- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

After 15 weeks of rumors, blown leads, internal bickering, more rumors, roster changes, consultants, injuries, still more rumors, penalties, bad weather, five wins, 10 losses and a couple more rumors just for good measure, the Washington Redskins at long last have reached the end.

Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field marks the conclusion of a turbulent season in Washington, and not a moment too soon. Everything that has taken place around Redskin Park over the last four months has left those associated with the team too numb to contemplate it all.

“There’s nothing that can be done that I haven’t seen,” linebacker Jessie Armstead said. “It’s not so much getting numb to it. It’s just a situation that you cannot control right now. We already let it slip out of our hands.”

Sunday’s 27-24 loss in Chicago ensured the Redskins of their first 10-loss season since 1998. Another setback this week to the first-place Eagles, who need to win to assure themselves of the NFC East title and a first-round bye, would cap Washington’s first 11-loss season since it went 3-13 in 1994.

Mondays in the NFL are typically spent reviewing what went right and what went wrong the previous day. It’s a time to regroup and gear up for the next opponent.

There was little of that sort of talk going on at Redskin Park yesterday. Some players who stopped by on their day off sounded more interested in their Christmas and postseason plans than in watching tapes of Sunday’s loss or preparing for the Eagles.

Coach Steve Spurrier, who plans to leave for a vacation within 24 hours of his team’s season finale, sounded like he is just hoping for a halfway decent showing against Philadelphia.

Asked about the Redskins’ penchant for playing close games this season (Sunday’s loss was their sixth by four points or less), Spurrier replied, “I think it is important to compete every game and not get clobbered and not go in the tank.

“Hopefully, we can compete as hard as we can Saturday night against Philly. Certainly that’s more important than getting blown out. But whatever your record is, that’s what you are for the season.”

At this point, the disparity between a 6-10 record and a 5-11 record is minimal. No matter the outcome of this week’s game, Washington’s final record mark almost seems secondary to the sideshow that accompanied it.

There was the preseason tussle between Spurrier and owner Dan Snyder over the releases of quarterback Danny Wuerffel and running back Kenny Watson. The impressive 3-1 start, only to be followed by a 2-9 collapse.

Then there was the tumultuous bye week, in which the players went head-to-head with the coaching staff. The owner brought in “consultants” Joe Bugel and Foge Fazio. The personnel department signed three released players with checkered pasts (Darrell Russell, Byron Chamberlain and Kenyatta Jones).

Spurrier handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, then took them back. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey’s season was ended by a foot ailment that may have existed since birth. Tim Hasselbeck, who had never taken an NFL snap and who took fourth-billing in his family behind his father, brother and wife, was suddenly the second-most important man in Washington.

Don’t forget the never-ending speculation over the fate of Spurrier’s assistant coaches, most notably defensive coordinator George Edwards, whose cause wasn’t helped Sunday when the Bears piled up 429 yards, 191 on the ground.

Spurrier, who has control over the hiring and firing of his staff but who is facing heavy pressure from above to make changes, stuck with his message yesterday.

“Whatever announcement we have about coaches, we’ll do that when the season’s over,” he said.

Of course, by then Spurrier himself could have a new employer, if you believe any of the rampant rumors that have spread this season.

First it was back to the college ranks, at North Carolina, at Clemson, back to Florida, then Nebraska. Now it’s another job in the NFL, with a report Sunday of the Miami Dolphins’ potential interest in taking Spurrier off the Redskins’ hands.

Spurrier insisted yesterday that he’s not bothered by the rumors that won’t go away.

“No, why would that bother me?” he asked. “We’re 5-10 and somebody thinks I might go somewhere else? That’s probably flattering, whoever’s starting it. Usually when you’re 5-10, there are rumors that you’re about gone from wherever you are. No, I don’t pay any attention to things like that. …

“Somebody said this is the time of year everyone wants to know where the coaches are going to end up. It’s something to talk about. It makes, I guess, for good TV ratings or good conversation around the country to talk about it.”

In the end, the Redskins have no choice but to slog their way through all the exterior sideshows and summon up enough fortitude to make it through this final week.

“I hate that we’re not fighting for the playoffs or anything like that,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “But I love playing. I could play all year.”

In Washington, the year of turmoil ends in four days.


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