- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

The hype is dead, if not the Washington Redskins.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder spent a record $100 million to produce a team that conventional wisdom said would contend for a Super Bowl victory this season. But the lofty expectations disappeared just three weeks into the National Football League season, replaced with the boos of fans and uncertainty regarding the future of the team's coach and starting quarterback.
The Redskins lost 27-21 to previously winless Dallas on Monday night at FedEx Field, leaving Washington 1-2, fans angry and the team facing a new set of pressing questions.
Will Jeff George replace struggling Brad Johnson at quarterback? Will coach Norv Turner be fired if the team doesn't quickly improve? Will this highly talented but unachieving team ever click? Will longtime ticket holders choose to eat the cost of their tickets rather than attend games, as they did en masse during 1998's disastrous 6-10 season?
Fans showed Monday they won't be patient. They booed the team in general and Johnson in particular throughout the game. Snyder got the same treatment when he was introduced on the field at halftime.
The venting relocated to the Internet minutes after the game was over and stretched into the wee hours of the morning.
"I am disgusted, dejected. I feel violated," said one fan on the Redskins chat board Warpath. "I spent $450 to drive four hours and scalp my way to watch this team, and what do I get in return? A pack of overpaid, incompetent, ill-coached, undisciplined, unmotivated, pathetic group of an excuse of a pro team."
They were just getting warmed up, and no Redskin was spared.
Not Snyder: "Big Boy Danny Snyder sure bought himself a great team. Wow! Looks like another Angelos in the making."
Not Turner: "The Redskins need to hire a new coach, and the sooner the better. Norv needs to pack up his bags and go back to Dallas. And Daniel needs to immediately hire Mike Ditka or Bill Parcells. Help us, Daniel! We need a coach that's a leader!"
Not the whole franchise: "I love the Redskins, but it's killing me to see them become such a pathetic laughingstock of a franchise, and no amount of money or Deion Sanders will ever change it. Mr. Snyder, you have taken a team that was losing with dignity and turned it into a team that is losing without any shame. It's time to admit failure and go back home."
The disappointment carried over to sports bars and offices yesterday.
"This one really hurt, just a bad, bad loss. Everyone's expectations were so high and now we're already at a point where everyone thinks that Norv should go, Brad should sit and [running back] Stephen Davis really needs to pick it up a notch," said Tony Fuller, general manager of the Champions Sports Bar in Georgetown. "This game was supposed to be a given, especially with all the Dallas starters out. We were just terrible."
Things could get worse, and quickly. The Redskins play the 3-0 New York Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday night before embarking on a brutal seven-game stretch that includes five of the league's best teams: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Baltimore and St. Louis.
Only two teams the 1993 Cowboys and 1981 San Francisco 49ers started the regular season 1-2 and went on to win the Super Bowl. No team has ever started 1-3 and done it.
"It's very disappointing. We're in a critical time," Turner said. "We've let a couple get away."
Turner confirmed yesterday that Johnson will start on Sunday. Johnson has delivered three straight subpar performances, increasing speculation that George will soon take over.
Meanwhile, Redskins players offered only a slightly more benign assessment of their own performance than did their fans.
"I'm pretty surprised at just the difference between the way we're playing right now, and the way we played last year," said running back Larry Centers. "It kind of leaves me scratching my head. I'm looking for answers. We've just got to continue to work."
The Redskins' slow start, however, also begs a couple of deeper questions. In a marathon regular season filled with marked ups and downs, is it still fair to expect so much so soon, even from such a seemingly loaded team? And if so, are the Redskins, through the constant presence of the demanding Snyder, his free-spending ways and the stockpiling of free agents, themselves ultimately responsible for creating the sky-high expectations?
"People painted this perfect picture like it was supposed to be so easy, like we were not going to have to play any games," defensive end Marco Coleman said. "This is the reality of the NFL."
That reality, however, has put at least a temporary dent in the Redskins merchandising machine. Retailers of Redskins merchandise, both in stores and on line, reported sharply slower sales yesterday. Ticket brokers also are beginning to lower prices for the six remaining Redskins home games.
"[Monday] we were mobbed; it was like the playoffs or Christmastime," said Jim Halsey, owner of The Stadium Store in Wheaton, one of the area's largest retailers of Redskins gear. "[Yesterday], it was a ghost town."

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