- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

The Redskins were a .500 team this season any way you look at it .500 at home, .500 on the road, .500 against division opponents, .500 against NFC clubs, .500 against AFC clubs. Thoroughly average. Fair-to-middling. Comme ci, comme ca (as they say in the CFL).

So what you have to decide and certainly what Dan Snyder is mulling over is whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.

Half-full approach: The Redskins just missed the playoffs, despite an abysmal start.

Half-empty rebuttal: The Redskins probably would have missed the playoffs by two full games if the Bucs hadn't treated Sunday night's finale as an exhibition. That's not very close. In '96 and '97, you may recall, when Norv Turner was in charge, they came a lot closer losing out on a tiebreaker in the first instance and by a half-game in the second.

Half-full: All they needed to do was give the ball to Stephen Davis a few more times early in the season, and they'd still be playing.

Half-empty: Davis had more rushing attempts than any back in the league 356. If he'd gotten more work early on, he might not have finished so strongly. This was the first time since he became the No. 1 back, remember, that he started all 16 games.

Half-full: The Redskins rallied to finish 8-8 in Joe Gibbs's first season, and look where they went from there.

Half-empty: Those Redskins had key offensive personnel already in place. Like Joe Theismann at quarterback. Like Art Monk and Charlie Brown at receiver. Like four future Pro Bowlers in the offensive line (Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Mark May and Jeff Bostic). They also had Gibbs calling the plays (and Bobby Beathard doing the drafting). It's ridiculous to compare the club now to the club then. The Redskins don't even know who's going to be their quarterback next year. There's a good possibility he's not on the roster.

Half-full: The defense didn't give up more than 21 points in the last 13 games this season. Once it adjusted to the new system and got Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman back from injuries, it played more consistently than it has in years.

Half-empty: Unfortunately, the offense didn't score more than 20 points in 10 of the last 13 games.

Half-full: The new staff finally got the special teams straightened out. The kick coverage unit was tops in the NFL.

Half-empty: Yeah, and the other three units ranked in the middle of the pack. Let's not overstate things.

Half-full: Rod Gardner, Marty Schottenheimer's first draft pick, caught 46 passes as a rookie and is a star in the making.

Half-empty: Gardner had a big day against 1-15 Carolina. In the last 10 games, he had 24 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns nothing to get excited about. The kid still has plenty to prove. He might not have the speed to be a lead receiver.

Half-full: Schottenheimer got so much more out of LaVar Arrington than the previous regime did. And Chris Samuels became a Pro Bowl tackle.

Half-empty: A player improves more from his first year to his second than at any other time in his career. Ask any general manager. That said, did you notice Arrington's sack total actually declined this season from four to 1/2? (This, on a defense that had just 25 sacks.) No way is his ability being maximized.

Half-full: What about Kenard Lang? He had his best season by far, and he was in his fifth year.

Half-empty: He also did it in the final year of his contract. Lots of players pull that stunt. Let's see him do it again after he's gotten the big money. (And let's see him do it without Bruce Smith around to draw the attention of blockers. Bruce, after all, might be headed elsewhere.)

Half-full: The Redskins improved greatly over the course of the season. They're a young team that's obviously getting better.

Half-empty: A lot of teams are getting better. The Eagles are getting better. The Cardinals are getting better. The Giants will reevaluate and be back with a vengeance next season. Even the Cowboys are showing some signs of life. And that's just the NFC East we're talking about (though Arizona will switch divisions next year).

See what I mean? Just about every argument you can make to keep Schottenheimer can be knocked down or qualified or turned against him, almost. Such are the perils of finishing .500. You're as bad as you are good, as good as you are bad. It all depends on what's in the eye of the beholder in this case Dan Snyder. And the Redskins owner has sent out some pretty strong signals about what direction he's leaning.


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