I hear about him, he is a top drawer, first class, genuinely nice guy.

The Redskins lost their mental toughness during Norv's tenure. And they lost a lot of games to Dallas. Which wasn't all Norv's fault. Ownership turmoil caused management to lose focus. The Cook family lost control and the Redskins fell into Little Danny Snyder's incompetent hands. What a joke. I've played fantasy football for fourteen years, so I recognized Snyder's early moves to "build a champion" as the fantasy moves they truly were. He tried everything. No star was too expensive to be a Redskin. Only, he never gave enough time for the stars to form a constellation, you know, become a team. You can assemble stars on paper for a fantasy team. In real life, you form the team first. Then the stars emerge from the system. If there was a mistake to make, Little Danny made it. He totally redeemed himself when he lured Joe Gibbs back into coaching. However that turns out, Little Danny became Mr. Snyder in my eyes.

Everybody expected immediate improvement with Gibb's return in 2004. But it was not to be. The Redskins improved by one game over '03 to finish 6-11. Gibbs did not have the smashmouth talent needed for his game. To be honest, Gibbs coaching was rusty. Game management was poor, strategy was unimaginative, calls seemed intended not to lose rather than to win. And execution was poor.

This year, Gibbs and staff took all off season to refine offensive schemes. There's nothing wrong with that defense, except they don't turn the ball over and score, a real downer if you're into fantasy football. Gibbs makes much of the players off season work effort, but preseason showed there was still work to do. The Redskins beat Chicago in a defensive duel. Gibbs pulled Patrick Ramsey after the first quarter. FIRST QUARTER! I was surprised only by the timing. Mark Brunell showed himself the better quarterback during the preseason, but I expected Gibbs to give Ramsey three or four games. He gave Brunell nine games last season.

Ramsey is a fan favorite. During the Spurrier debacle, Ramsey took hit after hit and kept getting up. WE admired his toughness, even if he was too slow to getting of the ball. Spurrier was probably not the best coach to prepare Ramsey for an NFL career. It was new to Spurrier too and Spurrier didn't want to get "NFLized." Spurrier was one of Little Danny's bright ideas. Then, I gather, Little Danny, wouldn't leave Spurrier alone to create his offense. Spurrier wanted Danny Weurffel as a quarterback. Little Danny put his foot down in the only on field decision I agree with. So Spurrier bugs out. Then Mr. Snyder gets Gibbs.

The Redskins last year were, lets say, "not good." They couldn't run well or score a touchdown. Against Dallas, they looked inept until Brunell's quick strikes to beat Cowboy zones. The 'Skins were unable to do that when the 'boys brought their pressure defense. When the boys went to prevent, it prevented them from winning. The Redskin comeback will go down in team lore. One of those films you'll see ten years from now.

I pegged the Skins for an 8-8 record this year -- two games better than last year. I didn't think they helped themselves enough on offense by picking up Santana Moss and David Patten. Plus, they lost Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce from the defense. It seemed to me they should have kept one of the two. But the Dallas win was one I did not expect Washington to get. That means 9-7 is within reach. Actually, if the Redskins can score 17 points each game, they will have ten wins. The defense will hold most teams to two touchdowns or less this year.

Going into the Seattle game, I can't tell what to expect: the ineffective team of the first 53 minutes of the Dallas game, or the deep strike machine of the last seven minutes. Are these guys teasing me?

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