- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Since it's the first Tuesday in November, I'm going to let you elect a column this morning. If you're bummed out about the Redskins' 16-15 loss to the Cardinals and want to wallow in your misery, read the first half of this column: Five Reasons To Be Pessimistic About The Redskins. If you look at the Debacle in the Desert as a mere bump in the road, the kind of thing every team goes through, skip over the first half and read the second half: Five Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Redskins.

(If you're a balanced individual, of course, by all means read both. But do so at your peril.)

Ready? OK, here we go.

Five Reasons To Be Pessimistic About The Redskins:

1. They've now lost to three teams that are mediocre-to-crummy the Cards, the Cowboys and the Lions (whose coach Bobby Ross, just quit in frustration). A club with Super Bowl aspirations has no business losing to such a motley crew.

2. Jeff George doesn't look any better than Brad Johnson. In fact, you could argue that George played worse in his Redskins debut than Johnson had been playing. So Dan Snyder can stop dreaming about His Boy Jeff giving the offense a lift. The offense, at this point, may not be lift-able because of all the parts that are missing.

3. Given their age, you wouldn't expect Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders or even Marco Coleman to play better in the second half of the season than they did in the first half. If anything, you would expect them to wear down a little. I just wonder how much any of them is going to have left for the playoffs especially if they have to play one crucial game after another down the stretch.

4. The special teams are still in disarray. There's nothing that demoralizes a team more than a long kick return by the opposition, and the Redskins have allowed one in each of the past two games. The special teams have been a problem since Week 1, and it's obvious they aren't going to get fixed between now and the end of the season. The only question is: When will they break down again?

5. Albert Connell simply hasn't stepped up. Except for flashes the second half against Philadelphia, the 211-yard day against defenseless Jacksonville Connell has done little to fill the Michael Westbrook void. In five of the eight games since Westbrook went down, Albert has had two or fewer receptions. You'd think a player who can become a free agent in February would be knocking himself out to catch balls.

Five Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Redskins:

1. After the St. Louis game (Nov. 20), the schedule really does get easier. The Redskins have already beaten the Giants and Eagles on the road, and now they get them at FedEx Field. The Cowboys and Cardinals, meanwhile, will merely be playing out the string when they meet the Redskins. The most troublesome remaining opponent is Pittsburgh, and the Steelers' offense is allergic to the end zone.

2. The last time the Redskins faced a crisis back in September they ran off five straight wins. This is a club with plenty of wise old heads. It's not going to panic just because it has blown two games in a row. Tampa Bay started 3-4 last year, got blasted 45-0 by Oakland in mid-December and still went to the NFC title game. The Redskins are in a lot better shape than the Bucs were.

3. The defense, even in defeat, has been pretty darn good.

The Redskins just have to stop giving teams points through kick returns and turnovers. If they can do that and get back to winning games 16-6 and 10-3 they can make the playoffs and possibly do some damage. (The Redskins have allowed less than 200 yards in three of their last four games. I'm not sure they had a stretch like that when Richie Petitbon was here.)

4. Stephen Davis continues to grind out the yards. What a workhorse this guy is. He carried 30 more times at Arizona and is good for 100 yards or thereabouts every week. John Riggins in his prime didn't give the Redskins that kind of production. (Check out the stats if you don't believe me.) As long as the Redskins can run the ball and play defense they can beat anybody. (Being able to run the ball is particularly helpful when the weather turns cold and it gets harder to pass.)

5. They're the Best Team Money Can Buy. Dan Snyder can't possibly have spent all those millions for naught. Can he?

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