- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

Deion was back. The house was packed. Joe Namath, to the relief of Suzy Kolber, was nowhere to be found. And the Redskins finally seemed to have a clue.

Yup, things were going swimmingly last night at FedEx Field until Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed launched into the air and swatted the ball away from Mark Brunell. Like that, the Washington Redskins resumed their downward spiral.

Joe Gibbs didn’t come back for this. Maybe the NFL can expunge the past five weeks and he can pull a Steve Spurrier — head to the nearest golf course and let his agent figure out the rest. The Monday Morning Quarterback, getting no such luck, is wincing in anticipation of Weeks 6 through 17.

Q: All right, 5-11’s starting to sound mighty good. Is there anyone in the NFL the Redskins can beat?

A: No doubt this club whips up on San Francisco on Dec. 18. That means at least two wins. And if they can get the Bucs back in here, that’ll make three. Then, provided they can switch out the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys for the Terps, Hoyas and Bowie State Bulldogs, Gibbs will have no problem surging past Spurrier.

Q: We thought Gibbs was worth four wins. We didn’t realize that meant “period.” Where does this train wreck go from here?

A: Gibbs tried to get out in front of any controversy last night, opening his post-game comments with talk of staying together. That’s key. Things could start to get ugly, and we mean this week. There have been few signs of infighting but that could change as frustration sets in.

Q: Washington led 10-0 in the third quarter. What the heck happened?

A: The Ravens defense and special teams woke up. Here’s the deal: Kyle Boller is bad like the Wizards. Bad like Ashton Kutcher. Bad like a mullet. It was only Boller’s struggles that put the Redskins in position to win in the first place. Washington’s offense, which generated just 107 yards last night, flat-out stinks.

Q: Is it time for a switch at quarterback?

A: With all due respect to Mark Brunell, this experiment seems to be at an end. He makes only a few good throws a game, and his weak arm permits defenses to stack in close and make it even tougher for Clinton Portis. Gibbs needs to move forward with his future and play Patrick Ramsey.

Q: Wouldn’t that be conceding the season?

A: Funny. What on earth shouldn’t be conceded? A run at the playoffs? The Redskins are 1-4, and staring 1-5 at the bye week in the face. Next weekend at Chicago it’s going to be the same stuff — Washington losing narrowly to a lousy club with a respectable defense. Gibbs needs to shake up the status quo.

Q: Maybe the Ravens just knew every play Washington was running. What was up with Clinton Portis’ claim at Cleveland?

A: What a bag of wind Portis is. His comments on Oct. 3 and refusal to clarify himself last week revealed the unknown the Redskins didn’t account for when they traded for Portis and signed him to a massive contract — how he would respond to adversity. Portis is just a kid at 23, and these are his first difficult times as a pro. He has to grow up in a hurry, because it’s going to be a long season.

Q: So you’ve given up on Portis and Brunell?

A: We’re not saying Portis and Brunell can’t play. Our issue is that neither seems to fit Gibbs’ offense. So why did the Redskins trade draft picks for them and sign them to huge contracts? The issue is the same as it always is under Dan Snyder — he breaks the bank on the wrong guys. Gibbs should have played a season with last year’s personnel, then gone on a spending spree. More money has been flushed.

Q: It was about time the Redskins defense set up a score, wasn’t it?

A: Fred Smoot’s interception in the second quarter permitted Washington to start a drive in the opposition’s territory for the first time since Week 2. But we can’t blame the defense for not creating enough turnovers. Maybe if it were Week 12 and there was a pattern of behavior. But a lot of times turnovers just happen — look at Washington’s offense at New York. Units looking too hard for strips or picks often get burned in much more fundamental ways.

Q: Was that a freight train that hit Laveranues Coles in the first quarter?

A: Coles was de-cleated by Ray Lewis because Brunell continues to hang receivers out to dry. Until Brunell lowers the altitude of his medium-to-deep passes, Redskins receivers are going to take a beating. Washington is lucky nobody’s been injured that way. It won’t be long, however, until the receivers start getting alligator arms.

Q: What was Gibbs smoking in the third quarter on that challenge?

A: The coach’s decision to hire Larry Hill as a rules consultant is going down as one of the most laughable personnel moves in team history. And don’t worry, Deion, we’re not forgetting you. That’s the third straight week Gibbs has burned a timeout on a bad challenge. He should have that flag sewed onto his hip.

Q: Jamal Lewis was a beast in the fourth quarter. But should he even have played?

A: Actually, we’d argue that he shouldn’t even be suspended. Players should get an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and not face excessive penalties for past sins. What if Lewis had helped arrange the drug deal as an 18-year-old? Or a 16-year-old? There needs to be a statute of limitations, especially when a player like Lewis is on warning from the NFL and ostensibly cleaning up his act.

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