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October 2, 2004
A Stunning Stat
I'm not a big stat guy when it comes to football. Baseball, with 162 games a year, lends itself to analysis by the numbers much better than football does. You can measure a hitter by various numbers because it's just him against the pitchers. If you try to do the same thing with a running back you have to take in to account his offensive line, the coaching system and so on.
Even team-oriented stats are hard to attach much meaning to, even ones that sound impressive. I heard the other day that the Packers were a lock to beat the Giants on Sunday because New York hasn't won in Green Bay since 1971. Wow, you say. But the Giants have only played there a few times since then and none of them were during New York's recent glory years of 1986-1990. The Pack will probably prevail, but it has nothing to do with games played by players who no longer play.
But on the CPND board here, I came across a stunning stat that I'd forgotten: On games following Monday night football, Joe Gibbs is 20-2.
That's just amazing. He's won coming off of the short week 91% of the time, and the statistical sample covers just less than a season and a half and it's over a period of 10 years (Washington didn't play on MNF in either of Gibbs' first two seasons). That, my friends, is a trend.
I've heard a lot about the disadvantage of teams playing on a short week, so assume that the average record of teams coming off of MNF is a little under .500. That means that Gibbs' advantage over the field is 400 percentage points. That's money.
It was my impulse to say that Gibbs obviously had a much better idea as to how to prepare his team on a short week than other coaches did. But wait, his opponents were always coming off of a regular week. So he did better in what is commonly a disadvantageous situation. He was the one-legged man who won the butt-kicking competition 20 out of 22 times.
October 1, 2004
Gibbs Keeping Tabs At first, it struck me as "dog bites man" type news. Joe Gibbs reads what's written about the team in the papers. From Nunyo Demasio's article in today's Post:
Three games into what has been called "the second coming," Gibbs's Redskins are 1-2 and criticism has been mounting. There have been costly turnovers, questionable coaching decisions and mistakes. Gibbs, who admits to reading newspapers regularly, says he is taking the media criticism in stride.
This struck me as odd. I've heard countless coaches say that they don't read the papers and, although I had never heard Gibbs address the subject, I just assumed that he wouldn't have the time to read the papers. After all, that would take away time from figuring out how to redesign the Counter Trey so it would work better with his current personnel and against today's defenses.
But in thinking about it and with my occasional "inside" access to the locker room, it makes sense. You have fifty-plus players, most of them with something to say. You can't talk to all of them all the time, so having a bunch of guys roaming around with pads and pencils and voice recorders and then reading what they write is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of the team.
In addition, you need to know when you need to step up and defend one of your players from criticism. This was the case as Gibbs defended the play of Mark Brunell. While the remarks about the quarterback's play weren't particularly scathing—most were along the lines of the "not terrible, but not terribly effective" assessment written in this space—Gibbs still felt compelled to come to Brunell's defense:
"If you want proof in the pudding you look at his quarterback rating against Dallas [97.5]. And you go and check the quarterback ratings for last year against that team."
That would be a reference to Tim Hasselbeck's 0.0 rating against Dallas in a game late last season.
Do the Browns Have a Chance?
Rarely has a game between two 1-2 teams seemed to be such a mismatch.
The Cleveland Browns are beaten up, in disarray, and they weren't very good when they were healthy and had their act together. The Redskins are relatively healthy, it seems they are improving week to week and have better players man for man than the Browns do.
The Redskins should win this game by three touchdowns.
Of course, it's the NFL and anything can happen. Washington has been prone to making mistakes in the form of turnovers (vs. New York) and penalties (vs. Dallas) and if both of those bugs bite on Sunday the Browns might be able to hang in there and keep it close and anything can happen in the fourth quarter.
The more likely scenario in my mind, though, is the Redskins gradually building a lead with Clinton Portis having a big day against a particularly lame Cleveland rush defense. It should still be a game at halftime, but Washington will pull away in the final 30 minutes with Jeff Garcia throwing a couple of picks in the fourth quarter to seal it.
Washington 31, Cleveland 14.
Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins
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