- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

It wasn't so much that the Redskins lost their first preseason game. Without their first-string quarterback and their two defensive ends, they probably would have had trouble beating Seneca Valley Sunday night. No, it was their lack of energy (read: enthusiasm) that was most alarming. If you can't get excited about your first game under a new coach, then what exactly will light your fire?

Far from bouncing off the stadium walls, the Redskins looked like they were enduring the drudgery of yet another afternoon workout at Carlisle. They just didn't seem to want to be there. The offensive line didn't knock anybody off the ball. The defense got pushed around. The special teams had another cave-in. No one really made a play all night long.

Over on the other sideline, the Kansas City Chiefs were acting like you're supposed to act when you've got a new boss in this case Dick Vermeil. They jumped on the Redskins early and never gave them a chance to get back in the game. The final score 20-0 only hints at how dominant the Chiefs were. Frankly, it could have been worse.

So what are we to make of the opening game of the Marty Schottenheimer era? One of the beauties of the preseason, of course, is that you can read anything you like into it. You can say it sets the tone for the rest of the year. You can say it doesn't mean diddly. There are all sorts of ways to look at it.

Such as: This is the worst preseason debut for a new Redskins coach since Otto Graham got smoked 35-0 by the Baltimore Colts in 1966. (Heck, even Richie "One-Season" Petitbon managed a 41-12 victory over Cleveland in '93.)

Such as: Wasn't Norv Turner fired and the blood-and-guts Schottenheimer hired because the Redskins were seen as unmotivated? Well, where was the Gen. Patton speech Sunday? Or is Marty just saving it for the real games?

Such as: None of Schottenheimer's roster gambles appears to be working out. Neither of the two young quarterbacks Todd Husak and Sage Rosenfels seems nearly ready to be Jeff George's backup. Former Chief Donnell Bennett, who took Larry Centers' salary slot, got stopped on his first third-and-1 as a Redskin. And David Terrell, the replacement for the pricier Mark Carrier at free safety, couldn't tackle a water bucket in Kansas City. (Carrier might be past his prime, but at least he hit people. Terrell looks like he'd rather take oncoming ball carriers to arbitration.)

Such as: Granted, a lot of the damage was done by the Chiefs' second-teamers against the Redskins' seconds-teamers, but that shouldn't make anyone feel a whole lot better. Why? Because it means the Redskins' depth stripped by all the roster paring Schottenheimer has been forced to do isn't very good. This is the talent pool they're going to be dipping into whenever somebody gets hurt. Yikes.

Such as: In addition to his motivational skills, wasn't Schottenheimer brought in because of his reputation as a teacher? Then how are we to interpret the following statement, which he made yesterday: "The biggest disappointment was that we had some top players we were counting on that didn't seem to know what to do"? Isn't that the coaching staff's job, to prepare the players for any eventuality? Besides, it's not like opponents throw the entire playbook at you in the preseason. Game plans tend to be very vanilla. And yet some Redskins were still stumbling around like Elmer Fudd out there.

OK, it wasn't all gloom and doom. Second-round pick Fred Smoot showed some tools and, just as important, some fire. He's going to be fun to watch. And the two kid receivers, first-rounder Rod Gardner and fifth-rounder Darnerien McCants, looked like they belonged. But beyond that … whew. And the Chiefs aren't exactly a Super Bowl team; they went 7-9 last year and got their coach cashiered.

Already, Schottenheimer is talking about signing a veteran quarterback. (John Friesz? Stoney Case?) He says it's because Husak strained a muscle near his ribcage while warming up Sunday night, but it isn't hard to read between the lines. The team needs more security at that position than Husak or Rosenfels can provide. It also needs to be able to evaluate its various receivers, and you can't do that when the quarterbacks are having trouble getting them the ball.

The new coach took the night's developments very calmly at least outwardly. "Nobody knows how you're going to play until you play your first game," he said. "I don't know that we were flat, but we certainly weren't as efficient as we could be or should be." On the inside, though, his stomach must have been doing up-downs. If the Chiefs game told him anything, it would seem, it's that there will be no quick turnaround for the Redskins. Not even with Marty Schottenheimer and his .609 winning percentage running the show.

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