- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Is the season over for the Washington Redskins just after it began?
After one game, the Redskins have a quarterback controversy, a fired player, despairing fans and an embarrassing loss. The Redskins were exposed as one of the softest teams in the National Football League with a 30-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday — the team's worst opening-day loss in 16 years.
New coach Marty Schottenheimer benched quarterback Jeff George in the third quarter, replacing him with backup Tony Banks. Schottenheimer would not say yesterday which player will start the next game. George, who refused to talk to the media on Sunday, declined to comment yesterday as well.
There were few bright spots for Schottenheimer in his Redskins debut: The offense fumbled seven times, threw two interceptions and produced only a field goal. Special teams permitted a touchdown. The defense couldn't stop the Chargers offense, now guided by former Redskins coach Norv Turner.
"It was either 100 percent good or 200 percent bad," said center Cory Raymer, who botched three snaps. "We couldn't find a happy medium. We were just in trouble all around all day."
They tried to forget those troubles yesterday. Schottenheimer put the team through a 45-minute workout that concluded with sprints — and with players performing cartwheels and handstands.
"The worst of all human emotion is self-pity," Schottenheimer said. "To sit around and beat yourself up as a player or coach is not going to be in your best interests. None of us are happy with the outcome, but had we won our approach would have been no different. It's gone. It's over. You put it aside and march forward. We have to let the season unfold. I'm very confident about our football team."
Redskins fans seem more resigned than confident. Internet chat rooms showed supporters weary of a team that has reached the playoffs only once since coach Joe Gibbs departed in 1993.
"I have seen nothing to make it worth even watching this season," wrote Redskinzdan66. "This season is going to be a total loss. One of the worst in Redskins history. The O-line can't block, the D-line can't pressure or tackle. Special teams are just as special as last year. At this rate we are going to be 4-12 at best. And I'm not so sure next year is looking that much better. It is going to be years before this team is good again."
Wrote Sue Suddith: "George is not a leader, at least not for this team. Is Banks the answer? Shudder. But the team seems to try a little harder for him than George."
Added John Fukuda: "Despite all the well-documented (if unfair) criticisms of Schottenheimer, there were certain things we all thought we could absolutely count on seeing from this squad when he took over: emotion, discipline, good special teams play, overall team unity. None of those were on display."
Last year, the Redskins went through five kickers as scapegoats for losses. Linebacker Donny Green became this year's version. Green was released after failing to stay in his assigned lane during a punt return — a gaffe that permitted an 84-yard punt return for a Chargers touchdown that several players said was the game's defining moment. Linebacker Eddie Mason, cut Aug. 30, was re-signed in Green's place.
Schottenheimer said Green's release was not meant as a warning to the other players. However, Schottenheimer has made clear that this is his team: He brought back only 26 of 53 players he inherited from Turner. Players who failed to perform in the preseason were cut. George's inability to score in the first half landed him on the bench.
"We don't need messages, we need performance. We need to go out and do it the right way," Schottenheimer said. "This is a business that draws with it certain responsibility and accountability, and performance is utmost."
Players are closely watching Schottenheimer's handling of the quarterback situation. While several teammates say they still have confidence in George, they know his benching means that anyone who plays poorly is vulnerable.
Team sources said George likely will start against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at FedEx Field, though Schottenheimer wants to first meet with George before making a decision. However, Schottenheimer isn't unaware Redskins fans enjoy quarterback controversies.
"I wanted to try to create a situation where I thought we might get energized on offense and do some things," he said of replacing George with Banks. "We weren't able to do that. Those decisions aren't made without some forethought. We'll continue to sort it out. One has always been my preference, but, having said that, whatever it takes to win. That's the single thing that drives every decision we make."


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