- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2000

IRVING, Texas.

So much for offensive simplicity. So much for Terry Robiskie's motivational skills. If this is how the Redskins play when their coach has been fired and their season is on the line, well, the sooner they get this over with the better.

And that could be as early as Saturday after their lifeless 32-13 loss to the Cowboys yesterday at Texas Stadium. If their performance against Dallas is any indication, they're in no condition to beat anybody, never mind a 7-7 Steelers team in Pittsburgh. (On second thought, they might be able to beat the '76 Tampa Bay Bucs, but I'm not sure Dan Snyder has enough money left to buy a time machine.)

Snyder replaced Norv Turner with Robiskie last Monday because he thought the change would be good for his team heading into the final three games. He thought the fiery assistant would inspire the Redskins in ways Turner couldn't. And Terry thought the solution to the Redskins' offensive struggles was to saddle up Stephen Davis and ride him to victory against the NFL's worst rushing defense fundamental football, in other words.

None of those theories came even close to panning out. In the first quarter, when the Redskins should have been flying, they had negative offensive yardage and gave up two long punt returns that set up scores. Davis, meanwhile, never got untracked and was outrushed 150-57 by Emmitt Smith. Worst of all, there were times such as when Davis drew a 15-yard penalty for throwing the football at a Cowboy and Jay Leeuwenburg got ejected for kicking Alonzo Spellman when the Redskins looked like they belonged in the XFL, not the NFL.

"High schoolish," Robiskie said of Davis' and Leeuwenburg's behavior. "They lost their composure. For me, it was embarrassing."

For Robiskie, there were a lot of things about this game that should have been embarrassing. For starters, the Cowboys, who had nothing to play for, showed infinitely more heart than the Redskins, who had plenty to play for. How do you explain that? Answer: You don't, though Deion Sanders tried.

"When I was a Cowboy, we always felt we could beat the Redskins," he said. "Obviously, they still feel like that."

True, Dallas has whipped Washington seven straight times now, but the Cowboys lost Troy Aikman to a concussion less than seven minutes into the game and had to go the rest of the distance with untested Anthony Wright, normally their third-stringer, at quarterback. The Redskins' defense should have bent, folded and spindled the kid. But Dallas rallied around him, racking up 242 yards rushing, and Wright only had to throw five passes the rest of the afternoon. When was the last time the Redskins lost a game when the opponent threw as little as the Cowboys did (eight attempts total, counting Aikman's three)? Now that's embarrassing.

So was the defense's inability to stop an end-around play that Dallas kept running. The Cowboys called the play or a variation of it four times. Four times. Twice they scored touchdowns (on runs of 22 yards by Wane McGarity and 17 by Jason Tucker), and twice they gained substantial yardage, deep in Washington territory, to set up touchdowns. The Redskins never figured it out, never adjusted to it. (LaVar Arrington is still looking for McGarity.)

"Maybe their offensive coaches saw something [on the game films]," Robiskie said, "over-aggressiveness by our defense or something."

The Redskins underwent no magical transformation under their interim coach. The players thought they were up for the game, thought they had great practices all week, but when the whistle blew … "I don't know what happened between [the locker room] and the field," Sanders said.

Hopefully, Snyder learned a lesson from this. And the lesson is: In sports, things can always get worse. It may not seem like they can, but trust me they can. Remember when the Redskins went 4-12 in Richie Petitbon's only season as coach, and management thought the club had hit rock bottom? It hadn't. It went 3-13 the next year under Turner.

And after the Redskins stunk up the joint against the Giants last week, Snyder obviously felt there was no way to go but up. Wrong again. The team was even more discombobulated against Dallas not just the offense and special teams, but the usually reliable defense, too.

"It just seemed to get worse offensively," Irving Fryar said. "I didn't think we could play any worse than we did last week, but somehow we managed to do it… . Just chaos."

As Robiskie discovered, it's a little different when you're in charge, when you're calling the plays, when you've got the headset on. Terry's plan was to trim back the offense, to keep it simple, but frankly, professional football in the year 2000 isn't a simple game. It's a complex game. And if you aren't prepared to play it that way, you're asking for trouble.

Did Robiskie honestly think he was going to come into Dallas and pound the Cowboys into submission with an offensive line that had been limping along for weeks? Did he honestly think he was just going to be able to hand the ball to Stephen Davis 30 times? The game isn't that easy.

Suddenly, Snyder's idea of hiring Pepper Rodgers as the interim coach doesn't seem so crazy.

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