- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

CLEVELAND — The Washington Redskins have come on like a bad cold — first with a tickle in the throat, then with a few aches in the morning, and finally with some run-to-the-commode nausea. Yesterday’s loss to the lowly Cleveland Browns has the nation’s capital in a full-fledged huggin’-porcelain mode.

At least Redskins fans can embrace their club’s true identity after several weeks of hoping against hope. That loss to the Giants? Seven turnovers. The one to Dallas? Bad calls by the refs. But this one against the Browns? The no-offense, no-defense, Butch Davis-coached Browns? Nope, this one was a problem.

Coach Joe Gibbs’ Redskins are looking a lot like the Redskins of Norv, Marty and Steve. The Monday Morning Quarterback has seen this act before — half comedy, half tragedy and all misery. Welcome to the first day of the rest of a long season.

Q: Ugh. This is like waking up the morning after you wreck the car. Can’t you tell us it was just a bad dream?

A: I can tell you anything you want, but that doesn’t change the facts. This Tercel’s crunched like an accordion. The Redskins are mistake-prone, offensively anemic and unable to respond to adversity. Perhaps Gibbs will fix these problems by season’s end, but he seems to be falling into a state of greater disbelief with each passing game.

Q: Are the Browns really that bad? Give us some hope. Say they’re rallying toward the playoffs.

A: Put it this way: Jeff Garcia, who put up a 0.0 rating against the Cowboys two weeks ago, barely got the kneel-down right at the end of the game, tripping and falling flat on his back. The Browns were booed lustily at halftime for their ineptitude. All Washington had to do was control the clock and play field position. Then Clinton Portis fumbled. Under no circumstances should this game have been lost.

Q: Well, there still are a dozen Sundays left. Where do we stand?

A: For one, in the NFC East cellar. The schedule remains relatively light, and that will give Washington a chance to pick up a few wins and build momentum. But things could get ugly next week against Baltimore. The Ravens appear unlikely to lose running back Jamal Lewis to suspension in just a week, and Washington’s blue-collar northern neighbors always get psyched to stick it to the Redskins.

Q: The last time we checked, Gibbs was piling up points and winning Super Bowls. What the heck has happened to his offense?

A: Washington seems to be good for about three drives a game — after that, penalties, turnovers and poor play take over. There’s obviously a problem with discipline. But there seems to be a growing lack of trust within the unit, too. Individual Redskins are pressing to do too much. And things won’t get any better against Ray Lewis’ Ravens.

Q: Mark Brunell seemed to play well — at least early. Is the media ready to lay off him?

A: The calls for Brunell’s head likely will subside for a week. The veteran definitely made some nice throws in the first half as Gibbs seemed to tweak the scheme to Brunell’s limitations. But Brunell also never came up with the big play Washington needed in the second half, either when playing from ahead or from behind. The offense can win with Brunell, just not big. The unit inspires fear in no one.

Q: Some of those Browns looked pretty wide-open. Did Browns linebackers coach George Edwards sneak over to the Redskins’ sideline and call some plays?

A: Ha, ha. Edwards might have been in over his head last year, but he’s not a bad coach. Those gaffes go on assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, whose blitzes have minimized the impact of injuries and suspect D-line talent — and yesterday left the Redskins susceptible to big plays. Washington’s defense definitely took a step back. Williams needs to mix some vanilla in with that chocolate. Potential field goals turned into touchdowns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Q: We’re starting to get worried about Gibbs, too. Why the heck was he challenging Portis’ fumble?

A: Great question. Gibbs said his people upstairs, including rules consultant Larry Hill, thought there was a decent chance the play would be overturned. Gibbs also mentioned, again, the people upstairs don’t get the best angle. That’s lame. The broadcast replays clearly showed Portis was on top of defensive tackle Michael Myers — nowhere close to being down. What the heck replays were Gibbs’ guys watching?

Q: So is Gibbs’ comeback a bust?

A: Whoa. Washington has played just four games. There are signs of promise. The Monday Morning Quarterback has been impressed with the way Gibbs has admitted mistakes and put a continued emphasis on team unity. Remember, after Washington dropped to 3-4 last season at Buffalo, Spurrier fingered players for the loss and all heck broke loose. One of the key assets of Gibbs — we think — is that the Redskins are no more likely to lose after a loss than they are after a win.

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