|09-20-2006, 04:20 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2004
No "O" in Big "D"
Latest from Trev Walters...
It’s ‘incomprehensible’. That’s the word which most of Redskins Nation is currently trying to make come to mind. Incomprehensible, as in how can one “improved” offense perform so poorly? Or, how can one defense transform itself from one of the stingiest units in the league to the football equivalent of a French militia in one little off-season? And perhaps most importantly, how does Mark Brunell still have a job? The answer to these questions, as well as to a few others, is it’s incomprehensible.
No “O” in Big “D”
The Redskins fell to 0-2 nearly one year to the day of the signature win of their renaissance season of 2005. In laying their second egg in as many weeks, the offense somehow managed to be worse, the penalties more punitive, and the play at quarterback somehow got markedly worse. It is that final aspect that has really evoked the ire of Redskins fans all across the country, many of which are hoping to ignite one of those quarterback controversies that seemed to be so omnipresent during Gibbs first tenure as Redskins coach. You would be just as well, however, to cast a penny into a fountain because all the wishing in the world isn’t going to change things anytime soon.
At this stage in his career, Mark Brunell’s best asset is his ability to not lose a game, which translates into, on his best day, Brunell isn’t so much good as he is not bad. This ability however, as evidenced by his Billy Kilmer-esque duck that Cowboys safety Roy Williams intercepted, is fading faster than his arm strength. In truth, even if his game management was at its ball-thrown-out-of-bounds best, his not losing games for the Redskins is certainly not winning them any games either. He also appears utterly terrified when he has to stand in the pocket and take the shots necessary to complete passes under pressure. Not that any quarterback, or any sane individual for that matter, likes to be plowed over by defenders that are in many cases considerably larger human beings, but taking the occasional shot comes with the territory at quarterback. Firemen don’t complain about getting burned and Jerry Jones’ plastic surgeon doesn’t protest to the long hours he must spend making Jones the mostly synthetic creature he currently is, so Brunell shouldn’t be so averse to getting to the hazards of his profession.
As obvious as it is that Brunell needs to be replaced to even the most casual observer, one fact that can’t be ignored is that it is much less obvious as to the readiness and capabilities of his backups. Todd Collins certainly has every intricacy of Al Saunders’ playbook committed to memory, but he has thrown only 27 passes his last eight-plus seasons. Knowing where the ball needs to be and when it needs to be there is one thing, but being able to make the compulsory throws is another entirely. Quarterback of the future Jason Campbell can certainly make any throw the offense calls for, but his grasp of the offense at this juncture is still somewhat nebulous.
As we all saw in 2004, when Brunell was so bad that he couldn’t have played quarterback for the flag football team at The Shady Grove Home for the Aged, there is something about him that makes Joe Gibbs believe in him. That year Brunell drove the team into the ground before Gibbs finally relented and allowed backup Patrick Ramsey to take the helm. While Brunell has yet to sink to depths witnessed in 2004, he is clearly the first reason why this promising football team is 0-2 instead of a record more in line with their lofty pre-season expectations.
It was indeed Brunell’s interception that effectively ruined the Redskins’ best chance at making a game of it Sunday night in Irving. The good side of safety Sean Taylor’s aggression had forced a Julius Jones fumble which was recovered by Marcus Washington in a position from which even John Hall might have been able to split the uprights. In that situation, when the Redskins had the Cowboys on the ropes and had totally stolen momentum, a touchdown would have turned the game, and maybe the season, around. At the very least you’ve got to get a field goal to keep momentum. The Redskins would do neither, and the subsequent loss of steam was finalized when the defense, lifeless after having watched Brunell squander the opportunity they gave him, surrendered a back-breaking 99-yard touchdown drive.
While chiefly responsible, Mark Brunell was not alone as the cause of the Redskins loss Sunday night. The running game minus Clinton Portis was insignificant, the propensity to commit foolish penalties at the most inopportune times was still prevalent, and high-priced free agents such as Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta have thus far proven to be the biggest waste of money this side of NASA. Brandon Lloyd has also been largely invisible; however he can’t catch what never gets to him, so his imperceptibility is somewhat understandable. The Redskins had to try to not let Dallas give away the game as well. The Cowboys had eight dropped passes in the first half alone and were flagged for 90 yards worth of penalties of their own.
Much has also been made of the vaunted 700 page playbook authored by new offensive boss Al Saunders. Is it too complicated to effectively execute without months or even years of practice? Who knows, but 700 pages does seem at the very least a little excessive. Such a reservoir of plays is only an asset if your own players know them well enough to incorporate them into the gameplan. Should more of the playbook been used in the pre-season to game much needed game experience? I say no because, as we have seen, the offense doesn’t know the plays well enough to run them now, so one can only imagine their tenuous grasp of things four or five weeks ago.
Although they were few and far between, the game was not without its bright spots. This week’s game ball recipient, Rock Cartwright, returned a kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown, marking the third longest such return in franchise history. Cartwright’s return was just the thing that can sometimes fuel a comeback and light a fire under the entire team, yet it wasn’t to be for this true Redskin and his team. Nonetheless, Rock’s return was a great play, made by a great Redskin, and is as deserving of the game ball as any who have received it before him.
Believe it or not, among all the dark clouds circling the team since the season began, there are a few silver linings that may still salvage the year. Clinton Portis, easily the most important offensive player on the team, is set to return Sunday when the Redskins line up against the Texans. Cornerback Shawn Springs should also not be too far behind him, and his arrival will make possible a return to a more familiar, blitzing defensive attack. While defensive back Mike Rumph has made his share of mistakes in his short Redskins tenure, he has also made a few very good plays and never seems to make the same mistake twice. His versatility and talent may help to soften the blow felt when do-everything defender Pierson Prioleau went down for the season with a knee injury.
In the NFL, a top level quarterback, as Donovan McNabb demonstrates, can win with marginal talent around him. However, all the surrounding talent in the world can’t consistently overcome poor play at quarterback. Barring injury, the sound of “three-forty” will haunt the thoughts of Redskins fans across the nation for at least 14 more games. Would Todd Collins or Jason Campbell be any better? We may never know, but at least if Campbell got the call, there would be value in his opportunity to learn.
Even though it’s on the road, there isn’t another team on the schedule that the Redskins need to see any more right now than the Houston Texans. Of course, like the Raider game last season and the Cleveland game the year prior, the Redskins have a history of dropping the inexplicable game every so often. Washington needs this game. They need it most obviously for their record, but their confidence also needs a boost. Winning is the great duct tape, making almost anything work. While 1-2 doesn’t look or feel good, it fits much better than 0-3. Only three teams that started 0-3 have made the playoffs since the NFL went to the current playoff format over 15 years ago, so to not take advantage of the schedule and get a critical win Sunday might just seal the casket on the season. To try to turn things around and make the post-season after an 0-3 start would be, well, incomprehensible.
Check back next week for your Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!