From The Ashes?

You couldn't have had a more tumultuous bye week at Redskins Park. To recap:

Joe Bugel and Foge Fazio are brought in as offensive and defensive consultants, respectively.
Player movement off of the roster, including backup quarterback Rob Johnson.
Player movement onto the roster, including backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck.
The biggest player move news was something that didn't happen as Danny Wuerffel declined an offer to return as backup quarterback.
Dan Snyder and Steve Spurrier have a well-publicized six-hour dinner/meeting/strategy session on Saturday.
Lavar Arrington questions other players' effort and intensity.
Other players make thinly-veiled references to Arrington in saying that some players just need to execute their assignments and not freelance so much.
Spurrier announces that he's going to return to the deeper passing game of his true Fun ‘n Gun.

There was something else, just can't remember what it is. Oh, yeah:

The Redskins are traveling to Dallas to play a game against the Cowboys. At stake is the very survival of their season.

Can the Redskins possibly win under such circumstances? Well, we don't know that, but we do know that it's happened before.

Just two years ago the Redskins started 0-5 and looked awful in doing so. While the tumult wasn't quite as public, there was a strong undercurrent of doubt about new coach Marty Schottenheimer's methods and systems. All it took to turn it around was a bit of good fortune. Carolina coach George Seifert decides to pass with his team in field goal range late in a game the Panthers are leading 14-0. The ball bounces off of the intended receiver, Lavar Arrington snags it and rolls in for the touchdown. The infusion of hope lifts the entire team and sparks a 5-0 streak.

Go back to 1981 to another 0-5 start under another new coach, Joe Gibbs. There was speculation that Gibbs wouldn't survive the season if the team didn't improve. After a turnover-marred first five games, the Redskins were on the receiving end of some largesse by their opponents when they visited Chicago. A Joe Lavender interception set up a Mark Moseley field goal. Then Neil Olkewicz picked off a pass at the Bear 10 and easily stepped into the end zone. In the second quarter Dave Butz got a rare pick and rumbled down to the one. It was 17-0 after John Riggins bulled it in from there. Washington would go on to win, starting a run that saw the Redskins win 37 of their next 42 games.

The Redskins have come into a Dallas game limping much more severely than they are now. On December 17, 1961 Dallas came into DC Stadium to face a Redskins team that had not won since October 9, 1960. That adds up to 23 straight games without a win (they had managed three ties during that span). Dick James saw to it that the skid would end right there as he ran for a 146 yards on 27 carries and scored a team-record four touchdowns. Dallas quarterback Eddie LaBaron did his best to extend his former teammates' misery as he passed for three touchdowns, but the Redskins managed to hold the Cowboys off and come away with a 34-24 win.

Overall, the Cowboys haven't been quite as accommodating when it comes to ending Redskin losing streaks since then. Starting after that '61 season finale, Washington has come into a game against Dallas on a losing skid of three or more games eight times. They are 3-5 in those games, with two of the wins coming in 1995 when the last-place Skins whipped the eventual Super Bowl champion Cowboys in both meetings.

To be sure, 3-4 is not nearly as dire as 0-5, but this certainly feels like it. And the 5-2 Cowboys are certainly playing better than the '01 Panthers or the '81 Bears or their '61 expansion ancestors were at the time. Again, can the Redskins win?

One's answer to that depends on one's view of the world. If you believe that chaos is the natural order of things, things could continue to deteriorate for the Redskins and they are facing the prospect of a blowout on Sunday. If you think the darkest hour is just before dawn, the Redskins have a good shot.

The view here is that the Redskins will have to play four quarters of inspired, mistake free football to win this game. In fact, if that does happen, the Redskins will win going away.

There is no reason to believe, however, that the Redskins will play four quarters of good football. They've come up with a maximum of two quarters this year, less than that in most of their games. Now maybe, just maybe, the Phoenix will rise from the ashes of the scorched earth produced around Redskins Park the past couple of weeks and the team will come out focused and play well for 60 minutes. Until they do it, though, it's hard to believe that they can.

Cowboys 24, Redskins 20

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories