Friday, October 27, 2006

Is there a draft in here?

"Joe Gibbs, Redskins president, is hurting Joe Gibbs, Redskins coach." That's how Redskins critic John Keim of The Washington Examiner assessed the team's roster moves under the coach-in-chief's regime. Keim examines Gibbs' trading hits and misses. More useful is Keim's look at how other teams used those draft picks.

The Redskins' theory is to trade the uncertainty of draft picks for the known quantity of veteran players. That approach worked for George Allen when he imported the Over-The-Hill gang in the seventies. Allen's "known quantities" were people he already worked with at the Rams for the most part. His quarterback move was to bring in a starter-ready Billy Kilmer to back up Jurgensen.

Gibbs, out of the game for a decade, had scouting reports and Vinnie Cerrato to work with. The hits have been spectacular: Moss for Coles and Portis for Bailey. Both Coles and Bailey were disgruntled players who wanted out. Keim questions whether any of those trades needed to be accompanied by draft picks. Portis for Bailey may have stood on its own without the second round pick that went to Denver.

In the nineties, GM Charley Casserly pulled of a draft coup when he scarfed up Heath Shuler, Michael Westbrook and Desmond Howard. With their college reps, the buzz was that Norv Turner would have a passing attack to rival the then dominant Cowboys. The drama and trauma that followed may explain the Redskins' disdain of draft picks today.

The Redskins are the oldest team in the NFL, Keim points out, but may not have enough draftees to fill in for the future. Trading my be their only viable option.

The moves may yet be successful, but the slow start when everyone expected dominance confuses players, perplexes coaches and leaves fans beside themselves.

Catch Keim's article, "Suspect architect," here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gibbs hangs it up

Coach-in-chief Joe Gibbs shocked team owner Daniel Snyder and Redskins fans everywhere by abruptly announcing his resignation. "I was struck by Tiki Barber's statement that 'football would not define me,'" said the coach. "It inspired me to take a step I had been contemplating since the Titans game. Like all the other core Redskins, it's time for me to play elsewhere."

Snyder moved quickly to replace the legendary Hall of Fame coach by offering the position to former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. In spite of Fisher's 1-15 record in his last season in Tennessee, Snyder had to win a bidding war against Jerry Jones for Fisher's services. The announcement immediately triggered payment of a $2 million bonus to Gregg Williams, who was not named as Gibbs' successor.

This story is fiction, of course, but could be a story line if a rumor reported on comes to pass. On October 25, 2006, PFT reported that Snyder had his eye on Fisher as a potential successor to Gibbs. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly has the same interest. There is open speculation that Bill Parcells may step down as the Cowboys coach at the end of the season.

ProFootballTalk describes itself as a reporter of rumors. The Redskins promptly labeled the story "nonsense."

Gibbs leaving at the end of the season would send to organization into a tailspin. As team president, with the stated goal of restoring the organization to a championship caliber, the coach-in-chief has set up a structure with two potential HC candidates already on board. A transition plan where Gibbs steps away from active coaching while remaining in active management is the best of all scenarios.

Snyder would be true to form if he reached outside the organization for a splashy, big-name signing hoping for immediate impact while ignoring the disruptive chain of events such a move would trigger. But, this is all hypothetical.

Isn't it?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hang in there Redskins

The general gloom in the atmosphere is understandable. It must be purged; flushed, sent packing. Yes, it's a realistic view of where the Redskins stand, but hardly means the season is lost.

Here's the definition of "it's over:" when the team is farther back of the division leader than there are games left, it's over. The Skins are three back with nine games to go. The Eagles and Giants have yet to play the Titans. Anything can happen.

Sports psychologists say winners must only see themselves achieving their goal, whatever the obstacle. You aren't what you were. You are what you want to be. Blow that last game? That wasn't the real you. Next time you will get it right because you are the best performer on the field. That's what the Redskins have to tell themselves now.

In sports, maybe in life, as soon as you focus on what you are not, that's what you become.

Ninety percent of this game is half-mental. ~Yogi Berra

Yeah, it's baseball, but it fits.

As for disappointments at the bye, head over to the Redskins page at RealFootball 365. For another take, see John Keim's "What's the problem?" at the Washington Examiner.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Redskins could learn from business

Amy Joyce over at the Post wrote a column on the on how difficult it is for new executives to be successful in a new company. The Redskins, she says, might be facing the same issues with Al Saunders. Business holds lessons on the pitfalls and solutions.

Joyce writes ". . . if the new superstar does not take the company's history or culture into account before he turns the organization's identity upside-down, it could be disastrous . . . ."

Execs get a honeymoon period, but success for the new guy depends both on support by the top leaders and on buy-in from the troops. Most important for the executive is to motivate and encourage the positive, not the negative.

You can see the full article here.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Football Algebra: 1Cool dude>Lloyd+ARE

A post by Atlanta Skins Fan on EXTREMESKINS argues that the Redskins downgraded the passing game by bringing on Brandon Lloyd and Twaan Randle El and targeting them for receptions in preference to Chris Cooley, the Redskins' number two receiver last year.

Atlanta Skins Fans backs up his argument with an assessment of the reliability of each receiver. He compared the number of receptions to passes thrown to each player. By this analysis, Chris Cooley was more reliable by far than either ARE or Lloyd. Expressed algebraically, you would say that one Cooley is greater than Lloyd and Randle El combined, or C>(BL+ARE).

Atlanta Skins suggests that the passing game would be better if the Redskins lined up its most reliable receivers in a two wide receiver set - Moss and Randle El - with Cooley at tight end, and targeting Moss, Cooley and Randle El in that priority.

It's a unique look and the numbers are intriguing. I believe that, of the three parts of the passing game: blocking, throwing and catching, blocking is 51% of the result. Atlanta Skins' post looks at the receiving. You can see the full post on ExtremeSkins here.

There are two implications of this analysis. The first, pointed out by Atlanta Skins, is that Mark Brunell's problem may not be that he can't find receivers, but that his alternatives to Moss are not reliable targets. Thus, they get high percentage, short passes. The second is that Deputy Head Coach Saunders just needs time, maybe a season, to really adapt to his personnel.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This 'n' That

Green Unhinged

That's in contrast to coach-in-chief's Gibbs typical reaction to adversity. Gibbs speaks of the "we." Green didn't point fingers, but is clearly frustrated. I know Gibbs has a temper. It's a behind-closed-doors kind of thing.

Green's rant compares to John L. Smith's reaction to a coaching screw-up in the 2005 Michigan State Ohio State game.

Rogers All Thumbs
The Redskins announced that second year cornerback Carlos Rogers will miss the Colts game as a result of his thumb surgery. I'm trying to decide if that's bad news or good. Yes, I know that's mean.

Who's the Terrorist?
As if the Redskins recent play hasn't terrorized me enough, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning of a possible attack at seven NFL stadiums this Sunday. The report mentioned New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland. The department hastened to say that they were skeptical abou the report.

Skins Seek Player for the Ground Game
The Washington Redskins have a job opening on their facilities/ground crew. The individual hired will maintain the grounds at Redskins Park. The Redskins denied a rumor that TJ Duckett was a member of any ground crew on the team.

Redskins Offensive Genius
The extrapoints blog takes note that the Newseum museum in Washington distributed to journalism students a Washington Post front page story about the Redskins' last offensive genius. The story described a dazzling offense that put up 300+ yards and 31 points in an opening day win. When do we develop healthy skepticism around here? Busted! I drank the Kool-ade, too.

Football is Life
Dan Reeves' article in USA Today describes lessons in life learned from football.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

That sinking feeling

Know that feeling we would have felt if the Redskins lost to the Texans? We didn't escape it. It was delayed it until the team played the Titans. I checked the schedule and there are no more teams with names starting with "T" on the schedule. The curse is lifted. However, we'll remember the Titans all winter.

So how will the Skins do the rest of the year?

  • Upset the Colts. Just go with me on this, OK.
  • Beat the Cowboys at home.
  • @ the Eagles; mmmm no.
  • @ the Buccaneers, a win; but, after the Titans, don't bet the house.
  • Lose to the Panthers. That'll ruin the Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Beat the Falcons - if they patch the craters in the run defense! Could also be they beat the Panthers and lose to the Falcons. I don't see a sweep of these two.
  • Beat the Eagles at home.
  • @ the Saints. Remember how we chalked this up as a win. Uh-uh.
  • @ the Rams. I want to believe, but the Rams are playing better.
  • Beat the Giants.

The Redskins have to go 9-1 the rest of the way to take the division, overcome tie-breakers and win home field for at least one playoff game. That's not impossible for talented, hard working players still trying to make a go of it. This is still the team that convincingly beat a good Jaguars squad. After the preseason, four regular season disappointments and with the remaining schedule, this shapes up to be an 8-8 year.

Maybe it's that Titans name, but just now, I feel like I'm on the

I'll be sober in the morning.

Oh, what the hell; TEN AND O, OR WE DON'T GO!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

AFC Respite

The Redskins can't seem to beat NFC East teams, so it's back to the AFC for a little relief. They weren't so good against the "Giants" last Sunday, but should find a way to beat the "Titans" today (giants, titans, get it?). Both the team and a lot of Redskins bloggers, including me, were mysteriously quiet after the Meadowlands spanking. There was little one could say. The Titans are a team they can beat and a game that they need. The Redskins should not overlook Tennessee.

The Redskins Report has a quick & dirty preview of the game.
The Curly R does its clever five question exchange with a Titans blogger.
Hog Heaven has an extensive scouting report on the Titans prepared by a local fan.

The Post's Jason LaCanforia wrote last Tuesday that TJ Duckett is being a team player despite his lack of playing time. AS an MSU alum, I looked forward to seeing TJ in a Redskins uniform and am getting bitterly disappointed at not seeing him. At mid-year, I'm going to take a second look at The Duckett Conspiracy that I posted last August.

When things looked dim last season, the players came together and vowed "five in a row, or we don't go." Their determination energized their efforts and inspired their fans well into this year. The team is dangerously close to "ten in a row" country. I would like to see the team get back to basics and get off this silly fixation with Al Saunders' exotic schemes. I don't mean to abandon it; but let's get back to what this team is really good at - running the ball!

Running plays are the most aggressive in football, because the offensive line fires out and dictates to the defense. Our healthy offensive line does that quite well. On passing plays, the O-line is passive (why do you think it's called "passing plays?"). The O-line is on it's heals. They're backing up and reactive to the defense. Fifty-one percent of the breakdown in passing plays is on the O-line.

It's apparent that the new scheme is not the drop-in tweak that was described. It's a major adjustment. It's going to take time to perfect, eight or nine games, maybe. So let's not get overly dependent on it, or disappointed in it. But, lets definitely get back to real football. Run the ball, win the game.

The Skins can still win 11 games if the offense can average 18+ points per game. After five games, the average is 19.2, but there is a wide range between the high and low score. They have to get a consistent average.

What's with the defense's inability to make stops?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Redskins: What's in a name?

Attorney Jeremy Elman wrote a legal analysis of the recent case filed by a group of Native American twenty-somethings to cancel trademark protection for the Redskins term and logo. Elman's article outlines the history of original case, brought in 1992, and the ensuing court rulings. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately found that the original petitioners waited too long to make their claim.

In 1999, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found the use of the term to be disparaging to Native Americans and cancelled trademark protections for "Redskins." Pro Football, Inc., the legal entity that owns the team (Snyder & company owns Pro Football, Inc.), appealed to the US District Court for the District of Columbia which ruled that the evidence cited by the Trademark Appeals Board did not actually support their ruling. For example, there was no evidence that Pro Football, Inc. used the term in a disparaging manner. In fact, the district court found some evidence that the team took steps to avoid derogatory connotations.

The original petitioners appealed to the US Circuit Court, but their case was denied on the basis that it was too late to make their claim. The legal challenge was launched 25 years after the first use of the Redskins trademark. Since minors cannot bring an action until they reach adulthood, the new case was brought by plaintiffs aged 19 to 24 to get around the circuit court's ruling.

Elman then launches into an analysis of the legal basis of the claims with suggestions for overcoming the district court's ruling. The petitioners could argue the use of "redskins" is disparagement regardless of the intent of the Redskins team. Elman, who clearly hopes the petitioners win, implies the court erred in considering the team's intent at all. He speculates on formulating an "unbiased" survey of Native Americans as evidence to show disparagement.

That point escapes me. People and teams ought to be held liable for what they do, not simply for how other people feel about it. Action is in their control. Reaction is not. Elman's argument works if Native American's are the only group surveyed. Create a "unbiased" survey of Washington Redskins fans, who also have a stake in the outcome, and you will find that "Redskin" is hardly disparaging when referring to the NFL team. Diehard fans identify themselves as Redskins. That's a fact that ought to be considered by any court. Elman's point, and the petitioner's case, counts on the Trademark board and the courts ignoring that.

I am not insensitive to the slurs directed towards Native Americans in American history. But this is not a suit against America, it a suit against the Washington Redskins (and boy, am I glad that George P. Marshall isn't the one to defend this case!). The term "Washington Redskins" is not disparaging in its current use. (How the Redskins play in the Meadowlands is different. Somebody sue for that.) As for the logo, how can that be seen as disparagement when the United States government uses the same image on U.S. gold bullion coins.

To see both sides of this debate, see All of my heroes have been Redskins, and follow the links to a favorable view by The DC Universe and the opposing opinion by The Curly R.

Elman's full article on can be found here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On secondary thought!

Conventional thinking is that the Redskins secondary is vulnerable because Shawn Springs is out, and that they will get better as soon as he returns. Springs will shore up the secondary, but not as much as, or as fast as fans hope.

Springs missed the entire preseason and will miss half the regular season. When he is activated, he will not be, cannot be, in game condition. It seems likely that Gregg Williams will ease him into games, perhaps at nickel for a game or two, rather than have him man-up on Marvin Harrison or Terry Glenn.

It's Pierson Prioleau's absence that's the major hit. Springs is returning afterall. Prioleau is not. The Redskins could deal with either Springs' or Prioleau's absence, but not both.

Prioleau had the advantage of knowing Gregg Williams' playbook. While not as gifted as Springs, he offers more talent than those replacing him. In Springs absence, Prioleau would fill in at cornerback, giving Gregg Williams confidence to blitz more. If Springs were available, with Prioleau out, the Skins would cover with Springs and Carlos Rogers at cornerback. Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta would be safeties and either Mike Rumph or Kenny Wright could be a Duckett-like insurance policy.

Because neither Springs nor Prioleau are available, the Redskins secondary starts two short-timers; three in the nickel package. That goes along with Carlos Rogers who plays like a second year rookie. All of them, including Adam Archuleta, are on a learning curve for the defensive schemes. Sean Taylor is the veteran in the group. This secondary is green!

Comcast Sports Net interviewed defensive backfield coach Jerry Gray after the Giants game and he made that very point. I do not have a quote, but his forceful position was that the new players had to improve their knowledge of the playbook. Spring's return will fix 50% of the problem; but Houston, we still have a problem.

Carlos Rogers is slowly improving. He should be more effective in the second half of the season. However, no one compares him to Darrell Green or Champ Bailey.

Fred Smoot looks pretty good now. He was pronounced one of Gibbs "core players." He wanted to be paid market value and wasn't finding it here. He hopped the boat to Minnesota. He may be worth more to the Redskins now. Would a better use of the payroll been to have offered more to Fred and less to Brandon Lloyd? Maybe, maybe not; but he joins a growing list Snyder-era players we should have kept:

  1. Antonio Pierce
  2. Brad Johnson
  3. Trent Green
  4. Fred Smoot

I forget. Someone tell me again why Ryan Clark isn't here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Coach said what?

The verbal howitzers lobbed by Dale Lindsey and LaVar Arrington this week were real doosies.

Said Lindsey when asked if the Giants had an advantage with what Arrington knew of the Redskins' defense, "He didn't know the playbook when he was here!"

LaVar's comeback was that he had the playbook and gave it to the Giants coaches. That drew a Lindsey comment that "if he (LaVar) has a playbook, I guarantee he's never opened it."

Don't know about you, but I'm not used to seeing coaches put down former players. Usually, it's a player who create bulletin board material. When coaches do it, it's like a boss who puts down a former employee and Lindsey looks small for doing so. Maybe the needling even after LaVar is gone explains why #56's grudge is so personal. The player he is is not the player he was, but an aroused Arrington isn't anyone I'd like to face.

Unless they are trying to goad him into foolish mistakes!

Just can't wait to read that the Skins have deactivated TJ Duckett again!

For in depth game previews, look here, and here, and here.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fourth and short

Go For It It's fourth and one with two minutes to go in fourth quarter. You have the ball on the Jacksonville 20. The game is tied. A field goal is a sure thing and you could leave it to your defense to close out the game. Your defense has played pretty well, but Byron Leftwich threw for over 250 yards and two TD passes. Your secondary is suspect. Orthodox thinking is to take the points; or, you could take the riskier option and go for first down. If you make it, you can kill the clock and go for a last second field goal to win. If you miss, Jacksonville is still deep in their own territory and would have to drive 60 yards in two minutes to set up a winning field goal.

You are Joe Gibbs. What do you do?

We know what happened. The Redskins kicked a field goal and the Jaguars drove down field and kicked the tying, could have been the winning, field goal with six seconds left. The New York Jets faced a similar dilemma in their game with the Colts. They were fourth and goal at the Indie two yard line in the third quarter. They went for it. The attempt failed, Pennington was intercepted, and the Jets later lost. Did they make the wrong call? Their decision is analyzed on TheFootballGuys discussion board. Events proved that Gibbs' decision to kick was a good one, but the discussion concluded that coach Mangini made the correct decision under the circumstance. The analysis can be found here. Warning! This discussion is not for the math-challenged.

Eagles Behaving Badly As if there weren't enough examples of the boors in silly Phily, The Eagles Fan Of The Game was cuffed and ejected from Lincoln Financial Field in the fourth quarter of the Monday night game. Unbelievable? Check out the story here. Thanks again to TheFootballGuys for pointing me to this one.

Just can't wait for Terrible Owens to return to Philadelphia with his little cowboy friends. The drama won't be on the field. It will be in the stands!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jackson Who?

The Jacksonville Jaguars went 12-4 last season. They have a rugged defense and a prominent coach. Apart from Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor, few around here could name any Jaguar player. I've been noodling over why. It can't just be market size. Minneapolis-St. Paul is about the same size, I think, but we more familiar with the Vikings. Geography doesn't quite explain it. San Diego is much farther away, yet we are very familiar with the Chargers.

There are two reasons for Jacksonville's anonymity. First, with Baltimore's proximity to Washington, Ravens games are broadcast in the DC TV market. So, we naturally hear more about the AFC North than the South; which brings up the second reason. The Indianapolis Colts, with nine post-season appearances in the last seven years, sucks the oxygen out of media coverage in the AFC South.

The game was the best possible compromise with regard to Byron Leftwich. The local boy done good (21 of 35 for 289 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Interception) and the local team won. ESPN The Magazine quotes Leftwich addressing stereotypes that he and receiver Matt Jones faces, "What is the world coming to when you have a slow black quarterback throwing to a fast white receiver." (October 9, 2006, NFL Insider, page 104)

For a quick read on how the Redskins-Jacksonville game played in Florida, look here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Whoa! Redskins 36 - Jaguars 30

Whoa! 481 total yards offense on the Jacksonville defense

Whoa! Mark Brunell 18-30-1 for 329 yards and 3 touchdown passes

Whoa! Clinton Portis rushing 112 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown

Whoa! Santana Moss 138 yards on 4 receptions, three of them scoring catches

Whoa! Jaguars held to 33 yards rushing; Maurice Jones-Drew, 100+ yards last week, 3 yards on 3 attempts against the Redskins

Whoa! Redskins defense - 4 sacks of Byron Leftwich; welcome home Byron!

Whoa! Redskins control the clock 35:28.

Whoa! Redskins are 2-2 with the Giants coming up next.