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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
November 13, 2004
Just Shut Up
There was a time, not too long ago, when a comment such as this one made by Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline in his mid-season evaluations would have really made me mad:
Worst coaching job: Joe Gibbs. It pains me to have to do this because Gibbs is a legend and a great coach, but has he done a good job with a team many predicted would be in the playoffs?Allow the old me to rant so that you can see what I'm talking about:
Prisco, you pinhead! Why don't you pull your head out of your rear long enough to watch this team play a few times before you go shooting off your stupid mouth about our coach? This team is better in almost every way than it has been since Gibbs packed it up in '92. It's an actual professional organization unlike the burgundy and gold circus it's been. There is pride, there is discipline. The Skins are a couple of screwed-up officials' calls away from being 5-3 and in the playoff driver's seat.OK, that's a cleaned-up version, but you get the idea.
And the worst gosh-darned coaching job? Puhleeeeze! Vermiel's Chiefs were Super Bowl favorites and they're the same 3-5. And, yeah, John Fox's Panthers are pretty banged up but Gibbs' Skins haven't exactly been injury free and last year's NFC champs are sitting at 1-7. Weren't Marvin Lewis' Bengals and Bill Parcells' Cowboys supposed to take the next step? Don't forget, Pete, the most consistently underachieving team in the NFL, perhaps in all of sports, Jim Haslett's New Orleans Saints.
Certainly the new me believes all of the arguments made above. It's the attitude that's different. I have empathy for the Pete Priscos of the world.
These "national" reporters, guys like Prisco, Clayton, Pasquarelli, and Mortensen have gotten to be sources of information that are a mile wide and an inch deep. There is so much going on with the 32 NFL teams that it's simply unrealistic to expect them to be as intimately familiar with what's going on with all of them. They can't possibly watch more than a few games a week even if they have multiple Tivos and multiple NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions at home. Even if they work 12 hours a day seven days a week, and they don't, they can only spend about a couple of hours a week on each team. Most of us do that before lunch on Tuesday.
In short, it's not realistic to expect Prisco to have as good a handle on how the Redskins' season has gone and how it compares to past seasons as I do, or as most of you reading this blog do. He may get a little more "inside" scoop here and there, but we observe this team closely, watch and replay each game, and discuss and analyze every aspect of the team on a daily basis.
His editors at Sportsline, however, do not care. He's expected to write a midseason report, shallowness of knowledge be damned. On top of that, if what he has to say makes some people mad and draws a flood of irate emails and raging discussions on message boards, so much the better. Busting on an icon like Gibbs is a sure-fire way to get a reaction.
Don't get me wrong, I often find the national guys' material to be informative. I always try to have ESPN Radio tuned in for a Mort Report. But I don't listen for information on the Redskins. I've already gotten that from Demasio or Foldesy or from my own observations. It's to get the scoop, however shallow, on what's going on with other teams.
So, quite simply, comments like Prisco's are what they are—only vaguely informed and designed not to add knowledge but to fill Web pages in need of content and, to some extent, to generate some heat. Nobody should get angry when such comments are negative nor should anyone find any particular pleasure in positive remarks from this group of writers either.
A Six-Tool Team
If you break it down on a broad, somewhat superficial level, there are seven areas in which a football team must perform. They are:
- Cover kicks
- Return kicks
- Convert Field goals
- Defend the run
- Defend the pass
Of course, it's the passing game that is the drag on this team. As John McEnroe would say, it's "the pits of the universe". Way too often, Mark Brunell's passes miss their target. All too often, when his passes are on the mark, the target drops the ball. Iither result assumes that Brunell has adequate time to throw and/or a receiver could get open.
It's a mess that's led to four sub-100-yard outputs this year. The bad news is that it's not likely to get significantly better any time soon. Gibbs isn't likely to bench Brunell and, even if that happens, there's no guarantee that Patrick Ramsey will play any better. The offense will be tweaked and retooled, perhaps giving some more playing time to Darnerien McCants (you could say he's been glued to the bench, but he hasn't even been on the bench, having been inactive for six of the eight games), but such moves won't improve the output dramatically.
It looks like something we're going to have to get used to. If the Redskins are to win games, they will do so on the basis of their hard-charging defense, the legs of Clinton Portis, and the solid performance and occasional big play from the special teams. It's not an impossible formula to win with; the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl with it in 2000.
This isn't to say that the Redskins are Jacksonville bound. The point is that there are ways of winning football games that don't necessarily involve going out there and pitchin' it around, as an old ballcoach used to say.
Had a flag been thrown in the end zone against Dallas and had one not been thrown on the sideline against the Packers, the Skins would have very marginally better offensive passing numbers and they would be 5-3. We'd all celebrating "winning ugly".
What happened happened, however, and the results are what they are. So instead of being the last piece of the puzzle, the passing game is the big drag on the team, Brunell is not being celebrated for his "control" in not making killer turnovers but being ravaged for lack of output.
You could go on with the "ifs" but the main one is that "if" the Redskins' passing game was even as good as mediocre they wouldn't have had to worry about flags and they'd be cruising. It's about results.
Ooops, Forgot One
In listing the Redskins that I cast my Pro Bowl votes for, I negleted to talk about Marcus Washington. The trademark of this defense so far has been flying to the football and number 53 is usually among the first jersies you'll see meeting at the ball carrier. His chances of getting to Hawaii would probably improve if he had more sacks but those of us who watch him every game appreciate the fact that he excels in everything he's asked to do.
November 11, 2004
Pro Bowl Voting
This evening, I filled out my ballot for the Pro Bowl online at There was also an option to continue voting for the grunts, the offensive linemen and the defensive players. Of course, I took the continue on option after being somewhat insulted that I was given the option to opt out of the process after voting for the big-money guys.
It was as though after punching out the chads for the President, Congress and the Senate last week, a message had appeared on my butterfly ballot saying: "You've voted on the important stuff. If you really want to go on and vote for those obscure county commissioners and those boring bond issues, keep on. Otherwise, turn in your punch card now."
Anyway, let me know what you think of my choices. If you can make a compelling case that anyone I left off should be included, let me know. Conversely, if you think that I voted for an undeserving Redskin, your comments are also welcome.
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