Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why I Like Daniel Snyder Now

Like most Redskins fans, I’ve had my issues with Daniel Snyder and those criticisms have been richly deserved. His reputation for employer insensitivity wins no awards. But, the mercurial Redskins owner has worked hard to rehabilitate his reputation. My active disdain for him has morphed beyond tolerance. I’ve come to like him. That’s a surprise to me and would be to him, if he ever bothered to read this. But there are good reasons to like Dan Snyder now.

  1. Joe Gibbs endorses him. In an interview after the Seattle game, Gibbs gave his reasons for the Redskins' improvement. Before mentioning any players, coaches, or himself, Gibbs cited Snyder for his willingness to do whatever was asked to build a winner. OK, coach. I don’t buy into Snyder as being the number one reason, but it means something when a Hall Of Fame legend makes the point. Mr. Snyder gets full credit.
  2. He owns a jet plane and knows how use it. Snyder dispatched Redskins One to recruit Joe Gibbs and the stars Gibbs wanted. Mark Brunell, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis were all wined and dined on that plane. Gibbs was on Redskins One right after the last game to lure Al Saunders to the coaching staff. When the family of tight end Robert Royal suffered flood damage during Hurricane Katrina, Snyder flew Royal to New Orleans and flew Royal's family back to safety in Washington. Class act.
  3. He’s been low key. True to his word, he has made Joe Gibbs the face of the Washington Redskins, replacing Lavar Arrington as the face of the Redskins. I can’t recall a single interview or public appearance that Snyder’s made this season, except for a few pictures of him at owners meetings, which is quite appropriate. Now if only he would move his picture in GAMEDAY magazine from page one to the back of the book and show Gibbs’ picture and bio first. That’s appropriate too. After all, the team and the coach are the attractions. Not a full page portrait of the owner.
  4. He lets the football guys control the on field product. OK, I only think this happens. Who knows what’s really going on? Early in his ownership, in his “Little Danny” days, Snyder displayed a maddening tendency to play the name game. He stocked the team with famous free agents as if that was sufficient to build a team. There was no synergy; in fact, there was the opposite effect. Cohesion escaped the Redskins and they never elevated beyond an assortment of players. They were at games, but not in them. How could they be with the owner churning head coaches every 18 months? Snyder made some good decisions. He was wise enough not to sign Danny Weurffel as a quarterback when Steve Spurrier pushed it. Word is that Snyder wanted to sign Santana Moss from college. (I think the team went with Rod Gardner instead.) But on balance, both the roster and the salary cap were a mess by the time Gibbs returned.
  5. He put escalators in FedEx Field. I flew to Washington in 1998 to attend a Redskins game with my father when the Cooke family was still in control. Dad was slowing down by that time and our seats were on the upper deck as they were at RFK Stadium. It was a long walk and painful to watch Dad walk up the ramp to get to our section. It would have helped to use the inside escalators to at least get to the plaza level. But we could not use them without club level tickets. They were reserved for the privilidged who could affort expensive tickets. Dad called the ticket office and was told he needed a letter from his doctor to get a pass. A letter from his doctor? Is that like a note from his mommy? Dad was in his seventies and a forty year season ticket holder. Couldn’t they take his word? Snyder has a talent for working the fan experience. He said the stadium "needs work" when he bought the team and he drove the installation of the elevators. Dad passed before he could enjoy them, but I'm still grateful.
  6. Fan experience is a Snyder theme. He is an astute business man who knows that efficient service and a positive fan experience yields more money. He is a master at wringing revenue streams from assets. He bought the football franchise and stadium for $800 Million in 1998. Now it’s worth $1.2 Billion according to a recent issue of FORBES magazine. The Redskins generated $325 million revenue last season and possessed the largest stadium in the NFL (and still have 140,000 names on the season ticker waiting list). If I had the investment capital, I would have bought shares of Six Flags as soon as Snyder made his bid for it, and more when he won control. Six Flags is trapped in a time warp with its 1970s ambience. There is nothing attractive about it except as a teen hangout and nauseating roller coasters. It is weak on movie and pop culture tie-ins a la Universal Studios Orlando. It does not invite family participation. Rather, it's more of a kid drop-off. I have not a doubt that Snyder will turn it around. He’s genuinely gifted in that way. I respect gifted business people.
  7. Snyder is from the DC area. He’s a homer and committed here. The Redskins will remain a Washington fixture for the remainder of my lifetime.
  8. He recruited Joe Gibbs from retirement. The Redskins' prospects improved from that moment.
  9. The Redskins are winning and they are entertaining. I can now go to a game and feel the team has a 50-50 chance to beat any opponent. That's the bottom line.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The NFL Coaching Tree

Mattyk72, one of the moderators at The Warpath Message Board wrote an excellent synopsis of influential coaches in the NFL, with "Influential" refering to who most influenced current coaches in their game and organizational philosophy. In recent sports articles, this effect has been called the coaching tree. An example of usage is "Al Saunders is from the Don Coryell coaching tree.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Joe Gibbs Fires Himself

Joe Gibbs continues to fascinate his fans. With all the buzz on the Redskins next likely move, Gibbs throws a curve ball (oops, sorry for the baseball analogy) by hiring Al Saunders as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. In effect, Gibbs promotes himself out of the role.

Three intriguing points:

  1. Daniel Snyder (mis)spent big dollars on players. Gibbs spends them on coaches. He locked in Gregg Williams with a three year $8 million contract and now Saunders for the same amount. The Redskins have two of the highest regarded assistant coaches in the league.
  2. Greg Williams is not a lock for the Redskins head coach position when Gibbs steps down, although it would be expensive to the franchise if he does not get it. Saunders was in the hunt for a head coaching position and will be again.
  3. Gibbs was said to be too old school for the game. He addressed the issue by hiring two bright offensive minds in Saunders and QB coach Bill Musgrave. Finding talent to compliment your own is the first mark of a confident executive.

Saunders is a coaching descendant of Gibbs and Don Coryell. His Kansas City offense has been a powerhouse for the last three seasons. With these coaching moves Gibbs establishes a succession plan for the day when he does step down as head coach. He is committed to rebuild the Redskins organization for sustained success.

There are no stars but the coaches!

Tony McGee & Salary Cap Hits: Good Stuff from The Warpath Discussion Board Today

Former Redskin Tony McGee's perspective on off season moves:
"Going into the offseason the Redskins have a few needs to address, specifically a second wide receiver and a pass rushing defensive end. I think the Redskins need a wide receiver to compliment Santana Moss, and that should be their top priority. I know one free agent is Reggie Wayne, and while I think he is a great receiver, I just think he is a clone of Santana Moss. I think Washington should go after someone who is different from Santana Moss, and who can be a possession receiver while still breaking the game open. I wouldn't mind seeing a package trade with Patrick Ramsey, and talk with Detroit to try to get one of their receivers because its not working out for them up there. I'm not sold on Charles Rogers, but I think the other two are playmakers. As for a pass rushing defensive end, I was excited about the potential I saw last week from Evans, and I think that Daniels did a sufficient job down the stretch. Still, the Redskins didn't get enough rushers to the quarterback, and it hurt them this season."

Crazy Canuck prepared a spreadsheet showing Redskins salary cap hits for the current roster. It can be found at http://www.thewarpath.net/WarpathRedskinsCap.htm

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Redskins - Seahawks: With a whimper

And so it ends. The thrill ride of the Redskins season ended far from home in the other Washington at Quest Field. The Seahawks ended the Skins playoff dream 20-10. The defense showed themselves to be a playoff caliber squad, as they have since the '99 season. But the game highlighted the well known, overly documented flaws of the offense -- not enough weapons to score.

In the Tampa Bay game, the defense turned the ball over twice in the first quarter. That led to two touchdowns, one scored by the defense, and the Redskins played from the lead throughout the game. The defense did the same at Seattle, but that did not lead to points. So the Skins were forced to do what they were ill-equipped to do, play catch up.

Early in the season, the Redskins discovered the long ball. Rather, they discovered that Santana Moss could get open and catch the ball on deep routes. After the first Dallas game, the Redskins spent the next nine contests basing its offense on the big play. They learned two things. David Patton is not the receiver Moss is, and no other wide receiver can catch the ball. Well, a healthy James Thrash is reliable on short routes and can field punts, but apart from Moss, the receivers are not even Rod Gardner quality. That's really bad. The second best receiver is H-back, tight end Chris Cooley.

The big play infatuation ended after eleven games (5-6 record). Then the Redskins went back to Gibbs ball, stifling defense, turnovers and ball control; football the old fashion way. And it worked. The Skins ripped five straight wins to take the last wild card slot. After winning its first playoff game at Tampa, the team and their fan base were deliriously happy.

Then the Seahawks rained on the parade. The defense did its part. They even knocked Shaun Alexander out of the game in the first half. None of that made up for the offense lack of production. By the end of the third quarter, the offense only managed 140+ total yards. They ended the game with over 240 yards passing, thanks to two big plays to Moss and Cooley. Moss caught a touchdown pass. Another drive ended with a missed field goal. Clinton Portis was worn down.

It was fitting that the last play of the Redskins season was a deep pass from Brunell to Moss, who was covered one-on-one by Marcus Trufant. The ball hit Moss, but Trufant got a hand on it to knock it away, and with it the Skins' playoff dreams.

The Redskins are an 8-8 team that achieved 11-7 performance thanks to player tenacity and excellent coaching. I can't wait 'til next year. Only five months to training camp. May God bless me with life and the funds to afford the season tickets. Because we're going to the Super Bowl!

Monday, January 16, 2006

You Heard It Here First: Terrell Owens to Remain in Philadelphia

Stephen A Smith of the Philly Inquirer and ESPN posits that the Iggles should keep Terrell "Terrible" Owens and work toward a trade with a risk-taking (read that "sucker," as in one born every minute) owner like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder. I think that move happens over Joe Gibbs' dead body. Old schooler Bill Parcells won't buy into it either. For one thing, The Cowboys need to spend salary money fixing their offensive line, not on prima donna malcontents. But Snyder, in his "Little Danny" days, would fall for just this type gimmick. It didn't work in the days before Gibbs. I can only hope that Mr. Snyder is taking notes from Gibbs now about the proper way to build a team and the wise use of the salary cap.

Besides, there are compelling reasons why Owens should remain in Philadelphia. When the Iggles and Owens face the high cost of their impending divorce, emotion may give way to cool reality. That sounds preposterous until one recalls the strange case of Ricky Williams, the former and current running back for the Miami Dolphins. Owens disruptive behavior pales in comparison to Williams, who sank his team's shot at a playoff, not to mention his coach's career, before the 2004 season even began. Yet, Miami found good reason to welcome Williams back the following year.

Using Ricky Williams as a guide, here's how TO compares.

Ricky Williams abruptly announces retirement two days before the start of training camp. He is a no show the entire season. He is the key player in Miami's offense. His abrupt announcement comes when it's too late to find a quality replacement. The Dolphins are doomed.

Terrell Owens vocally announces his dissatisfaction with his contract, signed a year earlier. He threatens to sit out training camp, but shows up on schedule.

Ricky Williams announces that he has for years used marijuana in violation of NFL drug policy and that he took steps to evade detection by the league. He expressed his intent to continue the practice for "medical reasons." The NFL revealed that Williams had failed a drug test and faced a four game suspension to be enforced at the start of the 2004 season. Williams was informed of that fact a few days before his abrupt retirement.

Terrell Owens was a divisive force on his team after he became dissatisfied with his contract when Randy Moss (Raiders) and Marvin Harrison (Colts) signed new agreements with their teams. When Owens signed his contract with the Eagles in 2003 he became one of the highest paid receivers, but fell to third highest after Moss' and Harrison's agreements. Owens agitates for more money. The Eagles refuse to renegotiate "after only one season." Owens believes the Iggles committed to redo his agreement after one year even though he signed a multi-year agreement that contains no such provision. He threatens to sit out the season, as does other Drew Rosenhaus clients Hines Ward and Jevon Walker. Ward, Walker and Owens show up on schedule for training camp, but Owens allegedly announced he would only play, but would be disruptive and uncooperative, then proceeds to be exactly that. He openly criticizes the organization and maligns other players, especially Donovan McNabb. He refuses to cooperate with his coaches between games. Owens has never been suspected of drug use.

Ricky Williams does not participate in the 2004 season. The Dolphins finish 4-12 largely because the team is unable to find a replacement running back equal to Williams talents. Head coach Deve Wannstadt is fired before the end of the season.

Terrell Owens plays the first half of the season but is slowed by an injury. His increasing disruption and insubordination lead to a four game suspension followed by deactivation by the team. For the season, Owens led Eagles receivers in yards (742) and touchdowns (6) despite playing just seven games.

Ricky Williams - Dolphin players feel betrayed and angry by Williams unexpected departure. He is not wanted by them.

Terrell Owens - Eagles players lobby head coach Andy Reid to allow Owens to return.

Nick Saban is hired as the Dolphins head coach. Faced with the prospect of getting no value for the prodigal running back, Saban opens a dialog with Williams that leads to a return to the team in 2005. After some reluctance, he is accepted by the players. He sits out his four game suspension, then appears in twelve games. He gains 743 yards for a 4.4 yards per carry average and scores six touchdowns, eerily similar to Owens numbers. Miami has trade value where none existed before. If the Dolphins retain his services, they will have a potent ground game with Williams and rookie Ronnie Brown.

The Eagles may be taking notes. Faced with the prospect of getting no value for Owens, they give Drew Rosenhaus, Owens agent, permission to seek a trade.

There's no certainty that Rosenhaus will find a potential trading partner. Teams would have to give up high draft positions to land Owens and risk discontent over contract issues. It's more likely they will wait for the Eagles to release Owens, then take their chances on the open market. For the Eagles, the prospect of a salary cap hit and getting nothing in exchange for Owens surely makes them swallow hard.

When healthy, the Eagles are a playoff team. When healthy with Owens they are a Super Bowl team. In the newly competitive NFC East, that's big. One more season together could give the Eagles another shot at the title and give TO a chance to rehabilitate his reputation a la Ricky Williams. Then a trade for high value becomes possible for the Eagles while a year of good behavior increases Owens bargaining position. This is win-win, if all the Eagle egos step aside.

It's not easy being green, but Owens on the 2006 roster is the best business move for everyone, except Donovan McNabb.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Redskins - Seahawks Fantasy Predictions

One definition of psychosis is the inability to separate reality from fantasy. I'm about to forecast real games using a prediction tool I use to forecast fantasy football games.

I'm a long time fantasy football player and in one of my leagues have evolved into a sports writer and analyst for that group using the pen name Master4Caster. Over the years, I developed a method of predicting the game winners and the point differential. Last season, I was able to correctly pick the winner 67% of the time, far better than my record as the team owner of Tony's Ponies.

In spite of my success, handicapping fantasy games is difficult. Fantasy teams are not real. It's an assortment of players with points awarded on the compilation of statistics derived from their individual play. Forecasting the points works best when player performance runs along predictable trends. Of course, that doesn't always happen. That's the challenge and fun of fantasy football.

There are two "gotchas" in applying fantasy handicapping to real teams. In fantasy scoring, players are awarded points for yards as well as scores. In real football, points only come from scoring. Shaun Alexander may rush for 200 yards and Peyton Manning may throw for 400. If they don't score touchdowns, they don't get points.

Second, real teams are not a loose assortment of individual players. They are organized. Teams consist of talent selected to fill specific roles in an offense or defensive system. The objective is synergistic perfection where a team performs better than the sum of player ability. Cohesive teamwork and synergy are why a weaker team can beat a stronger one sometimes. That can't be measured solely by projecting player statistics and extending trend lines. Ironically, intangibles have weight in real games. They do not in fantasy sports. So, the following analysis is all in fun.

REDSKINS AT SEAHAWKS - This is the game of the clashing streaks and something's got to give. The Redskins come in battle tested after winning six straight do-or-die games get this far. They beat the Seahawks in week three and come to Quest Field unintimidated by the intimidating Seahawks. John Riggins says Matt Hasselbeck is the best quarterback in the NFC. Shaun Alexander is the NFL Most Valuable Player, earned because he rushed for 1800+ yards and set the record for rushing touchdowns in a single season. Seattle's defense upgraded its talent and allowed fewer points than the Redskins, although they don't show the Skins' mental toughness. After the week three game at FedEx Field, Seattle reeled off eleven straight wins (they haven't lost at home this year) while the Redskins lost six of its next eight games.

The Skins turned their season around when the players finished plays and made defensive stops. They forced 14 turnovers in the last five regular season games and got something like six sacks. They gave the offense good field positions. The special teams scored a time or two. The Redskins earned their 10-6 record against tougher competition than did the Seahawks. The Skins averaged 28 points in its last five regular season games; by 34 points in its last three.

But the Redskins offense is flawed. Santana Moss is the only down field threat. Chris Cooley is dangerous at H-back, but is double covered all the time. Reliable receiver James Thrash has a broken thumb and is doubtful. The other receivers are notable for their failure to contribute. It's never too late to contribute. Now would be a good time to start, but they've shown themselves unreliable. I think Clinton Portis and Mike Sellars will see more passes.

The Skins win through defense and ball control. They will go as far as that tendency carries them. To rely on the passing game is to rely on the weakest part of the offense. Seattle can run and pass. Stopping one phase of their game does not handicap them, although it's always better to stop the run and force the pass.

In running my fantasy/psychotic analysis, I find that the fantasy site I use for input gives excessive weight to all the Seattle player's prospects and minimal weight to the Redskins. No doubt, they too obsess over the offense's performance in the Tampa Bay game. Allowing three points for homefield, I calculate a 13 point margin in favor of the Seahawks. This says the Seahawks will gain a lot of yards. However the game goes, the score will be closer.

The Redskins can certainly win this game if they stick to the formula: defensive stops, turnovers and running. Taylor Jacobs and Antonio Brown (love that name) stepping up would be a bonus.

In other playoff games, my fantasy projections are:
Broncos over Patriots by 6. Denver is too strong in its running game.

Panthers over Bears by 4. Chicago is too weak in its passing game.

Colts over Steelers by 30. Motivated Colts are too strong at every level.

The Cream Rises. The remaining playoff teams are coached by men who have won nine of the thirty-nine Super Bowls ever played.

Joe Gibbs - 3
Bill Belechick - 3
Mike Shanahan - 2
Mike Holmgren - 1

Redskins - Seahawks: What the Smart Guys Say

Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser of The Washington Post and PTI on ESPN pick the Seahawks to win tomorrow.

ESPN analysts Merril Hoge and Trey Wingo also pick the Seahawks.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Super Bowls I'd Like To See

This is my list of Super Bowl pairings I would like to see. This is not a prediction of which teams will make it to the NFL championship. Some of those teams have already been eliminated. The list was selected purely for its TV marquee value.

  • Washington v New England - the attraction is a match-up of three-time Super Bowl coaches Joe Gibbs and Bill Belechick. Belechick would be going for his fourth Lombardi Cup in five years. Gibbs would be in his fifth Super Bowl with his fourth different quarterback/running back/kicker. If Gibbs wins, he would be the only man to win the Super Bowl in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Both are excellent coaches and the game would be well played and competitive, even though these are not the best two teams in their conferences.
  • Indianapolis v New York Giants - this is the match that TV would want most. It pairs Peyton Manning against little bro' Eli, not to mention it brings in the big New York TV market. Dad Archie Manning, who may never have appeared in the playoffs in his career, would be prominently featured. TV execs would eat this one up, but it would be a lopsided game in favor of the Colts.
  • Seattle v San Diego/Indianapolis - This would showcase the two best running backs in the game: Shaun Alexander against LaDainian Tomlinson. Late in the season, Tomlinson's performance dropped off and San Diego fell from playoff contention. Indianapolis is thrown in because of the Edgerrin James factor. Indianapolis did much better this when when they relied more on James and the running game and improved their defense. Seattle and Indianapolis is how the smart money thinks the playoffs end up. It would be the first Super Bowl appearance by any of these teams.
  • Washington v anybody - I'm a homer and this is my web site. This is the Super Bowl match I want most!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The bluest sky you'll ever see is in Seattle,

at least according to the song. According to the weatherman, it's will be rainy Saturday during the Redskins - Seahawks game. If the field is just wet, player's ability to execute will not be affected much. But, rain during the game favors the defense. That gives an edge to the Skins, who have a better D!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Football Analysts: Enough Already!

After the Redskins - Buccaneers game, the talking heads on ESPN and elsewhere run on and on about the minimal performance of Washington's offense (120 total yards). Enough already. These guys might illuminate rather than regurgitate easy numbers. They COULD point out that:

  • Washington, Chicago and Seattle are all 10-2 in the NFC.
  • Washington and Chicago were 5-1 in their division, while Seattle was 6-0.
  • the Redskins of the last five regular season games are far different than of the first twelve games. Then they could run the numbers to show how & why.
  • The Redskins are on a mission, having won its last six games. At some point, this ceases to be a fluke.
  • The Redskins don't need no offense, apparently. Mark Brunell throws for 41 yards and wins. Tiki Barber rushes for 41 yards and the Giants lose. The Bucs held the Redskins to 120 yards offense and lost. The Bucs offense out gained the Redskins by 153 yards and still lost. By themselves, stats don't mean anything.

Does Joe Gibbs have to win the Super Bowl again before someone credits his influence? Joe Gibbs is Born Again. So, while I say the following humorously, it is also very respectful. Gibbs speaks. God listens!

Props to Mike Ditka who, although he knocks the Skins offense, points out that defense wins playoff games.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Yahoo! Yahoo!

It's a big day for me and this web log. For the first time, a Yahoo! search of "running redskins" brings up the address of this blog! A search of "Master4Caster" brings up links to fan comments on The Warpath discussion board and also a reference to an Eagles fan site.

No hits on google.com yet.

Today Yahoo! Tomorrow the world !!!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gregg Williams, a bargain at twice the price

The Redskins signed assistant head coach & defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to a contract extention for $8 Million. The way the Redskins defense handled Tampa Bay today justified the team's action.

It was the defense that disrupted the Buccaneers' offense: four forced fumbles, one recovered; three sacks; two interceptions. Two of those turnovers gave the offense good field position so that they could score 14 points in the first quarter. It was the defense that converted one of the fumbles into the touchdown that was the ultimate margin of victory. It was the defense that held Cadillac Williams to 49 rushing yards to force the Bucs to pass (Chris Simms 198 yards, but no TD passes). And it was the defense that intercepted the ball in the last 53 seconds to seal the victory. The Skins move on solely because of the defense. THEY won the game!

The game surely rankles the Tampa Bay defense who gave a superlative effort. They restricted the Redskins to 120 yards offense, the lowest ever recorded by a winning team in a playoff game. They made to stops, but did not force as many turnovers. The best that can be said of the Redskins offense is that they managed not to lose the game.

Redskins - 17
Buccaneers - 10

Redskins - Buccaneers Part II

Today is the day. The Buccaneers beat the Redskins 36-35 in a thrilling game earlier this season. It was one of the most frustrating losses of the year (the other being the inexcusable loss to the Oakland Raiders). But, they are back in Tampa.

The last game was a shootout and sports analysts seem to expect a continuation of the trend. Not necessarily. Defense comes to the fore in the playoffs and this game matches two of the best in the NFC. The Redskins closed the season by committing to the defense and the run. The defense got turnovers and running opened up the passing game for the offense. Basic Gibbs ball drove the Redskins' turnaround. Their secondary receivers are not talented enough to take pressure off Santana Moss. They must avoid relying on the passing game to win this game. And that means that the Skins cannot fall far behind. Best to play with a lead or a close score. They've got to run.

Tampa Bay is keenly aware of how Clinton Portis hurt them last game and will focus on stopping him. Tampa defense lineman Derrick Brooks missed the last game. He's a run stopper. The offensive line must dominate the Buccaneers front seven. That is a tall order. The Bucs are the number one defense in the league.

Let Brunell be Brunell. His forte is smart play and mobility in the pocket. We will see early if he his mobile or not. If he is, and if the running game is working, Brunell should be able to deliver the ball to Santana Moss and Chris Cooley for a big play or two. Mike Sellers is dangerous close to the goal line.

The Redskins defense have a three part mission. Bring more pressure on Chris Simms. The return of defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin helps. He missed the last contest and Skins missed his pass rushing abilities. The Skins also have more film on Simms and should be better prepared for him. The last game was Simms' second start of the season and the Redskins were not familiar with him. They were the first to learn that he is a decent quarterback.

Cadillac Williams did little in the last game. He impressed in his rookie season with Tampa and can do damage. Part two of the defense mission is to contain Williams and make Tampa throw.

The Redskins defense stepped up in the last five games by disruptive play. They forced something like fourteen turnovers in their last five games. That gave the offense good field position to score. Part three of their mission is to force turnovers.

Injuries are a factor. Cadillac Williams was nicked up in the last game and did not do well for Tampa while Cornelius Griffin and Shawn Taylor will play for the Redskins this time around. Williams' return to form restores the running game for Tampa. Griffin and Taylor helps the Redskins bring defense pressure. Shawn Springs, the Redskins' best cornerback, is out. The defense could give up a big pass play. If Ade Jimoh starts at cornerback for Washington, watch out. He's a hard hitter, but can't cover his bed with a blanket. Tampa will test the Washington secondary early.

Both teams have excellent coaches. John Gruden is one of the best young coaches in the league. His teams are always prepared. Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs added to his legend by guiding the Redskins to the playoffs when nobody expected. The Redskins and Buccaneers both have highly regarded defensive coordinators in Gregg Williams and Monte Kiffin. Look for sound game plans from each team. A post on The Warpath fan board asked what advice fans would give Joe Gibbs to prepare for the game. I wouldn't pretend to presume that I knew half as much as Gibbs has forgotten about game planning.

If I were handicapping this game as a fantasy game, where points are awarded for performance as well as scores, I would call it Redskins by three. Chris Cooley is the difference maker for the Redskins. Without him, my numbers say the game is a toss-up.

To see the nfl.com preview of this game, go here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rose Bowl: Texas - USC

It was my privilege to see the great Michigan State - Notre Dame 10-10 tie game in 1966 ( was in the State freshman section of Spartan Stadium. Don't do the math). Michigan - Ohio State and Oklahoma - Nebraska served up some real classic duels in the 70s and 80s. None of them matched the Rose Bowl last night with two perfect teams played in as thrilling a game as I ever saw. They ran, they held on the ball, they executed.

Vince Young made his statement by leading his team back in the last seconds to score the winning touchdown. He is certain to pass Reggie Bush as the top pick in the NFL draft, if he leaves school early. Young also made the Heisman Trophy judges look silly for awarding the thing to Reggie Bush. Bush had a good, not great night. And his ill-advised lateral attempt after he just ran for long yards probably cost his team a score.

But it was the game itself that held drama with neither team quite able to put the other away and both teams getting scores when needed. Texas won, but with four more minutes, Southern Cal would have come back. If Texas' score resulted in a tie, rather than putting them ahead, they might still be playing overtime.

What a game!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Redskins - Buccaneers Rematch

Former Redskin Tony McGee gave his thoughts on the Washington - Tampa Bay game on thewarpath.net.

"Looking ahead to the Tampa Bay game, the key to winning the game is to get pressure on Chris Simms. The reason that Tampa Bay was able to pass the ball so well last time was the lack of pass rush that the Redskins were able to generate. Chris Simms isn’t a great quarterback, much like Mike McMahon, but if you give him extra time he will beat the skins’. As far as Cadillac Williams goes, the key is to get him bottled up and not let him run well right from the start. If you let him start to run well, he will continue to run well. Having Sean Taylor in the lineup will make a difference for the Washington Redskins, as well. Joey Galloway is a receiver who prides himself on his toughness and likes to go across the middle. Sean Taylor is a guy that will make a receiver like that tentative, so Galloway might struggle a little bit more than he did in the last game. Offensively, Clinton Portis doesn’t need to have quite as good of a game as he did against Tampa Bay last time, but if he could get up around the century mark, it will allow Santana Moss to have less pressure on him. In addition, the last four or five games with Clinton Portis rushing so well, should loosen up the pass coverage and Tampa Bay will focus in on the run. Finally, I’m sure that the last game will weigh in on the Redskins minds, but they have to start with a clean slate and go into Tampa and play like they have the past five weeks."

McGee's website is http://www.tonymcgeeplus.com

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Gregg Williams, Redskins for life

Well, for three years anyway.

Just when I had this neat idea for an article on how the Redskins could keep assistant head coach Gregg Williams, the team announced that they extended his contract for three years. Williams was said be in high demand and you would have to pay the big bucks to keep him from looking at the Chiefs or Rams vacancy.

In a earlier post, I wrote that the defense was the heart and soul of the Redskins and of Williams role in maintaining high performance levels. Finding outstanding defensive coordinators has been the one thing the Redskins have done consistently well since Richie Pettibone, or even head coach George Allen when you consider his skills in defense. Joe Gibbs could probably move someone in the organization up to defensive coordinator. Better to maintain continuity. It hurt the Redskins to lose Marvin Lewis a defensive coordinator. It would have been better to make Lewis the head coach and Steve Spurrier the offensive coordinator. That combination would have used the strengths of each while accommodating Spurrier's true interest and would have kept Lewis on board.

Locking Williams in is along the same line. How might that conversation have gone? Oh, something like:
JOE GIBBS: You know Gregg, I'm not coaching forever. Two or three seasons for now, or when we win the Super Bowl (whichever comes first), I'm giving up my head coach slot and will just be team president.
GREGG WILLIAMS: Who replaces you as head coach?
JOE GIBBS: Daniel and I see you in that role.
GREGG WILLIAMS: I have an opportunity to coach one of the Missouri teams. Both are tailor made for me, strong offenses and in need of defensive leadership.
JOE GIBBS: That's good, but no guarantee of success. Look at how long it took Tony Dungy to make Tampa Bay and Indianapolis Super Bowl ready. You know what we have here!
GREGG WILLIAMS: How committed is Mr. Snyder to my eventually taking the head coach position?
JOE GIBBS: How about $8 Million for three years, does that answer your question?

Keeping Gregg Williams perhaps makes it more likely that Lavar Arrington will be released to make room for the salary cap. Unfortunate.

Monday, January 02, 2006

5 and 0 and We Go -- To The Playoffs

After the low point of the Raider's game, Who besides Tony Kornheiser thought it possible that the Redskins would make the playoffs. The team stated its goal simply: "5 & 0 or we don't go!" And five wins is what they got.

Yesterday, they fought off the Eagles in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, the Eagles put up a stiff fight. They got off to a strong start by doing what had been difficult for them, running the ball and making big plays! It didn't help that Mark Brunell was hurt as clearly shown in his play. His timing was off and he missed open targets. By half time, the Eagles held a seven point lead, jangling the nerves of Redskin fans everywhere.

Fortunately, the Skins got down to business in the third quarter. Brunell tossed a beautiful 54 yard bomb to Santana Moss, then Clinton Portis ran it in to tie up the score at 17. The Eagles came back to score a field goal to retake the lead. It was their last gasp because the Redskins started playing Gibbs ball -- rugged defense, power running and forcing turnovers. The defense recovered four fumbles and made two interceptions. The team converted a total of 21 points off turnovers. Clinton Portis rushed for over 100 yards (again) and scored two touchdowns. Portis' tough inside running set the tempo for the second half. That more than anything set up the win.

Portis and Santana Moss set new team single season records supplanting Stephen Davis and the legendary Bobby Mitchell.

Clinton Portis' family was escored from the stands down to the field during the game. Portis mother had been struck by an object thrown by some Iggles fan. Philadelphians are nice, decent people, I'm sure. However, when they put on their team colors and go to the game, they become the lowest form of life. It takes effort to live down to that boorish reputation.

Speaking of boors, it's possible Terrell Owens will be in an Eagles uniform next season. Heck, Ricky Williams is playing for Miami, isn't he?

The Giants clinched the division title because they did two things the Skins failed to do:

  1. consistently make big plays, and
  2. beat the Raiders.

But this is no time for nit picking. The Skins achieved their goal. They won their last five games and go to face Tampa Bay in round one.

Joe Gibbs, who engineered this feat, take no credit for it. He cites Daniel Snyder as most responsible, followed by the players and the fans. Right! The foundation of the team's success was laid by Joe Gibbs. It was Gibbs who made defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his first hire. It was Gibbs who brought Clinton Portis to the Skins. It was Gibbs, and only Gibbs, who saw something special in Santana Moss and Mark Brunell. The Redskins' fortunes and Snyder's reputation improved the day Snyder lured Gibbs out of retirement.