- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

Painful though it may be, let's evaluate no holds barred where the Redskins are right now as they prepare to close out the season against Arizona:

• They don't know who their coach is going to be next year.

• The guy who's expected to be their quarterback next season, Jeff George, is 1-4 as a starter for them.

• Their $91 million running back, Stephen Davis, has been hobbled in December the last two years.

• Their top receiver, Michael Westbrook, is recovering from major knee surgery.

• So is one of the mainstays of their offensive line, Tre Johnson.

• Their No. 2 receiver, Albert Connell, needs to be replaced.

• Their No. 3 receiver, Irving Fryar, might need to be replaced, too, if he decides to call it a career.

Shall I go on?

• Their special teams, from the kicker on down, are in shambles.

• The maestro of their fine defense, Ray Rhodes, might not return next year (depending on the desires of the incoming coach).

• Darrell Green, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Mark Carrier will all be a year older next season. (And Carrier will be the youngest at 33.)

• Their owner, Dan Snyder, doesn't seem to know how to do anything except spend money.

And that's just the big stuff. My point is simply this: Don't be suckered into thinking that the Redskins have merely gotten a flat tire, that once they get some injured people back they'll be fine. The Redskins have serious engine problems, the kind that might take years to fix.

Terry Robiskie is a lot more optimistic about this club than I am. "I believe the nucleus of this football team is pretty good," he said yesterday. "If I was in Houston starting a ballclub [as Charley Casserly is], I wouldn't mind having the nucleus of this football team. The nucleus is good enough to go to the playoffs."

Good enough to go the playoffs. That's a far cry from Super Bowl contender, isn't it? And that's what this club was assembled to do contend for the big prize. Frankly, this season was probably the Redskins' best chance to do that, given the age of some of the players, the presence of two starting-quality quarterbacks and various other factors. It's only going to be harder from here on out.

Especially since Snyder has already shelled out $100 million for this underachieving outfit. He can't just shell out another $100 million next year; the salary cap prohibits it. He's going to have to improve the Redskins with cost-effective free agents and intelligent drafting. And who in the organization can help him in those areas? Vinny Cerrato? Pepper Rodgers?

I'm not real impressed with Cerrato's player personnel abilities. To me, he's as responsible for the special teams debacle as LeCharls McDaniel or Pat Flaherty. Why? Because he hasn't picked up many useful minimum-wage types to do the grunt work. Here are his two big acquisitions the past two seasons: Tito Paul (who cost the club two No. 7s and contributed next to nothing) and Kenny Shedd (who wasn't even activated after he was signed this year). When your special teams have been killing you for three seasons, you need to do more to shore them up than that.

That's one of the Redskins' major failings under Snyder: Not enough attention to detail, to the little things. They're great at making splashy signings like Sanders, Smith and George. But they aren't so great at finding kickers or addressing special teams concerns. Did Dan think this club was so good that it could have any ol' body kick the ball and any 11 schmoes on the coverage units? The '95 Cowboys might have been that good, but the '00 Redskins certainly aren't that good.

There's a lot Snyder hasn't learned about this business. He obviously doesn't understand, for instance, the near-futility of replacing the coach 13 games into the season. As Robiskie said, "Taking [a team] over in the middle of the season is hard enough to do. Taking it over with three games left in the season is three times as hard to do."

And Terry has proven it by getting wiped out two weeks in a row by Dallas (32-13) and Pittsburgh (24-3). But, no, Snyder had to do something, had to show he was in charge. A 7-6 record simply couldn't be tolerated. So now he has a 7-8 record. Like they say, sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

Maybe now people will stop talking about how smart Snyder is. He may have made a fortune in marketing, but he clearly doesn't know diddley about football. And NFL history, we tend to forget, is littered with the bodies of owners who were highly successful in other enterprises but couldn't put a consistent winning product on the field or even an inconsistent winning product.

It's a tough racket, as Snyder is discovering. And now he has to find a coach willing to co-exist with him and capable of getting the Redskins back in the playoffs. Now there's a challenge.

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