With the two-game losing streak, the four defeats in five weeks, the lack of points, the Clinton Portis Radio Rant and Jim Zorn’s response, there were no shortage of topics for the Times’ Ryan O’Halloran and News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak to debate.
1 It was another prime-time loss for the Redskins, this one at Baltimore and one that saw Clinton Portis benched in the second half. He responded by ripping Jim Zorn on the radio. What was your take on the situation?
L: I was frankly surprised that, with the team in the position of needing to win out for a chance at the playoffs, Portis would risk creating a needless distraction by berating Zorn on a radio talk show. I think he’s smarter than that – I think he understands the potential it has for hurting a team but it also concerns me that there will be a lingering rift. I do give Zorn and the Redskins credit for the way they handled the situation – acknowledging it right away as to erase the issue as best they could with the “team.”
R: If Clinton would have lashed out moments after the game, I would have chalked it up to the emotions spilling over. But two days later? It was clearly a calculated attempt Portis to either send a message to ownership that he wants out of a Redskin uniform or he wants some changes on the coaching staff. Of course, he denied both those agendas when he spoke to us media-folk on Wednesday, saying he just wanted to get some things off his chest. Zorn isn’t completely innocent, either. He should know by now that Portis is wired differently than a lot of players and the lines of communication have to always remain open with No. 26. This could linger, though, especially if the Redskins don’t turn things around in the final three games.
2. As Portis will tell you, Jim Zorn is no longer as big a “genius” as he was when this team was 6-2. Now the Redskins are 7-6. If they don’t win again, is Zorn’s job in jeopardy?
L: Anything can happen, so I won’t say no – it’s possible management could look back at the offensive struggles and make a switch but that would be the worst thing they could do. Zorn exceeded expectations early on and has not lost his team. I do feel it may be a case of Zorn needing to scale back some of the playbook, but I think the struggles are even par for what happens with the installation of a new system.
R: Lindsay’s right – when it comes to The Danny, anything is possible. If the Redskins don’t win again and follow up their 6-2 start with a 1-7 finish, I don’t like the chances of Zorn sticking around. That would be a colossal mistake by The Danny and The Vinny. Giving a “reach” hire just one season would just set the franchise back even more. That said, Zorn has made rookie-type mistakes this year. The one thing I would urge him to do, were I running the front office, is to bring in an assistant who the players know is well-versed in the West Coast offense.
3. The offense has sunk to 29th in scoring. Even Cleveland and Kansas City have scored more points. What’s the biggest problem?
L: Lack of rhythm. The Redskins, as Jason Campbell says, are playing “too tight.” Campbell has said he has to just go out there and “play,” not think so much, but he’s trying to cram an awful lot in. I think the combination of Campbell still pressing a little too much and also his receivers not producing to their fullest (the younger guys) is creating a tough situation and teams are finding ways to make the Redskins one dimensional.
R: Lack of execution and a lack of variety. I do agree with Lindsay’s point about rhythm and tempo. That comes with keeping defenses off balance and getting all the pieces working in unison. Campbell’s comments are interesting because it appears the offense hasn’t been expanded since the team started 4-1. Too much of the blame is falling on No. 17. The reason he can’t go downfield is that those players aren’t getting open and if they are open, the protection might not be great. But the next three games are vital for Jason – he needs to start carrying this offense.
4 The Redskins’ passing game has clearly struggled in the second half of the season. If you can the team’s draft, would you dangle a first round pick (plus other chips) to pursue Arizona’s Anquan Boldin or Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson or, via free agency, sign the likely-to-be-available Plaxico Burress?
L: I would hire a full time security handler (like the Nationals have done with Elijah Dukes) and go for Plaxico Burress. Believe me, I know it’s a gamble but if he’s hungry to get back, if he’s repentant and if the Redskins are truly convinced he won’t be a cancer on the team, you never know.
R: I really thought Lindsay would have urged the Redskins to trade for Ocho Cinco. The only thing about Burress is that it wouldn’t cost the Redskins any draft picks (if the Giants released him). But I don’t think they have the money available to get him. Boldin is intriguing because he’s so good and so physical, something the Redskins don’t have at the receiver position. But I would sit tight for the off-season, hoping Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas can develop into productive players.
5 Next up are the 1-11-1 Cincinnati Bengals. Both of you will be making the trek to Ohio (landing at an airport in Kentucky, of course). Who wins and why?
L: The Redskins win because they have to. Also, the Portis squabble will give them a little incentive. I expect Portis to rush for more than 120 yards. In fact, I hope Zorn runs him every snap. I think that there will be a re-energized approach this week from the offense. The Bengals do have the threat with the receiving corps but I can’t see the Redskins falling victim. Redskins win 24-10.
R: The Redskins win because Cincinnati is worse offensively than the burgundy. The Bengals have scored the fewest points in the NFL and the Redskins’ defense will be fired up to completely shut them down and maybe get a few turnovers. How Zorn handles Portis will be interesting. If I was Jim, I would say, “Clinton, you want to play. You want the ball. Here you go.” And then give it to him 40 times and throw him 10 passes. Maybe that will shut him up. The Redskins win 30-13 – breaking the 30-point barrier for the first time this year.
BONUS 6 With Christmas less than two weeks away, who gets a little extra in their stocking and who merely gets a lump of coal?
L: I would say that if we’re talking entire NFL, the person that should be excited to rummage through their stocking is Falcons QB Matt Ryan — talk about a rookie quarterback that has overachieved in his debut. As for coal, even though I just wrote that I think the Redskins should take a gamble and go for Plaxico, he’s my choice. You have to be better about your decision making - packing heat in a nightclub? Not a smart choice.
R: Two good choices by Lindsay. For the stocking stuffer, I’ll go with New England WR Wes Welker, who leads the NFL with 96 catches and is just incredible to watch and rookie running backs Matt Forte and Jonathan Stewart, two players who have ignited their teams’ offenses. As for the coal, Al Davis. He’s a joke. The league should remove him from power.