The Times’ Ryan O’Halloran and News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak review the events of the week at Redskin Park and pick a winner for Monday night’s game.
1. The Redskins lost to another winless team Sunday (Kansas City). In your time covering the team, where does this one rank among the Most Recent Stinkers?
LC: For me, this was the most significant stinker because it was the one that broke the camel’s back and sparked a change – albeit a potentially boneheaded one. I remember talking to my co-anchor Dan Hellie after the game and saying ‘I don’t even feel that surprised by what just happened.’ After all the other losses to winless teams, there was no shock value. I was most disappointed that the Redskins couldn’t score points and as Ryan likes to say, it seems they are “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
RO: This game was right up there with home losses to Oakland (2005), Tennessee (2006), Buffalo (2007) and St. Louis (2008). Recognize a theme here? All of the pathetic defeats have been at FedEx Field. The Chiefs loss confirmed that the Redskins don’t have a home-field advantage and that’s not a knock on the fans – I wouldn’t want to come to that stadium and pay those prices to see that kind of product. I’ll agree with Lindsay in that, people asked me leading into the game, ‘There’s no possible way they lose, right?’ Of course, it was possible – just look at the eye-sore wins over St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
2. Hours after the loss, Jim Zorn was stripped of play-calling responsibilities. Sherm Lewis is the new play caller. Is removing the play-calling tag from Zorn’s docket the right one in general? And how risky is handing the keys to a coach who’s been with the Redskins for two weeks?
LC: I think if the Redskins really wanted to strip him of his playcalling duties and if they really think that his playcalling is the problem, then they should have fired him instead of taking away that responsibility. I think keeping him around while someone who has had extremely limited time working in the system takes over is nuts and it makes me wonder if Sherm Lewis was given more of a heads up than we know about.
RO: The right move in general because the offense clearly needs somebody different holding the keys. An insane move in particular because of the reason Lindsay listed (Sherm just got into town) and because it alienates the entire offensive coaching staff. In retrospect, I bet Jim wishes he would have voluntarily given up the play-calling a few weeks ago and tried to convince The Danny & Vinny Show one of his assistants could do the job. On Lewis getting a heads-up, Lindsay and I ran into a former Redskins player the other day and he thinks Lewis was sent a playbook at least a month ago. He didn’t have any inside information but it’s a good theory. That would make his “stop by” in Detroit a little more plausible. The risk by management for this move is huge.
3. Does the play-calling decision buy some time for Zorn or are we still looking at a bye week firing?
LC: I wish I had a crystal ball because I don’t think anyone can pretend to know the answer to this one. I don’t think the Redskins want to pay the money owed if they fire Zorn so I will say I think it depends on what happens in this game and if they lose, how bad it really is. Because of the difficulty to get another NFL coach in here midseason, it’s possible the team decides to stick it out and not pay the chunk of change.
RO: If the Redskins sack Zorn, the replacement will assuredly be in-house and most people think it will be secondary coach Jerry Gray. Management probably wanted Zorn to quit in a huff when they stripped him of the playcalling but Jim’s not going to quit. Period. No matter how much he’s jerked around, he worked a long time to be a head coach and he really cares about his staff and players. I originally thought it bought him some time but after a couple of other revelations, chiefly Steve Largent’s rant in support of Zorn, if the Redskins are blown out of the stadium on Monday night, making a move on Tuesday wouldn’t be stunning at all.
4. Jason Campbell was benched at halftime of the Chiefs game. Good move? Campbell will start Monday against Philadelphia. Good move?
LC: Necessary move at the time – I’ll say that. I think it gave the team an immediate, though fading spark and I’ll tell you what I really think is that Jason, who earlier said this week said he’s “been on a short leash since March” will just have more ammo when he takes the field against the Eagles Monday night. Just not much you can do with a banged up offensive line.
RO: I agree on both – it was time to see if Todd Collins could jump-start the offense and absolutely, Jason should be the starter on Monday night. Those calling for Collins should remember that this is not Al Saunders’ offense. When he replaced an injured Campbell in December 2007, he knew the playbook like his bank ATM. Not so in Zorn’s system. And with this offensive line, the immobile Collins might not last long. Campbell should look at things this way – play 10 more games and then move on. He was told all off-season by management that he wasn’t good enough. If I’m Sherm Lewis, I come out throwing against the Eagles – see if Jason can get into an early rhythm. The Redskins have almost never played with a lead this year and thus, can’t rely on their defense to manage the game.
5. The Eagles come to town for the Redskins’ first of two Monday Night Football appearances. Who wins?
LC: I’m gonna drink my crazy juice here. This has nothing to do with the color of my hair but I’m picking the Redskins. The reason I am is because I’ve seen the players this week turn to total humor to try and avoid crying about what’s going on with them and I think they are punch drunk with ‘What the heck is going on?’ They really have nothing to lose now and maybe that mentality can help them follow up on the Oakland Raiders success last week against Philly. Redskins win 21-17 (did I really just write that?)
RO: Did she really just write that? Maybe it was another three-martini lunch for The Linz this week. Lost in play-caller change and quarterback benching is that the Redskins are basically playing for their season – 3-4 is a heckuva lot better than 2-5 going into the bye. The Eagles are a good match-up for the Redskins – Philadelphia managed only 20 points in two losses to the Redskins last year. That said, the Eagles won’t overlook Washington after losing to Oakland last week. It’s a close game, but the Eagles win 17-14.
BONUS 6. There were plenty of rows available at FedEx Field last week and there was little traffic getting into the lots beforehand. How close are the Redskins to alienating the rank-and-file fan and will Dan Snyder ever see the light?
LC: Alienation has set in already. You can see it, you can sense it. I go to the coffee shop, the gas station and people aren’t just asking about the Redskins. Regardless, I think the garbage that Zorn has endured this season will cause changes that ultimately make this franchise stronger.
RO: It’s a combination of anger (toward Danny and Vinny) and apathy (toward the on-field product). It was stunning to see the empty seats last week – it was like a first preseason game. But the Redskins are still a long way from being among the rank-and-file locally – there’s just that much passion for the team even though most people despise the owner and front office chief. Depending on the moves Snyder makes (you can guess what), the fans could actually praise him by the end of the year.