- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Washington Redskins are 1-2. They haven’t played well in any game, and last week they lost to a Detroit Lions team that had been winless since 2007. It’s still early; the season hits the quarter pole Sunday. But things could come apart in a hurry. The Redskins need to be fixed - and fast.

But how? Is it too late? Has the damage caused by mediocre drafting, imprudent spending and constant change already been done?

Five observers weigh in on the matter:

MARK SCHLERETH, ESPN analyst and former Redskins offensive lineman

It’s more of a long-term issue here. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-2 right now. Do we think they’re gonna have a (poor) season and not be a playoff team? No. The Redskins are 1-2. Do we think they’re gonna turn this around? Obviously not. Why? Because the Pittsburgh Steelers are the picture of continuity and stability. The Washington Redskins are no longer that. That’s the perception of the organization, and that, to me, speaks volumes about who are the Redskins.

Teams have to build through the draft. You’ve got to know who you are and how to get to where you want to be. … I think the biggest problem with the Washington Redskins over the last few seasons - or the last 10 seasons - has been their propensity to overspend on free agents that don’t… make a difference.

Continuity is a big issue, a big factor in the National Football League, and there hasn’t been continuity. From Norv Turner to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs to Jim Zorn, the overspending on guys that can’t produce based on what you spend is ludicrous. If a guy is allowed to hit the free agent market, there is probably something within that guy’s makeup that has allowed him to become a free agent. It’s like buying a diamond in a drugstore. It may look really pretty, but you know there’s gonna be a flaw. There are cases where that’s not true. …

But there are no more quick fixes in this league. No more “Let’s get somebody and win a championship.”

•••

DOC WALKER, ESPN 980 co-host and former Redskins tight end

This is not a one-answer question. It’s a process. I’d be hesitant to abort the process that’s (begun). I would re-evaluate how the plays are called and who’s calling them.

When (quarterback Jason Campbell) spreads things out, I think he has enough talent to come after people. They brought in these kids (Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, Fred Davis) to go with (Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El). If they take somebody away, go to somebody else. At some point you have to say, “Let’s jump-start what we’re doing.” You have to change the outfit. You cannot wear that same gray suit. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. I mean enthusiastically believe in it. If you’re not getting results, you should be open to anything and everything based on your talent. If this were my result, I damn well bet you I would be exercising some new options.

They don’t score enough points to satisfy me. If that is the primary goal, you would not continue to do the same. Something has to change with everything you do offensively. And that’s not just this year. If you want to get different results, you have to change what you’re doing.

That could be making slight modifications. You have to be privy to the inside of it, but I do know this: They’re not scoring enough points to be a champion. And I think the inability to score affects what’s being called on defense. Any good defensive coordinator has to be realistic about what his offense is giving him.

•••

HOWIE LONG, Fox analyst and NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman

What was that word with Brett Favre and the Vikings? A schism? There’s a chance one could be developing in the (Redskins’) locker room. It’s important that doesn’t happen. Everyone has to stay committed to what they’re doing. Forget about last week; look in the mirror and say, “What do I have to do to help us win?”

First and foremost you have to stop the bleeding, the potential bleeding inside the locker room. Everything else doesn’t matter - “SportsCenter,” Fox, NBC, CBS, newspapers, bloggers, talk radio. It doesn’t matter. Circle the wagons, seal the locker room up, get everybody on the same page, get on the practice field, work your tail off and get ready to win a football game this week. Rely on your veteran leadership to get everyone headed in the right direction. That’s all you can do.

If you make a mistake, you can see it 200 times before midnight. You can go on the Internet and see a thousand different blogs about the Redskins. Talk radio is everywhere. Your head coach was taken to task the week before for a halfback pass in the end zone by a legend from your football team. Whatever is happening, I don’t think it’s good. The biggest challenge Jim Zorn has right now is keeping everyone together. If you win one, you’re back on track; rattle off the wins and forget about it. Just as everyone forgot about the 6-2 start last year when they struggled down the stretch.

•••

HERM EDWARDS, ESPN analyst and former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach

I thought they (improved) a little bit last week (against Detroit). They let Jason Campbell throw the ball, and I think they’ve got to continue to play that way. They’ve got good enough players at wideout, guys that can make explosive plays. That’s gonna help the running game. Yeah, the quarterback might turn it over. So what? That’s why you’ve got all that money on defense. I thought they played very aggressively. They’ll win games doing that. That was the first time the quarterback made some plays. He went back and he threw the football. In this league, you pass to score. You run to win. That’s the formula. It never changes. You’ve got to make some big plays on offense.

I think you have to have some consistency. You’ve got to find out who you are as an organization. Are you an organization that believes in going into free agency and getting a bunch of guys and try to win a championship, or are you trying to build a football team? What’s hindered them is they’ve never really had a base, a foundation, the needed parts you get through the draft who are gonna be there for a number of years. They’ve relied so much on free agents. … It seems they’re always trying to catch up. If you look at the division, the Giants probably do the best job. They understand who they are, they live through the draft and they’re a pretty consistent football team.

(Zorn) had better be consistent. You better be the guy that you were. You can’t change. If players sense that, if they sense panic, if they sense “uh-oh,” the players will say, “(Outside influences have) gotten to the coach.” You’ve got to be the same guy. That’s when players respect you most. You’re selling hope. You’re three or four plays away, and you’ve got to sell that to ‘em.

•••

JOE THEISMANN, NFL Network analyst and former Redskins quarterback

I think in the offseason, with the acquisition of big-name individuals and the conversation through the preseason, there was an expectation with this football team that exceeded its cohesive level. It really is a team that’s finding itself. It wants to run the football, but it can’t. I still feel like Jim Zorn is learning how to call plays, how to make decisions during the course of the game. That’s something you always work on.

This team is finding out who it is. The next thing it has to do is find out how to win. So how do you fix the Redskins? Time. Stay committed to the people, and stay committed to giving them the chance to become a cohesive unit. How much change have you seen in the Washington Redskins the last 10 years? That’s the problem: the lack of consistency. You can’t keep changing. Patience, time and fix it from the inside.

I think the most disappointing part of this team is the defense. … Obviously, there needs to be some kind of adjustment on third down from a defensive standpoint. Whatever (defensive coordinator Greg Blache) decides to do, there has to be better production there. And obviously you have to figure out what to do when you get near the goal line.

Anytime you’re not successful, it’s a combination of execution, play design, possibly untimely calls. I think time will fix it. Everyone talks about playoffs and Super Bowls. I think what this team needs to talk about is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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