- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Ahhhhhh. Grab a beer, loosen your tie and kick your feet up for a spell. After more than a month without a win, three weeks of increasing pressure and serious signs of total implosion, the Washington Redskins finally won a game.

And not against a bad opponent, either. Seattle came to FedEx Field with a 6-2 record and none of the assorted sideshows that have diverted so much of the Redskins’ focus this season. Ever since coach Mike Holmgren shed his duties as general manager, the Seahawks found ways to win and raised their stature in the league.

Funny, then, that Washington should show life right after coach Steve Spurrier handed play-calling over to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Hmmmm. Dropping the ego really can make a difference. At least that’s what the Monday Morning Quarterback is ready to argue, right after demanding a raise and berating Times colleagues for not pulling their weight.

Q: That feels so much better. We forgot what it felt like to win. Cripes, we were ready to become Wizards fans. How did the Redskins manage to get things turned around?

A: It finally seemed to dawn on these guys that there are no easy solutions. A franchise perpetually in search of the quick fix ground out a tough victory against a solid opponent. And it deserves considerable credit. Like the difference between dieting and liposuction, Washington accomplished its goal in a way that bodes well for the future.

Q: Onward and upward. So how many can we ring up at Carolina this week?

A: Not so fast, bucko. The Redskins still have major issues; now they just have some hope, too. Plus, the mood around Redskin Park finally might ease from “boil” to “simmer.” What we liked best was the patience as the Redskins attacked Seattle — they improved on both sides of the ball as the game progressed. That’s a sign that the team might not get too high this week.

Q: Are the playoffs still a possibility?

A: No. The Redskins have a long way to go before they can contend with the NFL’s best teams. Not only must they win some tough upcoming games to get back in playoff contention, but they would have to win when faced with big games — something they haven’t been able to do since the early part of 2000. And remember: Spurrier still has just one NFC East win. No, the Redskins’ focus should remain on showing enough improvement to keep Spurrier around for 2004.

Q: Will they? Or is Jimmy Johnson at Modell’s getting fitted for a Redskins jacket?

A: Spurrier took a tremendous step forward this week. First, he handed over play-calling to Jackson — a major ego check that shows he’s willing to make drastic moves in order to win. Second, he let Jackson make an inspirational speech to the team Saturday night — another smart move because this club needed its coaches and players on the same page and players had begun tuning Spurrier out. Things remain tenuous, but there’s a fighting chance at unity now.

Q: So we’re looking at Coach Jackson, huh?

A: Not really. Jackson is smart enough to know he has to remain the man behind the man. But coaches need to have different roles, and Spurrier isn’t a galvanizing leader. He needed a first lieutenant. Jackson makes perfect sense because he’s an emotional person, has a good mind for the pro game and already is near the top of the coaching pyramid.

Q: Patrick Ramsey finally didn’t spend a Sunday picking turf out of his face mask. What did Washington do to protect him?

A: We were impressed with the game plan from the start. Washington focused on runs, short drops, roll-outs and play-action. Although the Redskins trailed 14-3 early, they stuck with their plan. They established the ability to gain yardage in small chunks, then mixed in a deep pass here or there. And by game’s end, they wore down Seattle’s run defense.

The challenge in coming weeks will be to fend off heavy blitzes. The Seahawks don’t do a lot of blitzing and played fairly conservatively; Carolina and Miami are sure to bring heat, especially because it remains the most obvious weakness of the Fun ‘n’ Gun.

Q: We want to Rock ‘n’ roll all night. Is Cartwright the new tailback?

A: He gets our vote. And there are some in the organization who feel similarly. Trung Canidate seemed decent enough in the early going when Washington’s offense was clicking, but he’s a timid runner who is slow to read holes. And his pass-blocking is terrible. Ladell Betts really didn’t do much this year before he got injured. And John Simon, Chad Morton and Sultan McCullough aren’t really options. We say pound the Rock.

Q: How close was Washington’s season to ending before Laveranues Coles stripped Damien Robinson at the goal line?

A: Things were about to get very ugly. This team is fragile to begin with, and a 21-3 deficit early in the second quarter probably would have been crushing. Washington actually got three favorable plays on that series: Coles’ forced fumble, Shawn Springs’ pass interference on a second interception and the ruling that Coles was pushed out of bounds on his touchdown reception. But that’s what’s needed at times — a break here or there and then a solid effort to take advantage.

Q: How nice is it not to write about controversy for change?

A: You have no idea. The Redskins, at least for now, are out of the gossip column and back onto the sports page.

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