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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 26, 2004
Thank You, Pick Up Your Parting Gifts at the Door
Last week it was the opening day starting tight end. Today it was the starting offensive tackle.
Walter Rasby, thanks for the memories, especially those of whiffing on Bears defensive end Alex Brown in the Redskins' last game. Some lovely parting gifts will be sent to your forwarding address
Kenyatta Jones, thank you for participating in the 2004 NFL season. Nothing personal, my friend, but you can't beat out a man 16 years older than you are. You may pick up your bus ticket home on the way out the door.
Both cuts were somewhat surprising. Neither player has been every effective, but they're far from the only ones struggling in the Washington offense. Rasby received a $400,000 signing bonus when he rejoined the Skins in the offseason and seemed to have a good handle on the starting job.
Jones, 25, was a holdover from last year. When Jon Jansen went down with a season-ending injury in the first preseason game he was handed the starting job. At the time, it seemed that he was Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C for replacing Jansen in the lineup. Sure, Ray Brown was signed but Brown was 41, just a backup.
Brown's backup status lasted exactly 60 minutes. He was inserted into the starting lineup for the second game. Jones started against Baltimore when his elder was injured, but Brown, who has played guard almost exclusively for most of the past 10 years, was back in the starting lineup in Chicago.
Although he had been demoted, it seemed that Jones' job was safe if only due to Brown's age and demonstrated vulnerability to injury. Gibbs and company, however, decided to cut Jones in favor of Vaughn Parker, who started all 16 games for the Chargers in 2001 and in 12 in 2002. A knee injury sidelined him for most of last year.
So why Parker? Familiarity, explained Gibbs:
We had Vaughn Parker, that we knew a lot about. He had been in San Diego with [assistant coaches] Dale Lindsay and Joe Bugel. He was somebody that we felt like could play tackle for us. We know a lot about him.As one would expect, Gibbs didn't go into any detail as to why Jones needed to be replaced.
Our feeling was that we needed to make a move and it was probably best for all of us. . . It was one of those decisions that you hate to make, but we felt like it was best for the club.The guess here is that Gibbs never wanted Jones to begin with. Kenyatta Jones is not somebody known as a "character guy". Just a year ago, he was arrested and charged with assault with intent to maim, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and mayhem. The accusations stemmed from a bizarre incident in which he tossed scalding water at his personal assistant while he sat on the toilet. Jones paid a civil settlement and the criminal charges were dropped.
Think that's strange? Catch what Jones said about it:
To this day I wouldn't change anything that happened on that day. . .I'm glad it happened the way it happened.Joe Gibbs is as straight-laced as they come—his idea of "party hardy" is to down an additional IBC root beer before going back into "The Submarine" with his assistants—but he's hardly intolerant of rowdier types. He did no more than sigh and perhaps roll his eyes when, say, John Riggins passed out in the presence of a Supreme Court associate justice. He welcomed Tony Peters back after the safety had been hauled off in cuffs from the dorm at training camp in 1992, the result of drug conspiracy charges that Peters eventually plea bargained on. It took a lifetime ban by the NFL due to repeated drug violations for Gibbs and the Redskins to cut Dexter Manley.
Peters, Manley, and Riggins had a big advantage over Kenyatta Jones—they were Pro Bowl to, in Riggo's case, Hall of Fame level performers. Jones was not. And Peters and Manley expressed regret about their malfeasance; neither was quoted as saying that he "wouldn't change a thing."
During the offseason, Jones was likely viewed by the staff as being destined for the first-round waiver wire due to his strange behavior. The Jansen went down—an event that had to be considered unlikely as The Rock had missed just one play in five seasons with the team--and everything changed. Jones was plugged into the spot, but the search to replace him begin immediately. Brown arrived at practice the same day that Jones was taking his first snaps with the first team. Five weeks later Brown replaced Jones as the starter. Five weeks after that, an alternative to Jones was found, a character guy in Parker.
There were no such issues with Rasby, a solid veteran. Like I said, Rasby hasn't played particularly poorly, but the position certainly was a candidate for an upgrade. It seems as though Gibbs decided he made a mistake in keeping Rasby and axing Fred Baxter in the final cutdown.
Baxter suffered a knee injury during the preseason but has healed to near 100%. Third-year player Robert Royal likely will get the start, but Baxter hopes to be ready to play.
The bottom line is that Joe Gibbs is still in the process of making this into "his" team. Most of the major parts are in place, but there is still tinkering to be done. Marginal players, even marginal starters, should continue to rent, not buy, in the area of Redskins Park.
There will be plenty written around here about Packer quarterback Bret Favre in the coming days. I'm looking forward to seeing one of the top half dozen or so quarterbacks in the history of the league in person. It was entertaining to see him perform against the Cowboys on Sunday; it will not be so much fun if he carves up the Redskins in a similar fashion.
Due to scheduling oddities, this will be the 14-year veteran's first start on the road against the Redskins. However, he has played at Washington before.
In 1991, Jerry Glanville brought his Falcons to a rainy RFK Stadium for a regular-season game against the Redskins. Mark Rypien had a banner day, throwing long touchdown bombs to Gary Clark and Art Monk. The Redskins were up by 32 points in the late going when Glanville put the rookie Favre into the game for a little mop up action. Andre Collins picked off a Favre pass and rolled 15 yards into the end zone to push the score to 56-17.
October 25, 2004
One Point Five
It ridiculous to talk about playoff positioning when we are just about done with Week 7 in the National Football League. It's even more preposterous to do so when the team being discussed has a 2-4 record.
However, if you haven't learned by now, nothing is to far-fetched to discuss around here.
The Washington Redskins emerged from their bye week with a 2-4 record with their wins coming over NFC rivals Tampa Bay and Chicago and their losses to Baltimore and Cleveland of the AFC and Dallas and the New York Giants of the NFC East. The losses to the two division rivals are bad for their playoff chances; the fact that their two other losses are to AFC teams helps them in that they are not "bad" losses.
Of course, who you beat and who you lose to only matters if you're tied with another team. And, as of right now, the way I see it, the Redskins are just a game and a half out of a Wild Card playoff spot in the loss column.
That requires some explanation as anyone looking at the NFC standings can see that there are two second place teams with two losses, the Giants and the Detroit Lions, both 4-2. That would place Washington two games out of one of the two NFC Wild Card spots.
I am basing my game-and-a-half statement on the fact that the Redskins play the Lions in two weeks, after the Green Bay game. After that November 7 game, we will be looking at one of two scenarios. Either the Redskins will have beaten the Lions and will hold the tiebreaker advantage over them with a head-to-head win, or they will have lost that game and will be entirely out of playoff contention.
To be sure, the Packers and the Skins are among the pack of five NFC teams with four losses so it's not as simple as beating Detroit. Still, nine wins could well be enough to make the playoffs so Washington can "afford" three more losses and still have a shot.
If those three losses come to the Eagles (twice) and at Pittsburgh, the Redskins have a very, very good shot. An upset of Philly, of course, gives them the "luxury" of being able to lose another one but the additional loss had better not come at the hands of the Giants or Cowboys. For a Wild Card Spot, the tiebreakers are first applied to the division so even a head to head win over Green Bay or Detroit might not do any good if there's a sweep within the division.
Again, this is just speculative talk in the middle of the two-week break between games. If the offense doesn't start scoring more points, Washington's chances of making the playoffs are about the same as those of the Red Sox coming back from 0-3 against the Yankees. It can happen, but if it does it's a miracle.
Even if Brunell, Coles, Portis and company do start putting up three TD's a game the odds are strongly against making the playoffs, maybe 1 to five, maybe worse. But at least it's early and the fact that nobody is running away from the rest of the pack gives even that slight glimmer of hope.
Click here for previous entries in Tandler's Redskins Blog