- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2009

They are former Washington Redskins with access to microphones, cameras and keyboards, strong in numbers and opinions. Call them the Redskins Alumni and Nonstop Talkers (RANT). And like the fans of the team for which they played, they are not very happy these days.

“When I see people giving away an opportunity, it ticks me off,” former running back and special teams ace Brian Mitchell said, although he didn’t say “giving” and “ticks.”

It would be hard to find another NFL club with so many of its former stars expressing themselves from such close range. “A lot of the players love the area and want to stay involved,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Such involvement entails offering commentary and criticism that spans the analytical to the emotional, the personal to the general — volleys of words fired at owner Dan Snyder, vice-president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, coach Jim Zorn, the players and the organization as a whole.

Only the Redskins Marching Band seems to have been spared, although you never know.

Former Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, perhaps the most unrelenting of the critics, on his daily radio show on WJFK 106.7-FM “The Fan” compared the Redskins to a house “occupied by someone before them, but they’re leaving their soiled linens behind.” As if that image wasn’t vivid enough, Mr. Arrington added: “They’re using the same soap. Not liquid soap, the same bar of soap.”

Now that he no longer hits people for a living, Mr. Arrington attacks with metaphors. During the same broadcast, he said, “I liken this team to, they’re digging for oil, with gardening shovels. I think they’re trying to find gold, trying to find oil with hand shovels.”

Regardless of what natural resource they might be digging for, the reactions of the current players seem to fall into two categories — wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El’s grudging acceptance (“They played the game”) and offensive tackle Mike Williams’ indifference (“I don’t pay any attention to it”).

A lot of folks lately have been paying attention to John Riggins, the Hall of Fame running back, and his series of YouTube videos criticizing the Redskins. By far the most popular one has Mr. Riggins seated on a woodpile and delivering a personal message to Mr. Cerrato, who is most responsible for assembling the current roster.

“Vinny, this is a mess,” Mr. Riggins intones in his typically laconic style. “You’ve got no offensive linemen. That’s your problem. You’ve got wide receivers that don’t appear to be able to play. Your head coach has basically been castrated by the guy you work for. Oh, yeah. There’s a major mess here. … Clearly, this is basically a problem created by everything you’ve done.”

Mr. Riggins in the video does not single out Mr. Snyder, a favorite target, by name (he saves that for another). But he does zero in on Mr. Zorn, who according to Mr. Cerrato will remain the coach for the rest of the season. “Jim, you are not a head football coach in the NFL,” Mr. Riggins says. “High school? Definitely. You can coach my son in high school, anytime. Ankle biters, for sure.”

Click here to view the John Riggins video

As of Wednesday, the video had nearly 155,000 views. A video of Mr. Riggins’ famous touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII from the 1980s glory days had about 38,000.

Biting the Redskins, and not on the ankles, has become a sport unto itself. Not that the team hasn’t deserved it; their 2-5 record is even worse than it looks. Washington lost to three previously winless teams and looked bad in close victories over two others. Perhaps never before has an NFL team done so little against such meager competition.

Even former play-by-play men can’t hold back. Frank Herzog, fired in 2004 amid much fan protest after calling nearly 500 consecutive games, joined Mr. Riggins for a special, hourlong program on WTOP radio last week to discuss the Redskins’ troubles. It was a notable departure from the station’s all-news format.

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