- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

One moment, the Washington Redskins were controlling the defending Super Bowl champions and thinking about 4-2. The next, they were getting demolished and the fans who weren’t streaming for the exits were booing or retching.

Ah, autumn. Like so many leaves, this is the time of year the Redskins turn color and fall (in the standings). We’ve seen this tired act before. The team shows enough potential to tap the hope that springs eternal in this town, only to reveal itself as comprehensively deficient. Redskins fans should call Wachovia to see if it extends fraud protection to rooting interests.

It’s beginning to look like a long season, and the Monday Morning Quarterback is grumpy. If Don Zimmer were at our breakfast table, we’d rub his face in a bowl of Alpha-Bits. Instead, we’ll fish around for some four-letter words to accurately describe the Redskins.

Q: So this is what the underside of a steamroller feels like. Man, we feel awful — and the Redskins are only .500. Where do we go from here?

A: Check out the baseball playoffs. Or the Caps. Or the Wizards. Or maybe develop a full-fledged addiction to gambling on random college football teams. But don’t ride these dogs into the ground.

Q: Was Tampa Bay that good? Or the Redskins that bad?

A: Tampa Bay was the real deal once it got going — and the Redskins, tellingly, let them. Washington controlled this game early in the second half but collapsed on defense. For a second straight week, the Redskins were playing a solid opponent that absolutely could not lose, and they didn’t maintain the necessary intensity.

Q: You said all we needed was 4-3 at the open date. The Bills got undressed by an awful Jets team yesterday. Can’t we win next week at Buffalo?

A: First off, don’t rip those Jets too much. Two of the Redskins’ wins are looking pretty suspect (vs. the Jets and Falcons), leaving only a heart-stopper over New England to hang their hats. The short answer to your question is “yes.” But once again Washington will be facing a team with talent that can’t afford to lose. It hasn’t proved it can win those games.

Q: So how does the season play out?

A: Unless the Redskins make a radical turnaround (and we’re not saying it’s impossible; after all, some dude in Harlem did sneak a Bengal tiger into his efficiency), they could lose four or five of their next five games. And that’s amazing considering how high expectations were just two weeks ago. To put it another way: the reason why the Monday Morning Quarterback is so negative is because this is probably the last week he’ll hold the Redskins to a high standard. By the open date, we’ll be thinking of them as lovable losers.

Q: That’s what we like to hear: a positive outlook. So how did the team turn like third-day Chinese food? What happened to the defense?

A: Things really seemed to hinge on the one blown play in the third quarter. All three Redskins linebackers rushed into the backfield on third-and-15, and no one was covering Michael Pittman. He caught an 18-yard pass and Washington proceeded to allow one big play after another. Sometimes that’s how quickly momentum can swing when a good team plays a mediocre one. That sense of dread you feel isn’t Cox Communications readying another price hike — it’s the Redskins returning to their natural paws-up state.

Q: Ramsey took another beating. How long can this last?

A: Twenty-one sacks into the season, we’ve certainly determined the kid is tough. Maybe he should head out to Hollywood and get work as a stunt man. But mark our words: One of these hits, and probably one soon, will end his season. And here’s our big question: How did Washington leave Simeon Rice, maybe the NFL’s best pass rusher, one-on-one with tight end Robert Royal? Chris Samuels is a Pro Bowl left tackle who makes Pro Bowl money to protect Ramsey’s blind side. His diet should have been only Rice.

Q: The Bucs were choke-meisters the week before and Washington has lived on the late rally. How come the Redskins couldn’t get back in it?

A: To be honest, that’s what we were expecting when Tampa Bay went up two touchdowns: A furious Redskins comeback that would have left them with a narrow enough loss to placate the fans. Washington had a chance, but Ramsey was being dragged down (yet again) when he threw the game-sealing interception to Derrick Brooks. In retrospect, that was the really predictable play.

Q: Brad Johnson returned to Washington a hero. Why did we let him go?

A: Brad wasn’t the answer to what went wrong yesterday. The Redskins are much better off playing a young quarterback with a live arm and high potential, rather than an expensive veteran who’s already past his prime. Of course, we’re not speaking for how things went down in 2000. Signing Jeff George was like expecting to eliminate corruption by re-electing Marion Barry.

Q: So who chickened out, LaVar or Sapp?

A: Once again, a rich midweek story line had little to do with what actually happened on the field. Sapp didn’t run out during warm-ups until Washington already was done stretching, and there was no way, with the NFL’s warning, he would have skipped through the Redskins’ part of the field. Our lingering thought is LaVar might have been a little too juiced for this one while Sapp, like that third bowl of porridge, was just right.

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