- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006

This was supposed to be a game with huge playoff implications, perhaps one that decided the NFC East title.

Instead, the game had no meaning for the last-place Washington Redskins, and the New York Giants needed a victory just to reach .500 and likely secure the final playoff spot.

The game also was supposed to be Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington’s dramatic return to the stadium where he had become a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Redskins before injuries and poisonous relationships with owner Dan Snyder and assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Dale Lindsey sent him packing in February. Instead, Arrington, who still lives in Annapolis, has been on injured reserve for two months with a torn Achilles tendon and wasn’t even in Landover last night.

Q: Did the Redskins really care if they won last night? Will anyone remember long-term if they went 6-10 or 5-11?

A: As the ol’ Ball coach once said, “5-11. Not very good.” But when you play only 16 games a season, you don’t take it easy on game day. The Redskins actually have played better since they were all but eliminated from the playoff chase. Washington’s four most recent losses before last night were by a total of 21 points. Their loss before that was by 24 points.

Q: Before I forget, where was Brandon Lloyd last night?

A: The official word was Lloyd had bronchitis, meaning the mercurial receiver finished his awful first season with the Redskins with 23 catches and no touchdowns. Some $30 million man.

Q: If coach Joe Gibbs and top lieutenants Gregg Williams and Al Saunders are indeed coming back, what changes will we see with the Redskins after the season?

A: Pretty minor stuff. Safeties coach Steve Jackson may leave, and Gibbs cronies Don Breaux and Jack Burns might retire.

Q: That’s not what I’m talking about. Players, my man, the players.

A: Obviously, Adam Archuleta is a goner. Warrick Holdman probably will leave. Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels probably won’t both be back. Neither will David Patten, Kenny Wright, T.J. Duckett and Todd Wade. But only Holdman and Daniels are starters, and Daniels might well return for less money. That also will be the case for Mark Brunell and maybe Shawn Springs and Cornelius Griffin. Still, we’re not talking about wholesale changes, considering how bad this season was.

Q: Those are mostly defensive guys. The offense remains intact?

A: Why not? The Redskins should re-sign guard Derrick Dockery for a reasonable price, hope Lloyd can redeem himself next season and keep the rest of the productive group together.

Q: Is Andre Carter’s late-season surge a sign of things to come?

A: That’s hard to say, but there’s no denying Carter went from a bust at midseason to the defense’s most productive player the past six weeks. Carter’s sack in the first quarter last night gave him four in the last five games.

Q: Can the Redskins save some money and just go with two quarterbacks next year? Antwaan Randle El showed again on the touchdown to Santana Moss that he has a legitimate NFL arm.

A: That’s an interesting thought, but Saunders loves Todd Collins and Gibbs loves Brunell so they both probably will be back. Randle El will remain a receiver/punt returner and throw the ball every couple of games.

Q: Mr. Know It All, you had the Redskins going 10-6 and winning the NFC East. Looking back, where did the season go wrong?

A: The trouble began when Lloyd ran the wrong route in the first quarter of the preseason opener at Cincinnati. Brunell’s pass was intercepted by Keiwan Ratliff. Clinton Portis chased down Ratliff and separated his left shoulder, making the tackle. Springs had pelvic surgery two days later, and the Redskins were on their way to unraveling. Counting preseason, they were 5-15 beginning with that night against the Bengals.

Compare that to their 6-0 tear last December and January.

Q: If the Redskins were 7-8 instead of 5-10, they would have been in the thick of the playoff chase in the lousy NFC. Which defeats will haunt the Redskins this offseason?

A: At the time, the loss to winless Tennessee at home looked especially egregious, but the Titans came on strong. Plus that was a nonconference loss. The killers were the three-point losses to fellow NFC losers Minnesota and Tampa Bay.

Q: What’s your early prediction for next year?

A: Boy, you don’t waste any time, do you? The six division games will be tough as usual. The home game with the NFC West cellar-dweller (Arizona or San Francisco), and the game at Tampa Bay should be winnable, as should home games with Detroit and Miami and visits to Minnesota and Green Bay. The games at New England and Buffalo and visits by Chicago and the New York Jets will be more difficult. A lot will depend on how quarterback Jason Campbell develops in his first full season as a starter. My early prediction: 8-8.

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