- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

Marty Schottenheimer is taking his experiment to San Diego, conveniently enough as it turns out, given what passed as competence in August.

The boos won't carry that far.

The hopelessly committed have become the orneriest fans in the world after being the greatest in the days of Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs. Their lack of patience complements the ownership and the cold, unfeeling venue by the Beltway.

The make-believe games in August usually beg to be ignored, except when a team is outscored 80-18 in three of the four games.

Schottenheimer has put the fear in everyone: the players, the fans and members of the local media.

The discussion starts at the bottom, with the following: Is the team as inept as it looked in preseason? Is a .500 record, the record last season, too much to expect?

The team quit on Terry Robiskie last season, which almost looks good in hindsight. The team has not even bothered to show up yet under Schottenheimer.

Of course, you can throw the preseason results out the window, along with Deion Sanders, if it helps inspire a sense of hope.

The Chargers are not so hopeless, either, following a 1-15 season. Doug Flutie is leading the rescue, with help from Norv Turner, a combination with considerable experience and something to prove. Payback is sometimes a female dog with a bad attitude.

Panic remains just a loss away, so unsettling is Vinny Cerrato's legacy and the X-rated snapshots last month.

A purging has contributed to the unease around Washington. A scorecard is necessary to tell the newcomers from Darrell Green and Bubba Tyer.

Schottenheimer has imposed a new system on those who decided to stick around, apparently dispensing the information in Latin, considering the modest rate of assimilation.

The starting quarterback has a bum shoulder and a tendency to be a bum. Tony Banks, who lost his job to Trent Dilfer, who lost his job to no one, is the alternative. That's just great, and that's just one area of concern. It's hard to have a quarterback controversy, Washington's favorite pastime in the fall, if the quarterbacks are inert.

Even on his worst days, Joe Theismann returned punts and, in 1985, managed to boom a one-yard punt, which is to say he was always fun.

Schottenheimer has vowed to familiarize the players with the importance of the special teams, as if the departure of Eddie Murray fixes everything.

Schottenheimer believes in the three phases of the game, four if you count his concession from the Boy Owner to stay above the fray.

Their honeymoon is not expected to last, if only because of the iron in their personalities and the mess before them.

San Diego is the first challenge, and it just so happens that Turner knows all the soft spots in the personnel on defense. He probably will show up with what appears to be an encyclopedia set dangling from his belt buckle after scripting the first zillion plays. Look for something tricky out of him the first time Flutie and the Chargers have the ball.

The Redskins are not equipped to go beyond 16 games, and lucky for them, Jaromir Jagr is in town and Michael Jordan is threatening to take a more active role in the Wizards, which should ease the local media's customary obsession with the burgundy and gold.

Schottenheimer has a four-year contract, and he is liable to need the first two just to clear his throat and put the team in postseason contention. Otherwise, his contract doubles as a golden parachute.

Edgar Allan Poe's team is just up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, coming off a Super Bowl championship and an interesting stay on HBO. Brian Billick embraced the attention and the hustle the cameras inspired in his players and assistants.

The Ravens appear to be as good as the NFL gets in Washington this season, and that's not good if your passions begin and end with Joe Bugel's Hogs in the '80s.

Those were the good, old days. Even the Turner era doesn't look bad when cast against the anticipated offerings of Schottenheimer's first season.

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