- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

SAN DIEGO Let's hear Marty Schottenheimer explain this one. He's been great so far at explaining the insignificance of lopsided preseason losses, perhaps because he's had so much practice. His comments about yesterday's 30-3 stillbirth against the Chargers should tell us a lot about the man in particular, whether he's in total denial about how wretched the Redskins truly are right now.

Question: Sooo, Marty, about that 84-punt return your team gave up in the first four minutes… . Weren't special teams supposed to be Your Own Personal Project?

Answer: "The worst thing you can do in this league is go into an arena, on the road, and let happen what we let happen. It was uphill after that."

Grade: B+. (I would have preferred a little more self-flagellation, but he's right. It is the worst thing you can do especially when your offense would have trouble punching it in against Centreville High School (to paraphrase Terry Robiskie's famous line).

Question: And those three fumbled snaps… . Didn't you promise us you were going to put a stop to that sort of stuff?

Answer: "We had a situation … two in the first half and one with Tony [Banks in the second]. On the last one our center's hand was wet. It slipped out of his hand [and skittered through the quarterback's legs]."

Grade: F. We had a situation? You had three incomplete passes from your center to your QB. You recovered two of the fumbles, but still … It doesn't get any more fundamental than that. If you can't hike the ball, you're not going to be very successful. And it wasn't like you were playing in a monsoon or something. The conditions were

drier than Bill Arnsparger.

Question: At this point, are you beginning to wish you were still retired?

OK, strike that. But if I were Marty Schottenheimer, I think I might be wondering why I'd taken this job. (And if I were Darrell Green, I'd probably be wondering why I came back for a 19th season.)

It was a dark day, indeed, for the Redskins. How dark? On one out of every six offensive plays, they either fumbled or threw an interception. Also, their starting quarterback, the one Schottenheimer claimed to be so committed to, didn't even last three quarters. The coach yanked him in favor of Tony Banks.

"It wasn't all [Jeff George's] fault," Schottenheimer said. But you'll note he didn't bench Michael Westbrook (an inconsequential four receptions for 28 yards) or Stephen Davis (three fumbles). He benched George.

Wes Craven couldn't have dreamed up a more horrific start to the season. Especially since deposed Redskins coach Norv Turner, now San Diego's offensive coordinator, played a part in it. The Chargers didn't move the ball up and down the field yesterday, but they managed to put 23 points on the board and it's not like Norv has any more talent to work with than Jimmy Raye does.

Still, he figured out a way to get rookie LaDainian Tomlinson 113 yards rushing (despite a suspect line). The Redskins, meanwhile, could only figure out a way to get Davis 35 (behind an equally suspect line).

And yet Schottenheimer began his post-game comments by talking not about the offense's travails or the punt coverage unit's follies but get this the "poor" field position his team had. "The starting field position I'm anxious to see what it was," he said. "Because it's probably the worst [disparity] I've ever witnessed."

For the record, the Chargers' average field position was one yard better than the Redskins'. And this is the first thing he brings up about the game? I'm starting to wonder about the guy, I really am. He seemed remarkably unconcerned about the Redskins' stumbling and bumbling in the preseason, and now he's jabbering about field position after losing by 27 points to a club that was 1-15 last year.

"One thing we've learned about Marty [is] he's not an up and down guy," Shawn Barber said in his defense. "When things are going good, he's not sticking out his chest, and when things are going bad, he isn't walking around with his head down."

This is just a small point, Shawn, but: When exactly have things gone good for the Redskins since Schottenheimer took over?

In another part of the locker room, Bruce Smith was carrying on about the replacement officials and how they were letting the Chargers get away with cheap shots and illegal blocks. "The integrity of this game is in jeopardy," he said.

Oh, great, we've got the coach talking about field position and the Hall of Fame defensive end going on about the substitute zebras. Look at the scoreboard, fellas: San Diego 30, Washington 3. San Diego 19 first downs, Washington 8. Eight.

It's only a matter of time before somebody whips out this bromide: "Sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better."

Anybody got an aspirin?


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