- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

SAN DIEGO The season was under way 55 minutes before Washingtonians turned off their televisions. They must have thought the Redskins snuck in a fifth preseason game.

It sure looked like the preseason. A silent offense. A killer special teams mistake. Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the poor preseason was meaningless, but the lousy performances carried over into the regular season.

So much for wondering if Schottenheimer was holding back waiting for the "real games." Reality TV proved scarier than "Jeepers Creepers" yesterday in the 30-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Q: What's going on? It's bad enough to get creamed in preseason games, but a 1-15 team just steamrolled the Redskins. Is this season going to be a stinker?

A: The Chargers will win at least six games this season they're not like a high school team, anymore but that's no excuse. The Redskins are rebuilding, and it's going to be a long year. The offense has no zip. The defense isn't bad, but the offensive turnovers and nonproduction put the defense in bad positions.

Q: Is Schottenheimer on the hot seat? Has the "Death Watch" started already?

A: Oh, don't start that stuff. Boy, two years of Norv Turner standing on the edge has made Redskins fans quick to call for the coach's head. Let's just say Schottenheimer's contract is for more than opening day.

Q: How was Turner? Did he laugh in the postgame locker room like a man savoring his revenge?

A: Oh, Turner was smiling on the inside like a toothpaste commercial spokesman, but he didn't gloat. He looks happier than he did in recent years. Must be that California sunshine.

Q: Has the quarterback controversy begun? Why was Jeff George pulled for Tony Banks?

A: George didn't smart off on the sidelines like TV announcers suggested. Schottenheimer simply felt the offense would go nowhere the rest of the game with George and wanted a change.

Q: Change? Wasn't this the coach who said recently that he stayed with one quarterback? Who starts against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Banks or George?

A: George is expected to start, partly because Banks doesn't know the whole offense yet. George is a short-timer. Either he produces or Banks gets a chance. After this season, the Redskins are going quarterback shopping.

Q: How important is beating the Cards now? Is it a "must win" this early in the season?

A: If the Redskins lose to the Cardinals, the season is done. An 0-2 start against two of the softest teams on the schedule means everything falls apart fast. The Cards have an edge because they had a Week 1 bye though they give some of it back because running back Michael Pittman is suspended for convictions arising from a domestic dispute.

Q: Were the replacement refs a factor? Did they blow anything?

A: How about the clip on the punt return that resulted in a touchdown? Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete was clipped by Chargers linebacker Sam Rogers on the 84-yard score. It should have come back. The Redskins were lucky tight end Stephen Alexander wasn't called for a late hit on Chargers cornerback Ryan McNeil after an interception. It was a sloppy non-call type of game.

Q: What was the deal with linebacker LaVar Arrington hitting Chargers quarterback Doug Flutie on a dead ball?

A: Sometimes frustrations spill out. It wasn't a smart move, but give Arrington credit for intensity.

Q: How did receiver Rod Gardner and cornerback Fred Smoot do in their debuts?

A: They did as well as can be expected for rookie debuts. Gardner was fair, making five receptions. Smoot was smoked on a play early, but his second-quarter interception was impressive. Smoot was clearly beat on a long pass intended for Chargers receiver Jeff Graham, made up the distance in three steps and made the pickoff. That's something cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Darrell Green can do.

Q: Why isn't running back Stephen Davis dominating games like he did in past years? Has he lost a step?

A: No, he's lost a blocker. Guard Tre Johnson plowed the road and Davis was given a chance to at least reach the line. Now he's getting hit too early to rip off any long runs. The Redskins also can't use him when they fall far behind a real problem, considering that he's the best offensive player they have.

Q: What was the deal with Flutie tying up Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith on an end run?

A: Smith tried not to step on the 5-foot-10 passer when he was looking for the ball carrier. Call it professional courtesy. Still, Flutie took the risk, and Smith should have buried him.

Q: Here's the real question: How was Tijuana? Did you cross the Mexican border?

A: Walking through the streets of the border town, the Monday Morning Quarterback saw a leather shop with a beautiful Redskins jacket hanging in the doorway. "For you, my friend, $120," the clerk said. You couldn't have touched it for $500 in Washington.

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