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The Offseason Begins

Dec 5, 2006, 4:20 PM EDT

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You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

This week’s Tuesday Take was essentially going to write itself. All I would have to do is refer back to last week’s edition, the part where I wrote about the Redskins’ training camp workload vs. that of the Falcons. After the Redskins’ first two drives, both crisply executed touchdown marches, it was obvious that Atlanta was a dead football team walking. Jim Mora’s brutal camp in August had left them with nothing in the tank in December. And while the Redskins’ relatively easy training camp regime had probably cost them the season since they weren’t ready to play when the season started they were ready to get on a patented Joe Gibbs December roll. In addition to being able to bang out this piece with my eyes closed an article breaking down the Redskins’ playoff possibilities was in the offing.

But then they had to play the last 45 minutes of the game.

While the Redskins didn’t seem to weaken–especially Ladell Betts, who kept on ripping off 12 yard runs–the Falcons got their legs under them and established control. They started holding on to Michael Vick’s passes, Vick started scrambling and they climbed back into the game. Jason Campbell did a couple of things that made him look like a quarterback playing in his third NFL game. Once the Redskins got behind they never got a sense of urgency to try to rally. Their offense in the last five minutes of the game seemed to be confused. On several occasions they wasted time decided whether or not they needed to huddle up before huddling, wasting precious seconds.

When Jason Campbell’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 26 seconds left, ending any chance at a miracle finish, the Redskins’ offseason officially began. While it’s true that an 8-8 NFC team probably will make the playoffs, perhaps even two of them, the Redskins aren’t going to finish at 8-8. They haven’t demonstrated the ability to string together more than five quarters of solid football all year long; it’s sheer fantasy to think that they could suddenly get hot for 16 quarters, run the table, and get to .500.

There will be plenty of time to break down what the Redskins should do this offseason in the coming weeks. At first glance, however, I think that they need to resist the urge to make massive changes. Their salary cap situation will prevent them from doing much in the free agent market, which is a good thing. The team needs some stability. They made relatively few changes after the 2004 season and they went 10-6 the next year.

Jason Campbell spending seven games plus a full offseason as the team’s #1 quarterback will do a world of good for the offense. So will spending a second offseason absorbing and adjusting to Al Saunders’ offense. The players and the organization seriously underestimated the difficulty of that task this year. Let’s not forget having a healthy Clinton Portis back in the lineup in addition to all of that.

One thing that they can do right now is play Rocky McIntosh at weakside linebacker. It seems that Warrick Holdman is to Gregg Williams what Mark Brunell is to Joe Gibbs. Williams can defend Holdman’s play all he wants but the fact is that the Redskins invested a pair of second-round picks in McIntosh and they have to see what they have in him.

But there is no need to make changes for the sake of making changes. Instability has been the hallmark of the Redskins organization since 1999. What we’re seeing now is largely the result of that continuous upheaval. Some adjustments and refinements are necessary, but the core of the team, both in terms of players and coaches, needs to remain intact.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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