- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

The Washington Redskins will be searching for hope today against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.

The Redskins are hoping a season seemingly over before their first home game can be resurrected. That a change of quarterbacks can produce their first touchdown in three games. That the demanding system of a new coaching staff can work.

The Redskins (0-2) face the Chiefs (0-2) in what Washington quarterback Tony Banks called the "Toilet Bowl." Players haven't conceded the season yet, but another drubbing following blowouts by San Diego (30-3) and Green Bay (37-0) may overwhelm a team already on edge after a harsh training camp. If the Chiefs replicate their 20-0 preseason win over the Redskins, back-room second-guessing may take over the locker room.

"They have continued to work hard, and that's all I can ask," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "Ultimately, I have every confidence it will fit right in place."

Schottenheimer's controversial release of starting quarterback Jeff George on Wednesday after deciding the passer couldn't accept the new offensive scheme was roundly denounced by national and local media. Now the Redskins turn to a quarterback who joined the team Aug. 16 and is still learning the scheme. Banks showed some spark against Cleveland backups in the preseason but little vs. San Diego in relief. However, Banks believes he can provide the kind of leadership that his predecessor recently termed "overrated."

"I know what it takes to win and for guys to believe in you," Banks said. "It seemed like they were just starving for some energy. It looks like they're feeding into it."

The Redskins have revamped their offense to include more deep passing routes, partly because the Chiefs' 27th-ranked secondary offers more opportunities than a line that often stacks an extra defender. Banks' mobility also will give plays a second chance that George seemingly wouldn't pursue after sometimes shaking his head in disagreement with the call as he left the huddle.

The Redskins reduced their offensive plays for Banks, but that doesn't mean the scheme is too vanilla. While leaning on running back Stephen Davis more heavily, barring a large deficit, the Redskins should challenge the Chiefs more downfield. Whether Banks will scramble regularly is questionable, though.

"Tony's not instructed he shouldn't run," Schottenheimer said. "He's instructed to take the thing and move it down the field and put it in the end zone."

Said receiver Michael Westbrook: "The game plan isn't simple. Tony is a bright dude and knows what he's doing. Now it's time to see what happens in a game."

Banks believes a few early first downs could lead to a touchdown, which could lead to several scores. With just three points in two games, the Redskins must regain their confidence after the worst offensive start in franchise history.

"The offense can look different if we just have success," Banks said. "It will be a big eruption from fans, players the first time we get in that end zone."

The fans' reaction is debatable, though. Ticket brokers have reduced prices below face value in recent days, something seldom done in recent years and only then for meaningless late-season games. The Redskins haven't played at FedEx Field since Aug. 24, and players know the long absence and blowout losses have upset fans who booed during two home preseason losses.

"Our fans have been watching the tube. They're upset. They're embarrassed. They're down. We're embarrassed," safety Sam Shade said. "We're upset. We're at home. It's big. It's just as big as that Green Bay game."

Schottenheimer hopes the defense can keep the Redskins in games despite allowing 53 points in two games (the other 14 came on special teams). Injuries to linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee) and defensive end Marco Coleman (dislocated elbow) will force linebacker Antonio Pierce and defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach to make their first career starts, while defensive tackle Kenard Lang slides back to end.

A defense that has allowed two straight 100-yard runners and generated little pass rush is now without two of its leading players. Yet Schottenheimer is relying on it to get the victory.

"San Diego for a couple years didn't make any yards on offense, but their defense performed at a very high level," Schottenheimer said. "That's what we need to do here."

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