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Nov 28, 2005, 10:47 PM EDT

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at

It’s situation normal among the Redskins faithful, which means a state of near hysterical overreaction. The complainers are saying that coaches, including Joe Gibbs, need to be fired and that players such as Robert Royal should be cut immediately. The lack of a first-round pick to tank games for is a particular irritant to many. The franchise is doomed, doomed. A period of incompetence of Cardinal-like proportions is inevitable. Those who don’t normally complain are, of course, complaining about the complainers.

That’s what three straight close, gut-wrenching losses will do to the high-strung Redskins Nation. Patience is not a virtue under such dire circumstances. Punishment for those deemed responsible for the losses must be swift and extreme.

Patience, of course, is exactly what’s called for here.

Progress is being made. Let’s take a walk down memory lane all the way back to 2004. After 11 games, the Redskins were 3-8. They were coming off of a three-game losing streak. The losses were to Cincinnati at home by 17-10 and to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the road by 28-6 and 16-7 respectively. None of those games were as close as the final score indicated.

In fact, there is this mythology floating around that the Redskins lost close ones last year, they are losing them this year, ergo there has been no progress. That’s just silly. It is true that seven of their 10 losses last year were by seven points or less. However, you can’t tell me that the Giants game at the Meadowlands, a six-point loss, was the same as yesterday’s game, also a six-point loss. They lost to Dallas by three at home but in the end it would have taken a miracle for them to win. It would have taken just a few first downs for them to beat Oakland in that three-point defeat.

Of those seven “close” losses, only two were truly competitive at the end. Only in those last two close losses, vs. Philadelphia at FedEx and at Dallas, did the Redskins have either a possession deep in the opponents’ territory with a chance to win in the late going (as they did against the Eagles) or a late lead that was snatched away (as was the case in Texas Stadium).

OK, losses are losses and it’s not a great situation if you have to compare the quality of one variety of loss to another. So let’s talk wins. The Redskins have won four close games this year. It’s not unreasonable to predict that, given their upcoming schedule, the Redskins will improve their win total from last year by at least two games, perhaps even three. That’s progress in wins as well as in the “quality” of the losses.

The point here is not to say that being critical of the performance of players or questioning the plays called by a coach, even those of Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, is out of line. It is done in this space on a regular basis. What the doubters need to keep in mind, however, is that Gibbs is constantly evolving. He’s not going to huff, “What we do works!” and that is that. He will examine the way he is doing things and if it’s not working he will change it. If a particular player isn’t producing, Gibbs will put him in situations where he can be successful.

Those who would cut multiple players and/or fire coaches need to learn the virtues of sticking to a plan. Suppose your lawn was a mess and you worked on it and worked on it until it looked pretty good except for this one patch of crabgrass that just wouldn’t go away. Would you bring in a bulldozer and dig up the whole yard to try to get rid of the one problem area? Or do you stick with what you’ve been doing and, since it’s gotten you this far, have confidence that it will be able to take you the rest of way?

  1. Jeff Wright - Nov 28, 2005 at 11:43 PM

    Last year the Redskins were not a good team. This year they are, they’re just not VERY good yet. There’s been a lot of progress, and a lot to look forward to next year. Perhaps only the addition of a pass-rusher, a big wide reciever, and maybe a big bruiser of a running back for short yardage. This is the beginning of something, and changing course now would be stupid.

  2. mbarnes202 - Nov 29, 2005 at 4:44 PM

    I have to disagree with you a bit here. The Redskins have now played 27 games, and their average points scored during those games is 16.93. In the NFC, there are two teams with lower averages– Chicago and San Francisco.
    Over that same period, there are only 3 NFC teams with fewer wins (the Redskins have 11)– Detroit (10), Arizona (9), and San Francisco (4).
    We are a ways from mediocrity, forget about being good.
    It’s true our offense is getting better. I split up the 27 games of the Joe Gibbs Era into thirds– the first third, we average 13.89 points per game, the second, 15.33, and the third, 21.56. The problem is that our defense is getting worse– over the same period- our opponents averaged 16.67 in the first third, 15.00 in the second third, and 22.67 in the last third.
    And let’s look at those teams with fewer points scored than the ‘Skins. In Chicago, their starting QB was injured in ’04, and they’re starting a rookie in ’05, and they have VERY LITTLE money invested on offense. Same situation in San Francisco– no quarterback, and VERY LITTLE MONEY invested on Offense.
    The ‘Skins on the other hand, have enormous sums tied up on the offense. Samuels (LT), Jansen (RT), Thomas (RG), Moss (WR), and Portis (RB) are each in the top 5 or top 10 in salary at their respective positions. Brunnel is not cheap either. And young talent filling in behind those guys? Nothing. We do have Jason Campbell at QB. We have Taylor Jacobs at WR. We have Nemo Broughton at RB. (I really like Betts, but he’s always injured.) We have Jim Molinaro at tackle. Anyone I’m forgetting? Sure. We have some undrafted 6’7″ TE from Auburn. Cartwright’s a FA after year’s end. Looking pretty bleak if you ask me. How are we going to get noticeably better on offense? Outside of Cooley, where is the young ** AND CHEAP ** talent?
    I’m sorry, I don’t see a lot to be optimistic about here.
    On defense, the situation might be worse. Daniels is at the end of the line– we’ll need to draft a young DE. Take a look at the DEs taken in the 2nd round over the last 7 years (I did). Not much there, let me tell you. Depth at DE is non-existant. Depth at DT is weak. Boschetti? Killings?
    Walt Harris sure seems to be at the end of his career, too. And Sawn Springs is now over 30. Who do you want to play nickel corner? Jimoh? How many years do you want Renaldo Wynn to play? Is Lamarr Marshall really the answer at MLB? And Ryan Clark / Matt Bowen / Prioleau / Stoutmire / whoever is a weakness at SS.
    At WLB, we will have to get rid of LaVar (anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know about how the salary cap works– you want to pay $12MM to a 2-down guy? OK, spread out the $6MM roster bonus over the remaining years, have you seen his bases in those years?).
    Think Holdman can go another year? Will McCune be ready? We have many questions, and not many answers.
    Now, I am a firm believer that teams can change dramatically from year-to-year, even with the same personnel. I just don’t know if that will be with Gibbs the final arbiter of the offensive scheme. He seems to want to overpower our opponents with the running game, and we just don’t have the talent on the line to do that (you’d think, with all the money they make, but no). There must be a middle ground somewhere between Spurrier and Gibbs.
    Maybe Gibbs will hire a coordinator who has more aggressiveness, and will bite his tounge when the coordinator calls a pass on 3rd and 2 on our own 30 when we’re trying to ice a key game, but I doubt it. After 27 games, why would he change now?

  3. Anonymous - Nov 30, 2005 at 1:49 AM

    I agree with you whole-heartedly. The Washington crowd is way too ready to put someone on a pole and run them out of town.

    Gibbs know what he is doing. We have won victories that have been glorious, if unexpected, this year, and we will win more. The fans have to be patient, and above all, supportive. What do you think the players feel like when their fan base starts to waiver? I’ll tell you though you already know it. A slight bit of oppressiveness can seep in when they feel their town is not 100% behind them.

    This appears small in this day where it is an acceptable practice to immediately put blame on those who make a mistake (or several in Royal’s case). But the effect is all too real on the field. One hesitation, one small inkling of a thought that ‘maybe we aren’t going to win this one’ is all it takes in the minds of even professionals to be the edge between belief, victory, or of miss step.

    We’ve lost three close, gut-wrentching games it’s true. But Gibbs said it truly on Sunday after the game. We are being tested now. To find out how one fairs through tough circumstances is to truly know oneself. It is a state of perspective.

    Do we string somebody up? Or do we see a hope on the horizon for what this magnificent coach has helped this team to create amidst all the separateness and single-player-hype that founded the situation when he came back on. He is transforming this team into players who play together.

    I think the least we can do is hold our collective mouths and let him do his job.
    Hail to the Redskins.

    If not this year, then hold to the hope that he will get it right. For I know him, have met him, and he won’t stop until either the fans cry to crucify him, or until he is once again victorious.

    PS I hope we win a few, though.
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