- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Oh, boy, this is serious. If the Redskins can't work themselves into a sufficient lather for "Monday Night Football" and the Cowboys, well, there may be no saving them or the season.

They've played three games and have been singularly underwhelming in all of them. They slipped by Carolina by a field goal, found a way to lose to a Detroit team that couldn't score a touchdown and last night stumbled and bumbled through a 27-21 loss to Dallas.

This is the same Dallas club, I'll point out, that dropped its first two games to the Eagles and Cardinals, neither of whom is considered one of the NFL's elite. It's the same Dallas club that is without its starting quarterback (Troy Aikman) and its major offseason acquisition (Joey Galloway) and doesn't really scare anybody anymore.

And yet there the Redskins were, in this so-called statement game, looking very uninspired for most of the evening. Whatever happened to the idea of Dan Snyder being the much-needed burr in this team's saddle? Has he suddenly lost his touch? Or could it be, with all his big signing bonuses, that he has turned the Redskins into a soulless congregation of been-there-done-that veterans who are only hanging around for the paycheck?

Let's not mince words. Brad Johnson is awful right now. He can't get the ball to his wide receivers, can't get the offense into any kind of rhythm and can't get the fans off his back. The boos were as frequent as the incompletions as the Dallas game wore on. And much deserved, from this vantage point. You can't keep dumping the ball off to Larry Centers and Stephen Davis forever. Eventually you have to find something downfield.

Does the loss of Michael Westbrook have something to do with this? Put it this way: It isn't helping the situation any. But the fact of the matter is the passing game was having its problems before Westbrook blew out his knee.

"We're going to look at everything," Norv Turner promised. "It's easy to say the quarterback isn't getting the job done. [But] I think when you're struggling on offense, it's 11 guys out there."

What was upsetting about last night was the running game seems to have gone south, too. In the second half against the Lions and the first half against the Cowboys, Stephen Davis carried the ball 16 times for a grand total of 41 yards. If the Redskins can't do better than that, this is going to be a looong season.

How could they have gotten themselves in such a bind so early? These first three games were supposed to be one of the easier parts of the schedule for them. It really gets tough now, with the 3-0 Giants next, followed by the 3-0 Bucs, the Eagles, the Ravens, the Jaguars and the Titans. No gimmes there.

And it's not just the offense, either. The defense in the person of Sam Shade gave up a 76-yard touchdown pass to a running back last night. And not just any running back, either. A 32-year-old running back, Chris Warren. Warren was so wide open he looked like he had sneaked on the field after the ball was snapped.

That was a huge blunder, erasing as it did the Redskins' 7-0 lead and giving underdog Dallas all kinds of hope. It had the same kind of effect as Michael Bates' kickoff-return TD in the opener. It was like the air went out of the stadium.

The Redskins proceeded to fall behind 14-7 and then 17-7 and only roused themselves when Randall Cunningham thoughtlessly tried to force a pass deep in his own territory and had the batted ball picked off by Shade. That led to a 23-yard scoring drive all Davis and got the FedEx crowd back into it. Still, you had to wonder: If they hadn't gotten some assistance, would the Redskins have been able to rally?

They just haven't shown a lot of life this season, which is puzzling. Is this what happens when you add some big-name players whose tickets to Canton are already punched? The Redskins are one of the most veteran clubs in the league at least, that's what the statistics say. Where on earth is the veteran leadership?

Instead we have Andy Heck committing an unforgivable personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter, when possessions are precious. Instead we have Deion Sanders dropping a punt also in the final quarter when a decent return could have given the offense a spark. Isn't that what the Redskins paid the man $8 million for? Or is he content to be a mere a hood ornament on the owner's limo?

Without Westbrook to worry about, the Cowboys were able to make Albert Connell virtually disappear. And if Dallas with its pedestrian defense can do it, who can't? If this wasn't the worst night of Dan Snyder's tenure as owner, I must be missing something. His $100 million investment is going up in smoke. The Redskins, who began the season as a Super Bowl contender, are now officially the Most Disappointing Team in the League.

"I never expected to be 1-2," said Johnson, slightly incredulous.

And it's still early. There's plenty of time for it to get worse.

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