- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

IRVING, Texas Garbage in, garbage out. When you spend two weeks stewing in internal controversy, as the Washington Redskins did, the results are all too predictable. Washington showed some energy against the Dallas Cowboys until things got tough, then folded like an ace-high on a $1,000 pot.

Mr. T would pity the fool (i.e. the Redskins fan) who warmed up for the latest installment of this fantastic rivalry by watching ESPN Classic. Those grueling, intense wars of yesteryear scarcely resembled the bumble-fest that played out in Big D. For a while it looked like Dallas would resurrect Washington’s season with its myriad mistakes, but the Redskins were far more determined to go paws-up.

At least the Monday Morning Quarterback has grown comfortably numb. So what if another Redskins season is headed down the toilet? Grab the Times sports section, flip on the exhaust fan and try to find some humor in this crummy team.

Q: Boy, were we ever wrong about these Redskins. It just keeps getting worse. When will things ever turn around?

A: Not until there’s some top-down trust and leadership in this organization. From management to coaches to players, everyone on this team is looking out for his own. The lack of confidence starts with owner Dan Snyder, and we’re sick of hearing about how he wants so badly for the team to win. The way to get your team to win is to create an atmosphere of unity and focus — not to undermine your coaches’ authority and constantly emphasize free agents over your own players.

Q: Maybe it’s time for Spurrier to hang up his visor. How long can he last under these conditions?

A: The possibility of a buyout at the end of the season is growing more and more likely. Here’s how we see this playing out: Washington will continue to lose in difficult upcoming games (vs. Seattle, at Carolina, at Miami), then realize that the pressure’s off and win a couple of meaningless contests down the stretch. Whether those wins are enough to make everyone feel better about 2004 will be determined later. But right now, we’re frankly having a tough time finding reasons for hope and signs of progress.

Q: Does the NFL have a stat for sideshows? The Redskins are all-world in creating controversy. Aren’t bye weeks supposed to be for regrouping?

A: If a team could write a script for the worst possible way to spend two weeks preparing for a big game against its archrival, the Redskins just did it. It was unbelievable the way the absurd stories kept churning out: questions of players’ effort and professionalism, consultants, the release of Rob Johnson, an attempt to bring back Danny Wuerffel, and then the pursuit of troubled defensive tackle Darrell Russell. The only way to top that this week is if Spurrier says he’s running off to join the circus.

Q: Speaking of high-wire acts, Spurrier said he was going to go back to the old Fun ‘n’ Gun. Instead, Patrick Ramsey was back to three-step drops and leaving his imprint on the turf. What’s up?

A: Despite Spurrier’s plans, there was little if any adjusting to the offense. Washington is in a rut right now where it can’t open things up because defenses have figured out how to attack this scheme: blitz like heck and dare Ramsey to make plays. And that’s all the Redskins will see until they beat it. Spurrier wanted to throw deep but Dallas constantly brought one more blitzer than the protection scheme could account for.

Q: We know one thing we’re not eating for lunch today: tuna fish. How come we didn’t hire Bill Parcells last year?

A: That’s not really fair. Clearly Parcells is the better coach, but he’s also one of the best coaches in NFL history. Spurrier has a long way to go. He needs to upgrade everything: the way he coaches offense to the way he leads to the way he deals with his players. He has no confidence right now, only frustration. Maybe Spurrier can be a great NFL coach one day, but we don’t see it happening here.

Q: Russell didn’t have much impact in his first game. What happened to all that pass-rushing talent we heard about?

A: It was a lot to expect that Russell would do much yesterday. After all, he had only a few days in the system and hadn’t played in almost two years. He did force a fumble and there were a couple of plays where he beat his man, but he’s a work in progress who will make his biggest impact for another team next year.

Q: So why did Washington sign him?

A: Although Snyder says he has learned a lot about running an organization, we continue to be mystified by the same mistakes. When things get difficult, he has to make a move — whether signing someone or bringing in a consultant or whatever. What did signing Byron Chamberlain accomplish? What did bringing in Joe Bugel accomplish? Why will Washington be a better team for having Russell for nine games? The win-now mentality is all well and good, but the fact is small disputes are huge news on this team. The Redskins will not win until the disputes end and the focus shifts to the field.

Q: There were more national reports yesterday — this time one about Snyder talking with Jimmy Johnson and another about Spurrier getting into a blowup with Kim Helton. What’s the deal?

A: We’re amazed at the number of national reports about Redskins issues this season. And they all seem to be about non-events: the Redskins almost trading Rod Gardner for Terrell Owens and deciding not to (false), or Spurrier almost walking away at the beginning of the season and deciding not to (at best, a stretch).

From what we hear on the Jimmy Johnson stuff, Snyder did call Johnson but only to correct him on something he reported a week earlier. They had a discussion but nothing of the sort that everyone wants to think — that Snyder already is looking for Spurrier’s replacement. As for Helton, Spurrier has been fiercely loyal to his guys and Helton couldn’t have said with more conviction (and he always has been candid) that he would not quit.

Ultimately, the national reports are a product of the divisiveness in the organization and Snyder’s impetuous background, which leads to leaps of faith and assumptions of the worst. Whether the reports are true or not, those issues are very real.

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