- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Near the end of his post-mortem Sunday, Marty Schottenheimer made an interesting comment. "This is not the way we want to perform," he said after the Redskins' wipeout at San Diego. "And we're not going to leave any stone unturned in our pursuit of [playing better]."
Unless I miss my guess, what this means is that the next 16 weeks are going to be like an extended training camp. Vanloads of unattached players are going to be brought in for workouts in an attempt to upgrade the roster. Guys are going to be shuffled in and out of the starting lineup to see if that helps. A recognizable name or two might get cut, just to keep the troops on their toes. If the Redskins thought August was hell, wait until they see September, October, November and December.
This is how a new coach buys time in the NFL. He keeps the revolving door at the training complex spinning, distracts fans with all the comings and goings, the demotions and promotions. The idea is to create a sense of: "We're not just going to sit here and take this. We're going to try to improve this team any way we can, right down to the guy who holds for kicks. We may not be much to look at now, but stick with us. We're building something."
The problem is, Schottenheimer was supposed to have inherited a pretty good club. Two years ago, it went 10-6 and came within two points of reaching the NFC title game. Last year it went 8-8, but it would have made the playoffs if it had had any kind of kicking. How did we get from there to here San Diego 30, Washington 3 in such a short period of time? How did the Redskins go from Super Bowl contenders to league laughingstocks in the space of 10 months?
You know what a San Diego columnist, Nick Canepa of the Union-Tribune, said about Sunday's opener? He said, "I can't remember the last time [the Chargers] so thoroughly controlled a game." He also tried to temper his enthusiasm, though, because the opponent wasn't, in his estimation, "a real NFL team."
Ouch.
But, hey, the man's right. The Redskins were no more "a real NFL team" Sunday than the officials were real NFL officials. Only their defense was up to snuff. In the other two areas offense and special teams they looked like an NFL Europe outfit.
The play that sticks out most in my mind took place early in the second half. It was 20-0, the Redskins were trying to get something going, and on third-and-2 Jeff George threw a little pass into the right flat to Donnell Bennett. Unfortunately, Bennett was blanketed by the linebacker and the pass fell incomplete. At which point I turned to the writer next to me and said, "That's Larry Centers' play. If Centers had run that route, he would have been open and the Redskins would have gotten the first down. But Marty didn't want Centers, so they're punting."
It was also hard not to notice the absence of Tre Johnson or, heck, even Jay Leeuwenberg at right guard. Without them, Schottenheimer was in the dire straits of having to start a rookie free agent, David Brandt. It wasn't pretty. In one sequence, when the Redskins were backed up close to their goal line, Brandt got called for a hold and a false start on consecutive plays. A punt from the end zone followed, and the resulting field position set up a short (45 yards) San Diego touchdown drive that turned the game into a 17-0 rout.
But then, this is what happens when you expose a not-really-ready kid to trial by fire. The Redskins got in the same kind of bind back in '87 when they had to throw a sixth-round pick named Ed Simmons into the breach. Remember how that turned out? Reggie White wheeled around Simmons early in the game and put Jay Schroeder out of commission for the rest of the afternoon.
Which brings us to the Redskins' "quarterback controversy." Sorry, but I can't get very worked up about it. Why? Because at this point, I don't think it makes much difference whether George or Tony Banks starts. The offense particularly the line is in such a sorry state that neither of them has much of a chance to be successful. Until the Redskins are able to run the ball, the QB is going to be little more than a tackling dummy for the defense. Did you notice all the bobbing and weaving George and Banks had to do Sunday? I've got three words of advice for them: term life insurance.
Schottenheimer is forever talking about the Redskins "making progress," but it must be the invisible kind because I can't see it. In trimming his payroll, he seems to have replaced highly paid underachievers with lower-paid underachievers. Not much of an improvement there (except with regard to the salary cap situation).
Closing thought: If Norv Turner had had the kind of preseason Marty Schottenheimer just did and then lost his opener 30-3 to a club that had only won one game the year before would anybody expect him to still be employed today? But then I almost forgot: Marty is Dan Snyder's guy, his "first real stamp" on the organization.


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