- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

A bunch of thoughts while thinking about the most obvious question Redskins fans must have this morning: When will Joe Gibbs realize it’s time to start on 2007 and give Jason Campbell the keys to Al Saunders’ offense?

1. My Redskins’ thoughts: Ick. Ugh. Uh-oh. Wow.

• Losing to Tennessee … the winless Titans … at home … a week before a tough road game … a week after a division road loss … even though the lead was 14-3 in the second quarter … against a rookie quarterback. … against a horrid rush defense. … did I mention it was at home?

Since Gibbs returned to the Redskins, this is one of the worst losses, even more pathetic than losing at home last year to Oakland because the Raiders at least had a serviceable quarterback (Kerry Collins), a superstar receiver (Randy Moss) and a stud receiver (Jerry Porter).

There is no excuse losing to the Titans, though. Vince Young was starting only his third game, but the Redskins had no interceptions. Travis Henry is a small-ish back yet he gained like 642 yards (actually 178) and played more physical than the Redskins defense. A unit by unit look:

• Offense: The Redskins started touchdown-touchdown and then was impotent for two quarters. I don’t have a problem with the play calling although I think Al Saunders should have used Clinton Portis more often in the run game. They had fewer than 100 yards in the second half. The time has come for Brunell to watch and Campbell to play. The Redskins have to find out if Campbell can be The Guy in 2007 or they have to search the free agent market during the offseason for a suitable replacement for Brunell.

• Defense: Shawn Springs’ return had a minimal impact but he at least made it through the game in good order and should be ready for extended duty against the Colts. The Redskins should have had two interceptions and missed too many tackles. Throw in a couple penalties and the fire keeps on spreading for Gregg Williams’ bunch.

• Special teams: They allowed a blocked punt (which led to a safety). The return and coverage teams are a mess. At least the Redskins made the right decision in jettisoning John Hall in favor of Nick Novak.

Other random notes

• The natives are getting restless. The FedEx Field crowd started booing early in the second half and never really let up. They pay big money for the tickets, parking passes and concessions and want a return. They’re not getting it and worst of all, they’re not seeing ANY signs of progress six games into the season.

• I slammed Williams for not talking last week so I’ll compliment him for talking yesterday. He answered the questions from several reporters in the hallway outside the locker room. Saunders later held court with four writers outside the coaches’ locker room. Their access and insight are invaluable to a beat writer because they can provide details into their decision making that Gibbs can’t and/or is unable to do.

• Finally…The Redskins are in deep trouble. They’ll lose to Indy and be 2-5 heading into the bye. They then host Dallas and play at Philadelphia. They could be 2-7 heading into their game at Tampa Bay.

2. The NFC East standings: Philadelphia 4-2, Giants 3-2, Dallas 3-2, Redskins 2-4. The Eagles and Redskins lost yesterday; the Giants and Cowboys won. New York plays at Dallas next Monday night.

The Giants won a quality road game at Atlanta. Although Michael Vick continues to show he’s not a great passer, New York proved that if it can consistently stop people, the Giants will be able to score. Tiki Barber rushed for 185 yards and Jeremy Shockey made six catches (two touchdowns). It was a key road win for the G-Men.

The Eagles were probably due for a letdown following last week’s emotional win over Dallas. Plus, New Orleans (5-1) is better than even I thought a few weeks ago. The Saints should be good on offense because they have standouts at quarterback, running back, receiver and the do-everything position held by Reggie Bush. Bush had 15 offensive touches for 60 yards and Drew Brees threw three touchdowns.

Dallas probably slept-walked through the first half of its game against Houston and trailed 6-3. But the Cowboys outscored the Texans 31-0 in the second half. T.O. had three receiving touchdowns.

3. Seattle is the second best team in the NFC and Carolina is the third best team. The Seahawks are 4-1 following a last-second win at St. Louis, impressive considering the Rams’ fast start (they’re 4-2) and the fact that they again played without Shaun Alexander. This win will become even bigger in two months if the Rams continue to play well. The Panthers defeated Baltimore for their fourth straight victory.

Chicago (5-0) plays tonight at Arizona and remains tops in the NFC.

4. The AFC is a little more muddled. Denver hasn’t allowed any touchdowns this season and handled the Raiders last night. But any team whose quarterback is Jake Plummer merits a raised eyebrow. Until he delivers in an conference championship game, the Broncos will always be doubted. And, memo to the Redskins: Champ Bailey is still a stud.

The Ravens (4-2) lost for the second time in six days and also lost quarterback Steve McNair early in the Panthers’ defeat. With no McNair, the Ravens have no hope.

Indianapolis is 5-0 and had a bye, New England had a bye and is 4-1..

For argument’s sake, I’ll go with New England - even though the Pats lost to Denver and the Colts haven’t lost — as the AFC’s elite. The reason: Tom Brady.

5. Will the Raiders finish 0-16? Tampa Bay and Detroit recorded its first victories of the season, leaving the Raiders as the only winless team in the NFL.

The Raiders have two more shots at victory: This week vs. Arizona and Dec. 3 vs. Houston. That’s it. They won’t beat a team in the AFC West and their non-division games are Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, St. Louis and at the Jets.

The pathetic part is that they have two more national TV appearances - a Monday nighter at Seattle and a Saturday nighter against the Chiefs.

6. Outside of the Redskins, Miami is the biggest disappointment of the season. The Dolphins are 1-5 following a third consecutive road defeat. I wasn’t drinking the kool aid on the Fins being a Super Bowl team but I did think they would challenge for a playoff spot and make things tough for New England in the AFC East. But the rub was that they were banking on Daunte Culpepper. He’s clearly not ready and has watched the last two weeks.

7. Random college football nuggets…

• The Miami-Florida International sideline-clearing brawl that resulted in numerous ejections and suspensions was a joke. And it was very interesting to watch. Did the players who were kicking opponents in the head and flinging their helmets realize they were being filmed? They probably weren’t thinking. Both teams should be forced to forfeit their next game but that will never happen.

• Virginia coach Al Groh continues to exhibit why he failed as a one-year coach of the New York Jets and shouldn’t ever think about going back to the NFL. Yesterday, the Wahoos blew a 20-0 lead and lost to a marginal-at-best Maryland team, 28-26. Trailing 28-20 and facing a fourth-and-4 from the Terrapins’ 15, Groh’s offensive coordinator - his son, Mike - called for a low-percentage pass to the end zone by redshirt freshman quarterback Jameel Sewell. The pass fell incomplete and wasn’t really close. After the game, ol’ Albert was asked about the play call and the matchup. “We don’t make the throws. If you ask about the matchup, the quarterback makes the throws. But I don’t have any problem with the play.”

Right there, Groh ran the chance of losing his team forever. He threw his young quarterback under the bus so he could defend his son. Blood is obviously thicker than water, but Gibbs would NEVER call a player out like that. Sure, it doesn’t make for good copy, but it’s why the players respect Gibbs. They know he has their back. If I’m Sewell, I have lost all trust that my head coach will defend me when times get tough (and they don’t get tougher for the Cavs right now - they’re 2-5; at least they get to play North Carolina on Thursday night). And Mike Groh wasn’t around to explain the decision. Ol’ Albert doesn’t make his assistants available to the media except for a short spell during the preseason.

• Not that the Cavs aren’t the only ACC team in Virginia with problems. It appears that Virginia Tech is getting a head start on their near-annual collapse. Usually, the Hokies don’t start choking until late November. A few years ago, they had losing streaks at the end of the regular season and last year, they lost to a truly average Florida State team in the ACC title game. The Hokies looked terrible at Boston College last Thursday and seem to have very little discipline on the field (penalties) or off the field (arrests).

• My Game of the Week this week is North Dakota State at Minnesota. My Bison, the team I grew up watching when they were a Division II power, have already won road games at I-A Ball State and I-AA Stephen F. Austin and Georgia Southern. The Bison probably won’t win but they’ll play harder and be better coached than the Gophers.

8. Book update. This has been a great month for new books. I’m currently reading Michael Lewis’ “Blind Side” about football’s left tackle. It is a must read for any hard-core football fan. It has some mind-boggling factual errors (like the Bills winning the AFC in 1986. … that was Denver) and some lazy misspellings (Ramsay instead Patrick Ramsey, Stoopes instead of Bob Stoops), but it’s heavy on story-telling and X-and-O. Also on the docket will be new books by John Grisham and Michael Connelly and the annual “Best American Sportswriting” book.

9. TV update: Please start watching “Studio 60 …” It’s on Mondays at 10 p.m. and those of us who don’t regularly watch Monday Night Football have become addicted to the show’s writing. It’s the best new show of the fall season.

10. Movie update: If you haven’t seen “The Departed,” skip work and go see it right now. It’s over 2 1/2 hours long, but well worth it. Jack is great. Damon is solid. Leo is good. Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen are great supporting players. If you don’t mind F-bombs and violence, you’ll also think it’s one of the top movies of 2006.

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