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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
October 15, 2004
Points at a Premium
Run or pass and score
we want a lot more!
Beat ‘em swamp ‘em touchdown
Let the points soar!
Of all the numbers you can toss around about the Redskins' lack of offense this year, here's the worst one—through five games, they have yet to score as many as 20 points in a game. The 18 they racked up against Dallas represents "let the points soar" for this group thus far.
The drought is not exactly historical, but it is unusual. You only have to go back three years to find a worse scoring skid to start the season out. Marty's 2001 team went its first six games before hanging up a fifth of a hundred in a game.
Before that, you have to go back to 1965 to find a season when it took so long for a Redskins team to score 20 points. If anything, that drought was worse than the current one as the Skins managed to score just a single touchdown in three of those games.
And you think that this team is underachieving? That '65 team featured three Hall of Famers at the skill positions in quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and receivers Charley Taylor and Bobby Mitchell plus all-time Redskin great Jerry Smith at tight end. No wonder head coach Bill McPeak was shown the door despite winning six of his final nine games. (Of course, they brought in Otto "Mr. Excitement" Graham, who immediately said that the rather lose and score a lot of points than win a defensive struggle, but that's a story for another time.)
Off the Scrap Heap and Into the Fire
Nunyo Demasio has a nice story about Ryan Clark, who may start at safety this week, The Redskins called after Dennard Walker went down for the year with a broken leg. After seeing a news report that he had been dropped in the first cutdown, he reported to Redskins Park with his playbook and gear in hand, ready to head home. The coaches assured him, however, that reports of his demise from the team had been great exaggerated. Clark went back to work and made the team.
Now, due to Matt Bowen's season-ending knee injury and Andre Lott's lingering hamstring problems, Clark could well wind up starting in a game that the Redskins desperately need to win if they are to make anything out of the season. NFL teams routinely call upon the likes of Clark and in order to be successful, the Ryan Clarks of the world have to come through for them. They have to plug a hole, fill in for a few weeks until either the starter comes back or, as in this case, the primary backup gets healthy enough to play.
In Gibbs Era I, there were many times that players plucked off of the scrap heap or picked in the later rounds came in and got the job done when called upon, particularly in the defensive backfield. I'm not talking about guys like Curtis Jordan or Todd Bowles, unwanted free agent pickups who became longtime starters. I'm talking about A. J. Johnson, a sixth-round pick pushed into the lineup at the end of his rookie 1989 season after Darrell Green broke his wrist. Johnson led the team in interceptions with four that year but went back to part-time and special teams duty after that. And Sydney Johnson, Alvoid Mays, Clarence Vaughn were undrafted free agents who were spot starters in the defensive backfield during the late ‘80's and early 90's
And on Sunday, possibly, it's Ryan Clark's turn. Stay tuned.
October 14, 2004
Gibbs Answering to a Higher Authority?
I know that the quarterback always takes the heat when his team is losing and when the team's offensive output is the lowest in 43 years that heat is going to increase. But I don't understand the level of vitriol being hurled at Mark Brunell these days. On internet boards, on talk shows and in water cooler conversation it's like Brunell is Michael Moore and those making the comments are Rush Limbaugh.
Implicit in the pounding that Brunell is taking is that Joe Gibbs is making a big mistake in sticking with him as the starting QB. It's fine to disagree with the coach, even Gibbs. Say that Brunell is washed up, say that he doesn't have the arm strength, say that the team just needs a lift from a new quarterback, whatever.
But some of the comments are taking on a tone that has a sinister flavor to it and it's got to stop. It's the notion that Gibbs is sticking with Brunell as his starting quarterback because they both have deep religious beliefs.
I first saw such a comment in Mike Wise's column in the Post earlier this week. Wise was quoting a fan on an internet board:
"If Joe Gibbs starts Mark Brunell next Sunday, it will confirm what I have thought since the day we signed the inept quarterback. . . . One fervent Christian favoring another fervent Christian. Time to break the loyalty, Joe. This isn't church, it's football, and Mark Brunell is the biggest mistake you ever made."I thought this was a random rambling by an irrational fan. But then I read similar comments from someone on a small Redskins email list that I've belonged to for years. The person who wrote the comments and I have met, went to a game together in fact. He's as sane and rational as they come.
Perhaps Gibbs view of Ramsey's talents differs from ours. Our perhaps he's blinded by his Christian loyalty to Brunell. I hope that nobody takes offense at that remark, I don't mean to get into a discussion here on religion. But obviously religion plays a big role in Gibbs' life and I don't think I'm out of line in saying that he would give Brunell the benefit of the doubt based on the fact they share similar values. And if that is the case in keeping Mark in there and Patrick on the bench then it would be wrong.I've caught similar rumblings elsewhere. And I've got to say that saying or writing things like this is just flat wrong.
What these people are doing is making a very loaded accusation. If you or I were to keep an employee in a job because of his or her religion (or lack thereof, for that matter) knowing full well that another person was more qualified and could easily be put into that job, we wouldn't have our jobs for very long. We'd be lucky if we didn't wind up in court. But they think that a Hall of Fame coach will go off and to the same thing.
There is no evidence of a pattern of favoring those with a strong Christian faith in Gibbs' past. Certainly, there were players like Darrel Green on Gibbs' teams, but without knowing for sure, I'm going to guess that Riggins and many of the Hogs, among others, were not in the Bible-thumping demographic.
More recently, Gibbs has been in NASCAR. Again, I don't know for sure, but I'd bet that his Winston Cup winning driver Tony Stewart is not counted in the evangelical flock.
The sinister implication, of course, is that Gibbs is consciously willing to make a decision that lessens his team's chances of winning because the benefactor of the decision shares his deep faith.
If you have a rational argument against Gibbs starting Brunell, bring it on. But since these accusations—and that's exactly what they are—are being make without a shred of evidence to back them up, I would suggest that those who are inclined to make them just shut up.
Bad News Bears
I didn't realize how badly the Bears have been playing this year until reading Click here for previous entries in Tandler's Redskins Blog