- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

So which conclusions shall we jump to today, Redskins rooters? Losing by 30 points on "Monday Night Football" in your first statement game of the season will put all sorts of weird thoughts in your head, some totally legitimate, others bordering on hysteria. Why don't we deal with the legitimate ones and leave the panic attacks to the coaching staff?

Conclusion No. 1: Boy, did the Redskins blow it by not trading for Drew Bledsoe and sinking their money into Jeremiah Trotter instead. Bledsoe needed all of two weeks to set a Bills record for most passing yards in a game (469 in Sunday's overtime win at Minnesota). He's completing 69.3 percent of his throws, has led two fourth-quarter comebacks and has turned Peerless Price into a star.

Obviously, he hasn't lost the passion as his detractors last spring suggested. In fact, he might be playing the most inspired ball of his career. And all he probably would have cost the Redskins was next year's first-round pick (and maybe maybe another lower selection). They could have still drafted Patrick Ramsey and begun grooming him to take over. Or they could have addressed a more pressing need (a defensive lineman, perhaps?).

But, no, Dan Snyder and his brain trust thought it wiser to add Trotter to a linebacking corps that already had LaVar Arrington and Jessie Armstead. Well, the first returns are in, and they aren't very encouraging: Eagles (the club Trotter left) 37, Redskins (the club Trotter joined) 7 the worst loss to Philly since Greasy Neale was stalking the sideline.

I'm not trying to bash Trotter here, I'm really not. I'm just saying: If you're going to pay a linebacker $5million a year, you'd better get a lot of bang for your buck. And since Trotter plays in the middle and isn't really a pass-rushing force, there's only so much he can do. He's certainly no Ray Lewis; that much has been established.

Trotter might be going through what Wilber Marshall went through in his early days in Washington. Remember that painful transition? It took Wilber two years to adjust to Richie Petitbon's system and become the dominating player he was with the Bears. Not every free agent is the instant impact type, though that's what teams are looking for when they give a guy a contract like Trotter's.

Conclusion No. 2: Shane Matthews is a marginal NFL quarterback along the lines of Rodney Peete, and Danny Wuerffel might be in the Arena League were it not for expansion (and, of course, his old coach). Even Steve Spurrier had to admit that Wuerffel "did some funny things at times" against the Eagles (e.g. throwing a ball up for grabs at the end of the third quarter that seemed intended for free safety Brian Dawkins as much as anybody). Wuerffel showed similar uncertainty in the preseason against the Patriots, which makes you wonder whether Spurrier didn't blunder by keeping him and getting rid of Sage Rosenfels.

Conclusion No. 3: From the sound of things, Spurrier is one more embarrassing defeat away from making major changes. Asked yesterday how much longer he can go week to week with Daryl Gardener's balky back, he replied, "Good question [or] how long we can go with a lot of situations around here."

Translation: The Redskins might soon have to cut their losses with Gardener, take another look at Ross Tucker at left guard (he replaced struggling David Loverne in the second half Monday night) and possibly even give Ramsey some playing time. And if they do turn to the rookie QB, you can forget about them making the playoffs this season and probably next. They'll be in a full-fledged rebuilding mode at that point.

But, hey, when you throw 31 times and gain 90 net passing yards as Spurrier's quarterbacks did against the Eagles how much worse can it get?

Or dare we ask?

Conclusion No. 4: The Ballcoach may have played in the NFL and coached in the USFL, but he still has plenty to learn about the folkways of pro football. One of his more revealing comments after the Eagles game was when he said, "[The final score] should have been 40-7. I still don't know why they didn't go ahead and kick the field goal [at the end]."

Actually, the Eagles likely could have pushed across another touchdown had they been so inclined. But Andy Reid, a merciful sort, refused to put the ball in the air with a 37-7 lead and then passed up the easy three points, too. The Redskins simply took possession at their 6-yard line with 1:08 left.

For Reid as with most of his coaching brethren it isn't about how much you can humiliate your opponent. It's about winning the game, sure, but it's also about respecting your fellow professional. Here's hoping Spurrier eventually figures that part of it out.

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