- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

So long. Goodbye. Farewell. Adieu. Sayonara. How many more ways can the Washington Redskins find to say essentially the same thing? In any language, in any context, this is a team that simply doesn’t know how to win.

Washington has lost seven of its past eight games, including yesterday’s predictable wilting against the New Orleans Saints. Once again the Redskins made a few plays and put themselves in position to win, then had all three phases chip in just enough errors down the stretch to complete a narrow loss.

Forgive the Monday Morning Quarterback for being a little distracted. An Internet connection is zipping through expedia.com right now for a nice little vacation spot, figuring next week’s edition could be written Tuesday.

Hmmmm, let’s see. Redskins battle a lousy Giants team in the Meadowlands, go up by a few points in the fourth quarter … you know the rest. Read on at your own peril.

Q: All right. We’re hearing you loud and clear. But the Redskins had nothing to play for in terms of wins and losses anyway. What can we take away from this game?

A: Your dignity if you spent Sunday frolicking in the backyard with your family instead of watching this stinker. At some point it’s time to shut off the TV on these guys. The Monday Morning Quarterback gets paid to cover this stuff. What’s your excuse?

Q: Forgive us. Like male pattern baldness, being a diehard Redskins rooter is passed down from generation to generation. But give us some hope. Can’t we be optimistic about 2004?

A: You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the organization right now who thinks the fundamentals — coaches, management and talent — is in place for a run at the 2004 playoffs. A series of close losses obscure deeper problems, namely that no one feels like they can rely on their co-workers to get the job done. The result is an almost certain splitting apart in crucial situations rather than a sense of unity.

Q: George Edwards sounds like he’s on the hot seat. Is he getting canned?

A: There’s going to be major pressure on Spurrier to axe Edwards and a few other assistants. It’s easy to be skeptical of that tactic because the defense would be starting from scratch again, not to mention Spurrier might not get along with a new group of assistants.

Q: What should be the focus of the season’s final four games?

A: Once again on player evaluation. Washington still has some key talent issues for 2004, particularly at tailback and defensive tackle. Running back Trung Canidate was solid yesterday. Could he be the answer for 2004? What about Ladell Betts? Should Rod Gardner be traded and playing time given to Darnerien McCants, Patrick Johnson and Taylor Jacobs? Is Darrell Russell worth re-upping at a premium, or should Washington use its top pick on a pass-rushing defensive tackle? There are plenty of questions to answer.

Q: So it’s a matter of talent, right?

A: Wrong. The final four games also should be used by Spurrier to experiment with a different style of play-calling. Nearly two years into his NFL tenure, he still doesn’t run a pro offense. He can put up points but can’t win games. Last year the Redskins went 2-1 in a three-game stretch when he leaned on the run game; he should see whether that tactic can work this season, too. Whether Spurrier can be a pro coach remains, far and away, the key question for this club.

Q: How did Tim Hasselbeck do in his first NFL start? We certainly got an eyeful of his wife.

A: Between Hasselbeck’s wife and Chad Morton’s woman, the television cameras spent quite a bit of time scanning the stands for Redskins sweethearts. And that was in between ads for Paris Hilton running around in overalls. Somewhere along the way, Hasselbeck threw a few passes. Some were good, some were bad. Overall, there was no sense of threat from Washington’s passing game. The Redskins could make some plays, but you knew Hasselbeck wasn’t going to beat the Saints. Two weeks in a row, he has been put in position to win the game, and frankly he shouldn’t have been either time.

Q: We almost could hear Bruce Smith’s knees creaking as he chased Aaron Brooks. Will he ever get that last sack?

A: The Redskins’ interior pass pressure actually was pretty good yesterday. Between that and the fact that the Giants and Bears are lousy teams, Smith should be in position to wrap up that final takedown and head off to the Hall of Fame. His increased playing time yesterday seemed a little fishy. For someone who wasn’t supposed to get added playing time by taking his gripes to the owner, he spent most of the game at right end. Who knows? Maybe George Edwards suddenly saw the error of ways.

Q: Another 4 p.m. start. We certainly appreciate the NFL letting us sleep in on Sundays, but can’t Fox come up with a better featured game?

A: This one originally was scheduled for 4p.m., though one has to wonder why no one thought to scoot the Philadelphia-Carolina game back. Heck, two weeks from now against Dallas, the Redskins will have their third 1p.m. game of the season moved back to accommodate a larger audience. Maybe there’s some expectation of fireworks when the Redskins play, but the way things look these days a mime would make for a more entertaining afternoon.

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