- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

For a moment, the unthinkable was happening. The Washington Redskins, who cling to deficits like the federal government, actually rallied against the Green Bay Packers. A hot read to Clinton Portis hit paydirt. A victory, perhaps of the season-turning variety, suddenly was within reach.

Celebration ensued. Then, slowly, it waned. One by one, pairs of eyeballs scanned back toward midfield and the yellow hanky lying there. The winning touchdown wasn’t a touchdown at all, just another bad break in a Redskins season that appears increasingly destined for a double-digit loss total.

At least John Kerry’s happy, assuming seven decades of Election Day harbingers hold true. And the folks at Kerry’s beloved Lambert Field can positively rejoice. But not the Monday Morning Quarterback, who’s gripping his stomach after ingesting too much Halloween candy last night — or Redskins football this season.

Q: Say it: We wuz robbed. Were the officials Kerry backers? Cheeseheads? Relatives of Lombardi? How come they stole a win from the Redskins?

A: Washington should be crying over the state of its offense, not calls by the officials. Sure the flag on James Thrash, which erased Clinton Portis’ potential 43-yard game-winner, didn’t make sense. Heck, a clarification from the NFL last night amounted to, “Yes, it was Thrash. Stop asking so many questions.” But the issue deserves a larger context: If the offense played with remote competence for the game’s first 57 minutes, a bad call in the final three wouldn’t be so crucial.

Q: The NFL’s lame explanation notwithstanding, what did Thrash do wrong?

A: The best that can be figured is, Thrash needed to be set for a split-second more after going into motion. Really, Brunell should have waited another moment before having the ball snapped. It’s the kind of call that’s made sometimes and let go others. The Redskins can be frustrated, but they weren’t cheated.

Q: A bye week of work and still just 14 points. Didn’t Joe Gibbs get anything figured out during the time off?

A: It took the fans at FedEx Field less than a quarter to deduce what Gibbs hasn’t in more than two months: Mark Brunell ain’t the man. The boo birds were a-twitter for the veteran quarterback and the lazy, errant spirals coming from his left arm. Brunell is leading an offense that needs a map, compass, seeing-eye dog and Hertz NeverLost to find the end zone. The bye week should have been spent retooling the attack for Ramsey.

Q: Is there any chance of a switch?

A: Here’s betting Gibbs saw just enough of Brunell — several accurate intermediate-length throws — to continue feeling good about his choice. But that’s tough to buy. The offense has no big-play threat, and one can start to detect a hint of, “What the heck else are we supposed to do?” from defensive players, who yesterday contributed four turnovers. Gibbs could have a mutiny on his hands in another couple of weeks.

Q: How did the defense hold up in its first big test?

A: The halftime adjustments and the unit’s ability to rebound from a poor start were impressive. After coming out with emotion, the defense palpably deflated after linebacker Lemar Marshall’s pass interference in the end zone, which converted a fourth down and set up Green Bay’s first touchdown. That Gregg Williams could rally the players speaks volumes about his leadership and ability to adjust on the fly.

Q: Was rookie Sean Taylor missed?

A: Even though Taylor is by no means polished as an NFL free safety, he definitely could have had an interception or two against Favre. The Packers star wasn’t throwing the ball well in the second half — most of which Taylor’s replacement, Andre Lott, spent sidelined — and Taylor’s splendid range would have put him in position for big plays. Alas, while some less-heralded teammates were studying film at Redskin Park Wednesday night, Taylor was catching a buzz and playing Speed Racer on the Beltway.

Q: What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why didn’t Gibbs wait for the legal process to run its course?

A: Give this to the coach: He talks a big game when it comes to character, and he backed it up by benching Taylor immediately after the DUI arrest. A lot of coaches (think Norv Turner, in particular) are all too willing to leave punishment in the hands of the NFL and play good-cop with star players. Taylor is an undisciplined rookie with a growing list of poor decisions. He has limitless potential but needs to lose the attitude.

Q: Now if Gibbs could just learn how to call a timeout. Wasn’t that another game-management error in the final minute of the first half?

A: The seconds were draining away as Washington tried inexplicably to line up for a play. Halfway through, the Redskins called timeout with just seven seconds left — too few for more than one snap. Perhaps Gibbs is spending too much time micromanaging the offense. He needs to step back and see the big picture. A field goal would have changed the game’s complexion in the second half.

Q: Does this season have any hope?

A: The team still could float back toward .500, but its real concern should be with 2005. There’s no way Washington makes a playoff run scoring 14 points on a day with four turnovers. Until a dynamic element is injected into Gibbs’ scheme, the Redskins will be among the league’s bottom-feeders.

Q: Well, we’ll always have politics. Will the Redskins-election connection hold?

A: Don’t go fishing here for any political lean- … ah, what the heck. After all, this is The Washington Times, right? For the first time since the 1930s, a Redskins home loss will precede an incumbent victory. It’ll just take two months and eight recounts to make sure.

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