- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

As we head into the last week of my column, I’ll kind of recap the year. We started off with such promise, even before the year started. We made additions we thought would benefit us, especially on offense. It was a year that was supposed to be full of wins and a lot of good things, and it started out that way.

We opened the season with a couple of close victories, wins we could look to and say we learned something from last year. And in our one loss in those first four games, to the Giants, we came back from 18 points down and ended up losing in overtime. The team really showed a lot of character that day.

Then we started to struggle. We lost a couple of games and really never got back on our feet. There were a lot of reasons. Everybody can point to something: We had too many penalties. We didn’t score enough touchdowns. We didn’t stop them on defense. Basically, we didn’t do the things that playoff teams and championship teams do.

You get to the end of the year here and everybody wants to know what the answer is. Are we going to be going through wholesale changes again? We’ve done the wholesale changes with players. We’ve done the wholesale changes with coaches. What kind of mix is going to result in more wins?

I don’t know exactly what will happen. I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do know that when you have a five- or six-win team, you’re going to have change. Change is inevitable. Chances are this year, I think, the change is going to be small. We need to keep our core unit of guys together on all levels and grow from this year.

Look at our offensive line: Randy Thomas and I are going to be there next year. Chris Samuels is going to be there next year. Derrick Dockery is going to be there. Hopefully Larry Moore and Lennie Friedman will be there. We’ve got six or seven guys who are early in their contracts, young guys who can stick together and grow as a unit.

If you looked at our lines previously, we’ve always added two or three starters every year. They’ve been guys who have been patched in here or there. But there’s growth you get from knowing each other for more than six months.

That’s kind of a microcosm of what I think is going to happen with the team. Patrick Ramsey is going to be here. Laveranues Coles is going to be here. Chad Morton is going to be here. There are going to be a lot of playmakers who are going to be here, and they’re going to be a lot more comfortable with each other no matter what other changes there are. We won’t have to introduce ourselves all over again.

I think the process of development affected us this season. We had a lot of games where we barely lost — six by four points or less. If four of those go in our favor, we’re fighting for a playoff spot. Or we’ve already locked up a playoff spot. I think chemistry in football is more important than any other sport, because you’ve got to have 11 guys playing in concert.

When we learn, “OK, this is my strength; this is Randy’s strength; this is my weakness,” then maybe we can figure out that Randy’s strength can help my weakness. If we can do that across the offense and throughout the team, it’s going to generate more wins.

I watched film of the Chicago game, and I don’t believe we had anybody go out there without a lot of emotion. Obviously, we didn’t get the job done because we didn’t win. There were things we could have done better. But going in at 5-9, we didn’t have anything to play for other than pride, and we didn’t have anyone quit.

A big part of this season has been all the controversy, and that’s been tough to deal with. Whether guys like one another or coaches like players or whatever, it’s hard to overcome controversy. There’s always a question in everybody’s mind, “Is this guy going to be fired in midseason?” Whatever the question is, whatever the controversy is, it does nothing but tear apart a team.

All this leads into the first fan’s question, which is, what needs to happen during the offseason to make the Redskins into a winning team?

What needs to happen is, we need to make whatever changes we’re going to make as soon as possible. Whether it’s coaches, players, everybody, nobody — we need to make those decisions and move on with next year. And then we have to look at the film and figure out exactly how to fix the problems we had this year.

Another fan wonders why the Redskins always wear white jerseys at home.

The home team has an option to wear the combination it likes. Early in the year, it had to do with the heat and sun, and we tried to use the choice to our advantage. Then once you’ve established something, you usually stick with it. At first we actually wore white-on-white, and then when the novelty wore off, we went back to the traditional white-on-red. It’s just kind of the way we’ve done things around here.

One final question: A reader wants to know what element of the NFL a fan could experience and gain the most appreciation for the league.

Well, probably the one thing to experience would be the fans themselves. And when I say that I’ll also say I believe we have the best jobs in America because we get paid to play a game. But there’s also a lot of pressure because we get paid a lot of money to play a game at a high level. When things don’t go right, there’s a lot of stress that comes from the general public. It’s hard to take.

I’ve had a lot of fun doing this column this season. I hope the people that read the paper have enjoyed the insight I’ve been able to give — if any. Heh, heh. Enjoy the offseason and hope for good things in 2004.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy collaborated with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen on this column.

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