1. The Redskins lost for the third time in four games last Sunday – 23-7 to the Giants. Although the Giants are 11-1 and the Redskins 7-5, why has the latest defeat created more uproar than the previous losses?
R: I didn’t pick the Redskins to win but from an observer’s standpoint, I was looking for signs of optimism entering the season’s final four games, things like the offense getting untracked, the special teams getting rectified, the defense producing some turnovers. Except for DeAngelo Hall’s interception, none of the above happened. The angst is a product of two solid months of mediocre football, culminated by a below average performance – again – on their home field. The Giants did whatever they wanted to do in all three phases. Watching the game, I thought, ‘How have the Redskins won seven games?”
L: I think it’s partially because of the fact that it makes it three home losses in a row and because the Redskins are proving to be more inconsistent with every loss when this is the time in the season that they should have established an identity. I almost think there’s more concern, too, because there’s not a glaring issue with Jason Campbell and therefore, it is a little disturbing that there are multiple issues affecting the Redskins offense. If they follow this formula, it’s not easy to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Also, while the defense is holding this team together, for the most part, they gave up some big plays this week and made some mistakes that left some scratching their heads. It’s almost like watching a standup comic who exhibits flashes of greatness but makes you uncomfortable while muddling through his act because you know he’s going to bomb a few jokes.
2. The talk show callers were up in arms earlier this week, saying Jason Campbell may not be the answer at quarterback. Both of you are big-time No. 17 supporters. What’s your case?
R: Any discussion about benching Campbell is without merit and just plain stupid. I like Todd Collins, but he’s a system quarterback (that system isn’t run here anymore) and isn’t mobile so he would serve as a 6-foot whatever piñata against Baltimore’s great defense. Yes, I’m a Campbell apologist, but I don’t see him missing things downfield. Guys aren’t getting open. The pass protection has been decent but not great. The running game was non-existent against the Giants. If Campbell was throwing interceptions and losing fumbles and missing open receivers downfield when he has time, then sitting him should be considered. But Collins won’t solve the problem.
L: Seriously, this need not even be a discussion right now. Give Jason Campbell the weapons he needs and simplify his homework a little bit and you aren’t going to be questioning it. If his receivers, Malcolm Kelly and James Thrash included, caught balls thrown their way this past game against the Giants, you have a different ballgame. Yes, there’s no doubt No. 17 has made his share of mistakes, but I don’t think anyone, except a quarterback whose been in this system a number of years, could’ve progressed any better. He’s shown that when he lets himself “not think” so much, he has the ability to flip a switch and play at a high level. He needs to go back to adopting that mentality.
3. Jim Zorn seemed to bristle Monday when second-guessed about his staff’s ability – or lack thereof – to making halftime and/or in-game adjustments. How would you judge the Z Man over the last four weeks?
R: When a head coach loses three consecutive home games, he leaves himself open to second guessing and that’s what the Jim is beginning to face now. When he was in his comfort zone as Seattle’s quarterbacks coach and Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions, it was Mike Holmgren, not Zorn, who had to face the critics. I think there’s something to be said for the adjustment angle – defenses reconfigured their plan to combat the Redskins offense and it doesn’t seem Zorn and Co. have counteracted. Defensively, I thought Greg Blache made one of his first tactical errors of the season. He dared the Giants to pass on the opening possession and they did. That should have been enough to go back to a base coverage situation to account for Amani Toomer and Domenik Hixon.
L: I think he’s done a decent job. I’m pleased with the risks he takes. However I do agree with Ryan about the Redskins not necessarily reacting to the way defenses are responding to them. I also point to the Giants game as an example of the Redskins not finding a way to counteract the pass when it became clear that’s how New York was carving into them.
4. Despite the recent troubles, Zorn is still 7-5 in his rookie season and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 8-3. What could the success of these two rookie coaches mean for future job openings?
R: I thought the Ravens would be in total rebuilding mode this season, especially when they were forced to go with rookie Joe Flacco at quarterback. Division I-AA passers simply don’t make a quick transition to the NFL but that’s a credit to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The records of Zorn and Harbaugh should open doors for other assistants who don’t have coordinating experience. It should show NFL owners that going the retread route or the hot coordinator direction shouldn’t be automatic – there are bright minds coaching quarterbacks and defensive backs that deserve consideration.
L: It means character and philosophy mean far more than a flashy name. I also think you can look at the Redskins and the success of Greg Blache as an example. My point is that I bet a lot of folks out there would look at these names and some would think of them as guys that may have let the big opportunity pass them by, that they may have been content to ride into the sunset as offensive coordinator, defensive line coach sipping cocktails on his porch in Wisconsin. I definitely think the success of these men give those without coordinating experience a definite advantage moving forward.
5. It’s season-saving time for the Redskins. Do they make it happen Sunday night in Baltimore?
R: It was appropriate that Colt Brennan was playing Wyclef Jean’s “Gone Til November” in the locker room – the Redskins are glad November is gone. Recent history suggests the Redskins have a great chance – they won prime-time road games against the Giants and Minnesota last year. But Baltimore’s defense is just too strong and the Redskins’ offense is just not producing. Although it won’t put an end to the Redskins’ playoff hopes, it won’t help. The Ravens win 17-10.
L: I guess Colt doesn’t like the Counting Crows’ “Long December” because that’s what the Redskins are in for if they lose this Sunday. I think it’s going to be ugly and I’m worried about the health of Clinton Portis but I’m giving it to the Redskins for the mere fact that they have proven when their backs are against the wall, something strange happens with this team. I’m banking on the fact that the Redskins will find a way to get something going in the passing game and I believe Malcolm Kelly can find a way to get involved and make an impact. Redskins win 17 – 10.
6. BONUS A prediction from the college game. It’s basically a national semifinal game in Atlanta Saturday night when Alabama faces Florida. Who wins and who will they play for the national title?
R: Say what you want about Nick Saban but the guy knows how to recruit, knows how to put together a staff and knows how to out-scheme other college coaches. I watched the Tide closely for the first time against Auburn and they were just methodical during a blowout win. It’s stunning they’re underdogs to the Gators. I expect Nick to throw a bunch of defensive looks at Tim Tebow and the Tide wins 34-30 and moves on to face Oklahoma for the title.
L: I am a big Nick Saban fan – not the way he treats people personally, but the discipline with which he approaches his team. I think in games like this with so much at stake, he turns his players into animals. I expect Alabama to stifle the Gators offense but my score is 30-24. I’m looking for a date with the Sooners, as well.