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Former players vent about Redskins ‘mess’
“For the first time in five years, I have agreed to sit down and talk on the air about the Redskins,” Mr. Herzog said. “I find the play of this team insulting to the tradition I was privileged to be part of. … The Washington Redskins football team is in the worst shape we’ve seen in the modern era of pro football.”
Things are so bad, the Redskins have managed to cloud Joe Theismann’s usually sunny view of life. After the loss two Sundays ago to Kansas City, then 0-5, the loquacious ex-quarterback said on his weekly ESPN 980 radio show, “We’ve seen a lot of inadequate football out of the Washington Redskins. I do believe it reached a new low. Let’s put it this way: You hope [it] was the low point for this football team. … I mean, it was painful to really, really watch what I saw out of the Washington Redskins’ offense. And a change has been made.”
That change was taking away Mr. Zorn’s play-calling responsibilities and handing them to 67-year-old Sherm Lewis, who was hired as a “consultant” less than a month ago and had not coached since 2004.
What about it, Joe?
“That is absolutely the worst thing this organization can do,” Mr. Theismann said on the air before the Redskins lost again, this time to Philadelphia on Monday.
Off the air, Mr. Theismann said he is “not ripping” his old team. He said he chooses a more even-handed approach than those who “go after everybody and everything that is Redskins,” naming Mr. Arrington and Mr. Riggins in particular.
But Mr. Mitchell has been just as unsparing. He took Mr. Zorn apart on Comcast a few weeks ago with perhaps the most damning condemnation of all. “I see this man as being a little less than what Norv Turner was,” he said, referring to the ex-Redskins coach whose 50-60-1 record and dishrag persona frustrated fans for the better part of seven seasons.
On a subsequent program, Mr. Mitchell expanded his horizons. “You can do whatever you want with Jim Zorn,” he said, again on Comcast. “More fans think Vinny Cerrato is the problem more than anything else.”
Mr. Mitchell, by the way, was fired in June from his job at ESPN 980, which Snyder owns. He claims it was because he was too critical; the station said it was for economic reasons.
Mr. Arrington and Mr. Riggins use Twitter, too, to air their discontent, 140 characters at a time. Mr. Arrington last month composed a long, rambling rant against his old team, with whom he had a messy falling out over contract issues. He has Tweeted that Mr. Snyder tried to “destroy my name and reputation.” Yet he also professes to “love the Redskins.”
Mr. Riggins, whose candor, quirkiness and rebellious streak as a player drove coaches and anyone else in authority crazy, does not love the Redskins. He’s had a long and varied career in local media going back 25 years to his playing days, even when he lived in New York. (He moved to the Washington area 18 months ago). To him, this is strictly business.
“This is what I do,” Mr. Riggins said. “It’s what I chose to do after football. I still want to stay current. I’m like any entertainer. I want to stay on top of my craft.
“I’m a former employee,” he said. “I picked up my paycheck, I left. That was the company I used to work for. I have a certain level of expertise even though I wasn’t a student of the game. My expertise isn’t really football. It’s people. … I’m giving you the truth the way I see it. It’s repaying [the fans] who paid my way, who supported me by paying for those tickets.”
Mr. Mitchell left the Redskins for Philadelphia as a free agent in 2000, an unpleasant departure for all concerned, including the fans. But before Monday night’s game at FedEx Field, the Redskins inducted the NFL’s all-time kickoff and punt return leader into the team’s Ring of Fame, and he gave a gracious acceptance speech. “I don’t have any vendettas,” Mr. Mitchell said afterward.
“People write me off as bitter,” he said last week. “I was this, I was that. No. I’ve been vocal for the last six years, and now I’m finding out a lot of people are starting to come along right now.”
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