- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

Even after they won Sunday, the Redskins sounded lost. Maybe it was just the wax buildup in my ear, but there seemed to be some strange things coming out of people’s mouths — particularly Jon Jansen’s and Mark Brunell’s.

Jansen and Brunell are two of the team’s leaders, two of Joe Gibbs’ “core Redskins,” so what they say always carries some weight. And what they said following the purloined victory over the Cowboys makes you wonder about the club’s mental state as it heads into the second half of the season.

Jansen, hardly in a celebratory mood, summarized the game thusly: “We answered a call from a guy who had some things to say about our team — and me.” He didn’t mention the “guy” by name, but it was clear he was talking about Bill Parcells.

In a recent story in “Play,” the New York Times’ new sports magazine, the Dallas coach was unusually candid in his assessment of the Redskins. “I think they might be vulnerable at the cornerback position,” he told writer Michael Lewis. His view of Jansen was equally unvarnished: “He doesn’t look like the player he was a couple of years ago.”

Not exactly stop-the-presses stuff. After all, the Redskins are vulnerable at the cornerback position — and Sunday they continued to be vulnerable. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed, what, two-thirds of his passes for 284 yards and a pair of touchdowns? Heck, if Terrell Owens had held onto a perfectly thrown bomb in the third quarter, the numbers would have been even worse (358 yards and three TDs).

As for Jansen no longer resembling his pre-2004 self, how many offensive linemen don’t lose something — a little quickness, that feeling of indestructibility — after tearing their Achilles tendon? Tuna, to my mind, was merely stating the obvious. (Kinda like Jon was when he went on ESPN after the ‘04 season and said Gibbs was running “a 1992 offense.”)

The Redskins, in the time-honored tradition, used Parcells’ critique as lighter fluid. My question is this: Why would they even need to? They were playing for their season at 2-5. Their opponent was their bitterest rival. That wasn’t enough to bring out their A-game? They needed some additional prodding from the other team’s coach?

Puzzling. Especially since it still didn’t bring out their A-game. They escaped with the win only because of a bizarre Series of Fortunate Events at the end.

Which brings us to Brunell. Did he get knocked on the noggin or something Sunday? That would at least partially explain his contention — after newcomer Troy Vincent blocked the first kick of his 15-year NFL career — that the Redskins had been “due for a break for weeks, and it came at a good time.”

Why is this team always insisting that it’s unlucky? It’s the lamest of crutches, if you’ll pardon the expression, all the more so because it’s simply not true. Have the Redskins been decimated by injuries this season? No. Do they have to play the Seahawks and Bears, as the Giants do? No. Have any of their losses been as fluky as their own victory over Dallas? Not even close. And yet, Brunell is convinced the Redskins had a break coming to them. Please.

For whatever reason, the players prefer to ignore all the built-in advantages the franchise has. Allow me to list them:

• No other club has a 92,000-seat stadium.

• No other club takes in as much money — or spends as much of it trying to improve the product (however unsuccessfully).

• No other club has as accomplished coaching staff. (Three assistants are former NFL head coaches, and several others are former coordinators.)

But the Redskins, alas, prefer the poor-little-us pose. It’s getting old, it really is.

Last week Gibbs brought in some more help, hiring ever-popular ex-Redskin Ray Brown to … what? Give Joe Bugel a hand with the offensive line, apparently, and perhaps provide the group with another sympathetic ear. Brown says he can be “a resource for guys in every facet of the game — not just in playing but in being a professional.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what your veteran leaders are supposed to do? Why does Coach Joe need to rent a veteran leader?

It’s all very strange, this behavior of the Redskins. It also makes it hard to be optimistic about the team’s ability to turn things around. Maybe Eagles coach Andy Reid will do them a favor and say something to rile them up this week. As Brunell will tell you, they’re due for a break.

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