- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

As they showed Sunday in Dallas, the Redskins are in need of a lot more than a Terry Robiskie pep talk. Their offense and special teams are still broken, and no amount of in-house shuffling is going to change that. Robiskie proved even less successful calling plays than Norv Turner had been 116 yards in the first three quarters against the Cowboys? and the punt coverage unit gave up two of its three longest returns of the season under Pat Flaherty, LeCharls McDaniel's replacement.

The result was a 32-13 loss that was sickeningly similar to other Washington defeats this season only worse. After all, the Redskins also had 11 penalties for 121 yards, the latter a season high (by 39 yards). They got ticketed for an illegal block on the opening kickoff, putting Jeff George and Co. in an immediate hole at the 6-yard line, and it pretty much went downhill from there.

Maybe Redskins fans and Redskins ownership will appreciate Turner a little more now. He wasn't the best coach in the NFL, but he was hardly the worst, and the way he worked around the offense's many injuries this year until the line gave out, that is was, to me, one of his finest hours. I may have disagreed with his decision to start Brad Johnson against the Giants, but I never second-guessed his game-planning, like so many did. He kept the offense together with Scotch tape and bubble gum, despite losing starter after starter after starter. There aren't many coaches who could have done more.

The Dallas game made that plain. With Robiskie wearing the headset, the Redskins converted, what, one third down in the first 54 minutes? No wonder their defense quit on them in the second half. I mean, why knock yourself out?

By the way, did you notice the makeup of the offensive line after Keith Sims tore his Achilles' and Jay Leeuwenburg was banished for fighting? Right guard: Tony Hutson, claimed off waivers in October. Center: Mark Fischer, a virtual rookie who was inactive for all but one game last season. Left guard: Andy Heck, ordinarily a tackle. Seriously, how much production can you expect to get out of a group like that? That's an expansion team offensive line and the Redskins are trying to ride it to the playoffs. Lotsa luck.

Speaking of which, the Redskins didn't enjoy any more good fortune with Robiskie at the helm than they did with Turner. Having to scratch Dana Stubblefield at the last minute because of the flu was a cruel blow, especially since Dallas lost Troy Aikman early in the game and stuck almost exclusively to its ground game thereafter. Would Emmitt Smith have run a little less wild if Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen had been blocking Stubblefield instead of his backup, converted-end Nolan Harrison? You'd like to think so.

But such problems injuries, bad breaks, "high-schoolish" displays like Stephen Davis drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and aborting a promising drive are Robiskie's problems now. God help him. Norv had seven years to build up an immunity to them; Terry has only had seven days.

It doesn't look like he'll have many more. Not after the dinosaur egg the Redskins laid Sunday. Sorry, but an interim coach has to do better than that if he wants to have the "interim" removed from his title; I don't care what the circumstances are. Three games isn't exactly the fairest of tryouts, but it's not like Robiskie is going up against the Rams, Eagles and Giants (Turner's last three opponents). He's going up against the Cowboys, Steelers and Cardinals very beatable teams.

I wouldn't want to be Dan Snyder right now. He sunk a fortune into this club and no doubt figured it was set for a couple of years at least. More and more, though, it's looking like the Redskins are going to have a lot of new faces next year, not just because the offense needs to be rebuilt but because the new coach (whoever he may be) will want to bring in His Own People. This is how it always works in football; you hire a new coach, he cleans house. Joe Gibbs did it, Norv Turner did it, the next guy will do it.

There's only one complication: The Redskins can't really afford to clean house, not given their salary cap situation. After spending so heavily this season, they can't turn around and spend heavily again next season. So whoever takes the coaching job is going to have to be willing to work with the talent on hand and it may not be talent that ideally fits his system. Will this make the job less desirable? You're darn right it will.

But we'll talk about that another day. The Redskins have more immediate concerns: Such as beating the Steelers and delaying, as long as possible, the onset of a long, cold winter.

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