- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You couldn’t help but wonder, watching the Redskins get pink-bellied by the Eagles on Monday night, when we might see another Monday night game at FedEx Field. To play on Monday night is, after all, to be relevant, and the Redskins are heading rapidly in the other direction after this latest breaking and entering, this latest home invasion.

Next season, the Snydermen figure to be what’s known as a 1 O’Clock Team — unless the league decides to take pity and throw them a Sunday night bone. About their only chance of weaseling their way into the Monday night picture is, well, they do play the Packers and Colts in 2010. So if Dan the Man happens to sweet-talk Mike Holmgren or Tony Dungy into coaching here, ESPN might bite on one of those matchups. But there are a lot of hypotheticals involved.

Sorry for the digression, but the mind tends to wander when the scoreboard reads Philadelphia 17, Washington 0 before the second quarter is two minutes old. You start thinking about Monday night TV schedules and who Jim Zorn’s successor might be. You might even start thinking about whether Snyder will begin scouting Keno parlors now, looking for a defensive play caller to complement former bingo maestro Sherm Lewis on offense.

Speaking of the latter, say this for the Redskins: They may not have outplayed the Eagles, but they sure as heck out-Shermaned them. Up in the coaches’ booth, they had Lewis dialing up the passes, and down on the field they had offensive coordinator Sherman Smith calling the runs. All they needed was a Sherman tank or two running interference, and they would have been in business.

There was something fitting about Brian Mitchell being inducted into the Ring of Fame on a night like this. Mitchell is a link to the glory years of the ‘80 and ‘90s — and a reminder of how far removed the franchise is from those days. He’s also a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with the Redskins during Snyder’s benighted ownership. Dano, as B-Mitch never tires of reminding us, let him walk as a free agent after the 2000 season, walk right into the welcoming arms of the rival Eagles. A year later, Snyder let James Thrash do the same thing.

Every team makes roster miscalculations, but these were different. If an owner doesn’t understand the value of warriors like Mitchell and Thrash, maximum-effort guys who happily sacrifice their bodies and spill blood by the pint, what hope is there for him?

To some of us, the club has been soulless ever since, a collection of paycheck players rather than the Real Redskins of yore (as Joe Gibbs liked to call them). Oh, there have been exceptions but not nearly enough of them. And now the whole house of cards is tumbling down again. After the 27-17 loss to the Eagles, the Redskins are 2-5 — with no bottom in sight.

Inviting Mitchell back to be paid his proper respects is about as close as the owner ever comes to saying, “I made a mistake.” Brian has been critical of the team on radio and TV since returning to D.C. — not so much out of spite, I’m convinced, as out of allegiance. It genuinely pains him, as it does many of Gibbs’ players, to witness what has happened to the House that Joe Built. If his 41-year-old legs had a little more spring in them, he probably would have volunteered to return kicks Monday night.

Not that it would have done much good. The Redskins are more than a returner away from respectability, never mind contention. Now that they’re back to playing credible opponents — as opposed to the Chiefs, Bucs, Lions and Rams — it’s clear how far they have to go. And Philly, let’s not forget, was a club they swept last season.

But the Eagles are one of the NFL’s model organizations. They lean heavily on the draft, count their cap pennies and are rarely out of the playoff mix. On Monday night their offensive workhorse, Brian Westbrook, exited early after getting knocked dizzy but no matter. They merely turned to big-play machine DeSean Jackson, their 2008 second-round pick, who ruined the Redskins with touchdowns of 67 (end-around) and 57 (reception) yards.

“He outran our pursuit angles,” Zorn marveled. “He’s wicked fast.”

Vinny Cerrato was looking for receiving help in that second round, too — preferably “wicked fast” receiving help — but opted for Devin Thomas and tight end Fred Davis when Jackson was available. Franchises are made and unmade by decisions like that. Thomas and Davis finally caught their first career touchdown passes against Philly… after the visitors had eased out to a comfy lead. (Malcolm Kelly, another wideout Cerrato grabbed a couple of picks after Jackson, is still waiting for his first end-zone dance.)

Give B-Mitch credit. When he thanked Snyder for the tribute — and the fans booed the mere mention of the owner’s name — he chided them gently, as a father would a child. That’s Brian for you. He was always willing to throw a block for a teammate, always had a teammate’s back. To him, if you’re a Redskin, you’re a Redskin for life.

The shame of it is that, as the years pass, it seems to mean less and less.

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