CARLISLE, Pa. — Few fans can recognize the names of half the players on the Washington Redskins roster this year. There are far more questions going into this season than there were for last year’s highly touted team that finished a disappointing 8-8. There is no good reason to be high on the immediate future of this squad.
Yet the Redskins fans who showed up at Dickinson College yesterday were high on their team’s chances of not only playing well this year, but having a championship season.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Justin Boudville of
“This team can win,” said Ervin Goodall of the District.
Or put another way the UnNorv.
“Marty has a disciplined approach,” said Boudville, wearing a Bruce Smith Redskins jersey. “You can tell by what you see here that this is a very serious, professional camp. I’m very excited.”
You would have thought that Norv Turner held training camp on the floor of a Las Vegas casino the way people were talking about the Redskins in his tenure.
But it was clear to the most uneducated eye yesterday that the Redskins’ return to Carlisle particularly after last year’s pay-per-view debacle at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. would result in a more productive training camp not necessarily a better team, but a better camp.
“I went to training camp seven times last year, and it was a circus,” said Goodall, wearing a Dexter Manley jersey.
And it was also clear that the hopes and dreams of Redskins fans this year after what was probably the most disappointing season in team history last season ride on the resume and reputation of their new coach, Marty Schottenheimer, who comes to the Redskins with a winning record 145-85-1 in 15 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs but a 5-11 playoff record.
After the 49-59-1 Turner tenure of seven years, fans seem to be willing to set aside Schottenheimer’s playoff record and instead focus on his record of turning two losing teams the Browns and the Chiefs into sound, fundamental, winning operations.
“They’ve got a coach now who will teach the players how to play to win instead of playing not to lose,” Goodall said. “You can see it on the field.”
Schottenheimer said if the fans are putting their money on him, so be it. “I’m comfortable with whatever our fans may feel in that respect,” he said. “But our expectations are high as well. I’ve always been amused by those who are reluctant to say we want to win the championship, that’s our goal, that’s our objective. In this business, in my view, why put yourself in a situation where your goal is maybe something well beneath what you might otherwise achieve. The real world is we’re all in this thing for one reason, to win the championship and put on a Super Bowl ring. We’re not uncomfortable talking about it.”
That’s what I’m talking about. Not a quiver in the entire answer. Words of steel.
The first day of Camp Marty would have to be considered a success. They put in a lot of work and did a lot of hitting including a well-worn macho exercise called the “Oklahoma Drill” (sometimes called Bull in the Ring), in which a defensive player lines up against a blocker and tries to get past the blocker to tackle a running back while the players surround them in a ring. Schottenheimer liked this one so much he invited the fans down from the stands in the morning practice to get a closer look.
“This is what we’re about, football, with pads, live, full speed,” Schottenheimer said after practice.
It was, as Willie and Waylon would say, getting back to the basics, this time in Carlisle the training camp home for the Redskins from 1963 until 1994, when they moved to Frostburg, Md., for five years.
And the tune was orchestrated by Schottenheimer, making his presence felt all over the field, teaching, supporting and cajoling, as were his assistant coaches. There seemed to be a significant amount of teaching going on yesterday a Schottenheimer training camp trait from his previous teams. “In our opinion, whatever success we’ve experienced has been because our players understand the importance of techniques and fundamentals, and this business is about just that,” he said. “It makes all the difference in the world. Our players in the past, and this football team has accepted that premise, that if I do it right, from a fundamental and technical standpoint, I will win more than my share of the battles.”
He did this, mind you, wearing his Panama Jack summer hat. It takes a real man to wear a hat like that on a football field.
There were Schottenheimers everywhere. Besides Marty, there was Brian Schottenheimer, the quarterbacks coach; and Kurt Schottenheimer, the defensive coordinator. That’s three Schottenheimer coaches to three Snyder owners Danny; his father, Gerry; and his sister, Michele.
It’s a delicate balance of power, but I swear I saw a cop directing traffic on High Street yesterday with the name Schottenheimer on his badge.
He was a very good traffic cop.