- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Football isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament, but these words just might apply to Joe Gibbs and Ralph Friedgen in this autumn of our discontent.

Or, putting it less esoterically, is it time for Coach Joe and the Fridge to go?

All good things have a shelf life, and it just might be that the labels have expired on the region’s two most prominent grid gurus.

Sometimes it’s necessary for younger and newer people to take over. Change for the sake of change doesn”t usually work, but neither does clinging to old faces and old ways simply out of habit.

For the Redskins and Terrapins, the immediate future appears uncertain and the distant future frightening. Obviously, neither team is headed for great or even very good things — not after last weekend”s twin disasters that saw respective losses to the Patriots by 45 points and the Clemson Tigers by a not-really-that-close 13.

The Redskins now are 4-3, and not even Sunday’s skirmish with the pathetic Jets seems likely to right their course. An NFC East title already looks out of reach and a playoff berth problematical at best.

Maryland’s prospects are even less promising. After two consecutive losses, the Terps are 4-4 and fading faster than Indian summer. They won”t beat No. 2 Boston College or Florida State, and they might not beat North Carolina or N.C. State on the road. So Friedgen, far removed from his days as a presumed genius, is looking at a possible 4-8 finish.

It’s gonna be a very chilly November for the Terps, but at least they’ll be through (literally as well as figuratively) in a month or so. For the Redskins, misery could last until early January.

The unhappy parallels between the teams are remarkable. Both coaches have seen their efforts go largely unrewarded lately after earlier achievements. Both are relying on quarterbacks with limited experience. Both have endured personnel losses far beyond the norm, especially along the offensive lines. Both have had staff problems.

And both are in their 60s — not exactly a time when fresh ideas and approaches leap readily to most minds.

Gibbs was greeted as a savior when he returned to the sideline in 2004, but the Redskins” record since then — 25-30 — is more like those of distant predecessors Otto Graham and Joe Kuharich than that of Gibbs the first time around (137-63 from 1981 to 1992).

Does anybody besides me remember what happened to Earl Weaver when he returned to manage the newly inept Orioles in 1985 and 1986? What’s past is past — and not necessarily prologue.

I’m not suggesting Coach Joe turned dumb between Gibbs I and Gibbs II from breathing too many NASCAR exhaust fumes. But given the nature of sports, the only thing that matters is now. In other words, what have you done for us lately? And Gibbs, for all his Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials, hasn’t done squat.

Maybe Dan Snyder owe apologies to Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier. Turns out they weren’t so bad after all.

Back in July, Joe Theismann said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Gibbs opt out of the final year of his contract if the Redskins had another frustrating season. I wouldn’t either, and the issue is sure to dominate conversation in December. Chances are the playoffs will be a moot issue by then.

In Friedgen’s case, the trauma of losing might be even more painful. After all, the Fridge’s arrival in 2001 yielded an astonishing 10-1 regular season, an ACC title and a trip to the Orange Bowl after years of mediocrity in College Park. And after three years, his record was 31-8 with three bowl appearances.

Since then, though, it has been mostly downhill, to the point where a losing record this season would be Maryland’s third in four years. Friedgen and his staff just don’t seem to be recruiting as successfully as did predecessor Ron Vanderlinden, who could lure talent to Terptown but then didn”t know what to do with it.

Another factor: Several talented assistants (Gary Blackney, Charlie Taaffe, Jamie Franklin) have departed in recent years, leaving huge holes. Now Friedgen is serving as his own offensive coordinator, which hurts on both levels. And there have been some doubts about defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, whose admittedly depleted unit has resembled ground chuck after several recent games.

Nobody is yet hanging effigies of Friedgen, a loyal and dedicated Maryland alum whose contract runs through the 2012 season. But with an expansion of Byrd Stadium in the works, 6-6 and 5-7 seasons aren’t going to put fannies in those 14,000 new seats. For athletic director Debbie Yow, this has to be a serious issue.

So changes could be coming sooner or later for both the Redskins and Terps. I won’t say good riddance, not just yet, but at least the idea is out there and hovering like a cosmic vulture over the football scene hereabouts.

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