- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2000

The Washington Redskins are exhausted. They're cranky and confused. Mostly, they're mad at themselves.

Touted as Super Bowl favorites before training camp, the Redskins (7-7) are nearly eliminated from the playoffs despite a 6-2 start. Losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) on Saturday or a victory by Detroit on Sunday would eliminate Washington with one game remaining.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be following an offseason flurry of signings that left the Redskins with the NFL's first $100 million payroll. However, losing four of five games has the Redskins realizing they are unlikely to reach the playoffs after coming a muffed field goal snap away from the NFC Championship Game last year. Players talk about injuries and not coming together, but many admit they just didn't play as well as they should and didn't react well to setbacks.

"It's Mike Tyson's quote: 'Everybody has a game plan until they get hit.' We got hit, and we weren't able to recover. That's when you saw that we didn't have the chemistry, the wherewithal, to sustain a few hits," fullback Larry Centers said. "It's disappointing that we aren't able to stand up, to get up when we get knocked down."

The Redskins admit they're not counterpunchers. The string of injuries and narrow defeats derailed their momentum after they won five straight following a 1-2 start. The slide started when special teams and turnovers let Tennessee beat Washington 27-21 on Oct. 30. The NFL's oldest team looked ahead to the Nov. 12 bye and was upset 16-15 by Arizona on Nov. 5. Late field goal misses proved fatal in consecutive losses to Philadelphia 23-20 and the New York Giants 9-7 that cost coach Norv Turner his job on Dec. 4.

The Redskins then played their worst game of the year in the 32-13 loss to Dallas on Sunday. Players that pledged renewed passion under interim coach Terry Robiskie were powerless to stop a 27-point second-half run. The loss made players realize they're not as good as many thought.

"Our main problem is that during the week a lot of us talk about what we're going to do in the game and when the game gets here we don't go out and do it," running back Stephen Davis said. "The last three weeks we've seen opportunities slip away and a lot of guys including myself haven't been getting it done."

Said receiver Irving Fryar: "We just have not been focused the way I thought we would be focused. We have not struck back when it was time to strike back. At times, we let things go bad and didn't try to do anything to turn it around."

Several team leaders felt players believed the playoffs would come easily. They weren't serious about regular-season games and thought the important ones wouldn't come until January.

"Our biggest problem this season was looking to January before we got to the first week of the season," defensive end Marco Coleman said. "It was too much of us being too caught up in the media. Too many guys always had a comment on what they read or saw on television. I haven't gone into a season yet where the ultimate goal wasn't to go to the Super Bowl, but when you're expected to get there versus working to get there it's a totally different thing. When you miss tackles or come half-[speed], it's going to happen."

Davis rejected accusations in Sports Illustrated that he wasn't as intense after signing a $90 million deal in July.

"Money has nothing to do about anything," he said. "Why would I play with a cast the last two games if I didn't care?"

The change to quarterback Jeff George over Brad Johnson has been somewhat divisive. Some players balked over what they believed was owner Dan Snyder dictating policy. Johnson is a popular locker-room leader while George is a newcomer who didn't get a chance to play until Nov. 5 when Johnson suffered a sprained knee.

It was startling that offensive players didn't defend George when he was dragged several feet by Cowboys defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban. Usually, such abuse would start a brawl.

"Nobody saw it. I don't know if the play was still going. I really don't know," George said. "We've got a lot of good guys, and it was just a situation where nobody understood what was going on."

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