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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 17, 2004
Dumb and Smarter
In an SI.com article Don Banks is an idiot and makes perfect sense in the same sentence.
If Gibbs comes back for another fun-filled year in Washington -- and after the mini-drama that was the Spurrier denouement, I don't think anything's a lock -- I'd be willing to bet that he requires further assistance on the personnel side of the front office in 2005.For the first part, there is no "if" about Gibbs coming back. If you go back to the press conference when he came back as coach, one of the themes he kept on coming back to was that he took the job because it was a challenge, because building a winning NFL team was such a hard thing to do. There's absolutely no way he's going to walk away--Banks says that he might cite "health reasons" as an excuse for bailing out--after one season. He knew what he was getting in to and he's going to stick it out. Any speculation to the contrary is just plain wrong and misinformed.
Banks, however, is dead on spot with the second part there. He goes on to say:
With the leveling effects of the salary cap, coaching in the NFL is much tougher in 2004 than it was in 1992, and Gibbs needs help. First-rate help. Since you can't fire the owner, that spells trouble for (Vinny) Cerrato's tenure, or at least his assignment near the top of the Redskins management flow chart.This team needs an in-charge GM, plain and simple. If Snyder wants to negotiate the contracts of the big-money guys, fine. Certainly, Joe Gibbs needs to have input into who the team drafts and goes after in free agency.
As one veteran front office executive in the league told me last week: "Vinny's a disaster, and Joe needs somebody in personnel who can help him get quality players."
Yesterday, there was an article here about the massive changes that have taken place around Redskins Park since 1999. One change that hasn't taken place is the installation of an experienced personnel man who has the final call. That is one change that needs to take place. On January 3, the day after the Redskins' season ends, Gibbs needs to walk into Snyder's office and demand it.
A Slap in the Face
I didn't have a chance to do any quick hits on this game, but I was thinking that exact same thing that Michael Wilbon was during this moment that he talked about in his Monday column.:
Here's all you need to know about the Redskins quarterback situation: With six minutes to play in the third quarter and Cincinnati leading 17-0, Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis elected to go for it on fourth and one from just inside the Redskins 40 rather than punt the ball. You know why Lewis didn't punt? Because he knew good and well there was no chance the Redskins quarterback, whichever one of took the field, could do enough to rally the Redskins -- not even on a short field, not even playing at home, not even against another 3-5 team with no recent history of winning anything. Lewis's assessment was completely justified when on the ensuing series the Bengals sacked Ramsey, forcing him to fumble, and nearly intercepted him twice.I was hoping that Ramsey would take it as the slap in the face that it was and come out on fire, but the sequence Wilbon related is what followed.
November 15, 2004
So what's wrong with the Redskins?
Continuity or, more specifically, the lack thereof.
I'm sure that most of you reading this are well aware of the revolving door of head coaches, coordinators, and players that have gone into and out of Redskins Park since 1999. There's no need to recount the four head coaches (I don't count Robiskie, he was an interim), the six defensive coordinators, the six starting quarterbacks, and so on.
To be sure, some changing was needed. The Turner era was one of remarkable stability that got the team a total of one playoff appearance in seven seasons. Stable mediocrity is not what Redskins fans expect.
At the time, it was not hard to justify—or rationalize, at least--throwing Marty overboard when Spurrier became available. He was the next great NFL coach in the eyes of many, not all of them named Daniel Snyder.
Of course, the change to Gibbs was a gift from the gods. But, still, it was a change. And it meant adjustments and relearning. The addition of Clinton Portis appears to have been a good one, but he has to get used to his blockers, they have to get used to him, the coaches have to figure out how to use him. The members of that line, with a new center and the need to replace Jon Jansen at right tackle, have to get used to each other. Tight ends and H-backs are learning new roles.
To be sure, the defense is playing at a high level of effectiveness and they have a whole new coaching staff, new faces, and injuries as well. But at the risk of oversimplifying, playing defense is much more instinctive than playing offense. Even after a subpar half yesterday, the unit should still be ranked first or second in the NFL and that is much to Gregg Williams credit, especially since he hasn't had all three of his starting linebackers on the field at all this year.
And now, there's a new starting quarterback. Fortunately, most of the receiving corps has played with Ramsey and should be able to adjust to the harder-thrown, right-handed passes he'll be dealing out (this is pending Gibbs' formal announcement of Ramsey as the new starter at his 6:00 presser, but it appears to be just that, a formality). Still, it's another change in the system and another setback.
The old rule of thumb is that an offense needs to run 1,000 snaps—real, live, game action snaps, not practice or even preseason--together before it's going to reach its maximum effectiveness. Without going back and adding them up, I'd say that the Redskins have run about 600 snaps this year. Each change in the offense doesn't necessarily reset the count to zero—you have to deal with injuries and benchings—but a major change like one at quarterback certainly needs at least two or three game's worth of snaps to recoup.
Bengals Predictions Analysis
I was going to just put up an empty bucket as I was way off on this game and not spend much time on it, but I promised a couple of Bengals fans who wrote that I would eat my full serving of crow.
None of my predictions won any buckets, so I won't post the ratings.
Palmer will have some success, but not much. Look for about 150 yards, a touchdown, and maybe a pair of interceptions. Fred Smoot will lock Chad Johnson down. Running back Rudi Johnson won't find much room either (note to self—bench Johnson on fantasy team). He runs best up the middle and Cornelius Griffin will be in the way there. Johnson will be doing well to get to 60 yards. If the Redskins don't turn the ball over as the Cowboys did last week, the Bengals will have a tough time scoring against the Washington defense ranked first in the NFL.I wasn't all that far off on Palmer, just 65 yards. It was Johnson's performance that I was way off on. I'm sure that you Bengals fans will be happy to learn that I lost the fantasy matchup I would have won if I'd played Johnson.
Cincinnati won't get those turnovers. Brunell's best play is the toss into the bench area to avoid the interception. Knock wood, but it seems that Portis has solved the problems that caused some uncharacteristic and untimely fumbles earlier this year. No cheap scores for the visitors.Brunell's interception was key, giving the Bengals a short field to work with, although it wasn't exactly a "cheap" score. On second thought, I'll go ahead and give myself a couple of buckets here.
The Redskins will get their offense moving. Now that's a relative term; I certainly don't expect an offensive explosion, a match of the 34 points they put up in the last meeting with the Bengals or anything. At some point, however, opposing defenses have to get concerned enough about Portis to open up the passing game a bit more. Brunell shatters the 100-yard barrier, maybe even touches the rarified air of 150. Portis will run wild. If he is to have a near 200-yard game this season, and most backs of his caliber do, this is the week.Portis didn't get enough carries to make even 100 yards, although he did have a nice average of over four per carry. Brunell, of course, was awful before being yanked and most of Ramsey's pass production came in desperation in the third and fourth quarters when it was 17-0.
All of this adds up to a 24-13 Redskins win.It wasn't so surprising that the Bengals were able to put up 17 points. The killer for the Redskins was it was 17-0 by the middle of the second quarter and they were taken out of their game. Perhaps they didn't need to be, maybe Portis should have had more than 17 carries as there was still plenty of time to catch up. Regardless, it seemed that Cincinnati had an answer for whatever the Redskins dished up.
As for the Redskins, they're still searching for answers.
It's possible that I'm being overly critical here, but the Redskins' huddles are awfully sloppy. Some guys have their hands on their knees, some are kind of standing sideways leaning into the huddle. There's no sharp break and they just kind of individually wander up to the line.
Maybe it's high school stuff, but a huddle should be sharp and organized and the line should break out and stride purposefully to the line and get into their stances as one. The way it's being done now conveys no confidence and, in fact, indicates doubts.
From Thomas Boswell's column today:
Seldom have astronomical expectations, which were certainly too high, been replaced so suddenly with the possibility of stunning failure. . .Still, (Gibbs) and his staff, as well as Redskins ownership, to say nothing of the team's famously fanatical fans, have to be stunned to the point of shock by what they are seeing.Astronomical expectations? Stunned and shocked at a 3-6 record? The most optimistic projections had them at 10-6 and in the wild card hunt. That's hardly rarified air. Most figured Gibbs would need a year to get things into place and that something in the 7-9 to 9-7 range would be reasonable.
Boswell is a guy who, a couple of months ago, wrote what I thought was an excellent article pointing out how events get so hyped to the high and to the low in Redskins Land. Now here he is participating in the "sky is falling" today.
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