- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

The end was as predictable as it was unsightly.

There was no other way the Washington Redskins’ worst season since 1994 and third-worst in 40 years could have ended than a humiliating loss last night that was befitting of a 5-11 club.

In a lifeless season finale that reeked of a team ready to hit the golf course and beaches in some warm, tropical locale, the Redskins were manhandled by the Philadelphia Eagles 31-7. It was the final indignity in a year full of embarrassment, and it may have been the final straw for coach Steve Spurrier, whose future with the club is in serious question.

Spurrier, now 12-20 in two NFL seasons, is expected to contemplate his future with his wife, Jerri, over the next week, according to sources close to the coach. Based on this latest loss, the Ball Coach may have a hard time finding a legitimate reason to return for a third season.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Spurrier said. “I think everybody could see that tonight. We couldn’t stay on the field with the Eagles.”

Spurrier’s Redskins closed out the season having lost 10 of 12 games, transforming their inspiring 3-1 start into nothing more than a footnote. If the New York Giants beat Carolina today, Washington will finish last in the NFC East.

It’s debatable where last night’s nationally televised loss, played before a FedEx Field crowd of 76,766 littered with Eagles fans, ranked among this season’s low points. Wherever it ultimately falls, it was a humiliating conclusion to an already embarrassing year.

“I’m just glad the nightmare is over now,” tackle Jon Jansen said. “I don’t really have a whole lot of good things to say. I need to go away and think about things.”

It wasn’t all gloom and doom inside the stadium last night. Certainly the Eagles (12-4) were in good spirits after wrapping up their third straight division title and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb capped a tumultuous season in grand fashion, going 23 of 32 for 242 yards with three touchdowns passing and another one rushing.

McNabb’s superb effort, coupled with a defensive performance that forced three turnovers, led to an easy night for the visitors.

“The Eagles are just too good for the Redskins right now,” said Spurrier, who fell to 2-10 against the NFC East. “Hopefully, someday we can be close to them.”

More than a few players inside Washington’s locker room believe they are on par with Philadelphia, despite the glaring discrepancy of won-loss records.

“I guarantee we have better players than they do,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “But as a team, they’re just ahead of us. They’re doing the things we’re trying to do.”

With their wretched season having already bottomed out, the Redskins entered last night’s game with no tangible motivation. And they certainly played like it.

The Eagles were in complete control from the start, marching down the field with ease just about every time they touched the ball. McNabb picked apart the Washington defense, completing 13 of his first 16 passes for 158 yards en route to three touchdowns.

As good as the Pro Bowl quarterback was, the lifeless Redskins did plenty to help. While linebacker LaVar Arrington and safety Andre Lott were busy trying to figure out who was supposed to be covering Chad Lewis, McNabb was busy taking a quick snap and lobbing the ball to the wide open tight end for the Eagles’ first score.

The 3-yard touchdown pass capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive, but that paled in comparison with the 14-play, 96-yard drive that followed. Chewing up nearly nine minutes off the clock, McNabb converted a pair of third downs with his arm and a fourth-and-1 with his legs. By the time the Eagles had first-and-goal at the 1, the Redskins’ defense was too tired to chase McNabb on his bootleg into the end zone.

Washington handed the ball right back to Philadelphia when quarterback Tim Hasselbeck fumbled at his 19. Three plays later, McNabb hit Freddie Mitchell for an 8-yard touchdown and the rout was on.

Hasselbeck (21 of 32, 192 yards) showed some pluck, engineering the Redskins’ lone scoring drive late in the first half. Rock Cartwright plunged in from the 1 to make it 21-7, but by then the game — and certainly Washington’s season — was well out of hand.

The bad vibes even permeated into the halftime ceremony honoring retiring defensive end Bruce Smith. Smith, playing the final game of his 19-year, Hall-of-Fame career gave a brief speech before a half-empty stadium and thanked (among others) Redskins owner Dan Snyder. That line was greeted with boos.

Any remote chance for a Washington comeback was quashed on the third quarter’s opening drive, when Correll Buckhalter scored from 11 yards out on a McNabb screen pass. The rest was all academic, with Spurrier even handing over the reins of his vaunted offense to rookie quarterback Gibran Hamdan for the season’s final series.

Moments later, the Redskins’ season of turmoil at last came to an end. It remains to be seen how much turmoil is yet to come.

“I’m not going to say I wanted it to come to an end, because I hate the way it ended,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “We have to get dedicated to the point where winning is the only option. Losing can’t be an option anymore.”

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