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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
Will Gibbs Let Ramsey Open Up?
I've been struggling all week to come up with an apt description for the passing game the Redskins displayed last Sunday in Philadelphia. Something like "stone age" was on the list, but Patrick Ramsey threw 34 times, so it wasn't quite from the leather helmet era. "Conservative" was a little better, but most of those throws were even less risky than that.
What I came up with was something in between "first game of preseason" and "first practice at training camp." These were drills, not passing plays designed to win a football game.
Certainly, Gibbs had his reasons for doing this. He didn't want Ramsey to get sacked and he wanted to build his confidence, the crawl before you can walk before you can run theory. That's all well and good, but last Sunday wasn't even crawling when it came to the passing game; it was barely rolling over unassisted.
So, it's into Pittsburgh this Sunday for another game where the Redskins are a double-digit underdog against a one-loss team. The only difference is that the Steelers have the top-ranked defense in the NFL as opposed to the Eagles middle-of-the-pack unit. That would seem to indicate another day of hitches, wide receiver screens, and the other dinks and dunks that made watching last week's game such a thrill.
Injuries a Blessing?
In his "what the Redskins have to be Thankful for" piece in today's Times, Jody Foldesy manages to spin the spate of injuries the team has suffered into a positive thing:
4. Law of averages There's no way Washington expected this many major injuries. Heck, Napoleon probably didn't figure on this many boo-boos as he marched into Russia. Among the Redskins lost for extended periods were their leader on the offensive line, top pass-rusher, kicker, right defensive end, strong safety and projected middle linebacker. Now the right guard is on the shelf and a rookie tackle will face Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense. Assuming the breaks balance out in 2005, the Redskins are in line for a much-deserved stretch of good health. At least they hope.An interesting take, although one that is logically flawed. Luck is what it is and just because we're now sitting at the end of a spate of bad luck doesn't necessarily mean that a good one is about to follow. Even if you've rolled snake eyes three times in a row, the odds of you doing it a four time are still 1 in 36.
What Redskins Fans Have to be Thankful For
Yes, in the grand scheme of things what we might be thankful for regarding a football team pales in comparison to what's really important in our lives. So, with perspective fully in place and wearing Redskins hat, here's what Skins fans can be thankful for:
- Antonio Pierce—He wasn't supposed to see the field except on special teams, but he's stepped in for the injured Michael Barrow and gotten the job done. From his middle linebacker spot he calls the defensive signals, gives his all on every snap and is rarely out of position. Pierce is a joy to watch.
- Heritage—Here's one for you: of the teams who have won at least three Super Bowls only the Redskins and the Packers also won more than one NFL title in the pre-Super era. There's the more distant past to celebrate with the championships in '37 and '42 earned by Battles, Baugh, Farkas, coach Ray Flaherty, and others. Then there are the recent champs with Riggins, coach Gibbs, Theismann, and the Hogs. In between, Sonny and Billy, Larry Brown, Hanburger, Houston, C. Taylor, Mitchell and many, many more. The legacy of this team is second to none.
- Gregg Williams—As good a defensive mind as there is in the NFL, a man who has done a worst-to-first job on the
defense. Of course, as an aside to this, we're all thankful actually to have a defense that's worth talking about at all. Without the performance of this unit, playing without perhaps its best player in Lavar Arrington, this season would be much uglier than it is right now (which isn't too pretty). Washington
- Redskins fans—That's right, be thankful for each other. It's a great bunch of folks to talk football with, as classy and knowledgeable as any group of fans in the NFL. Add in the fact that no seat at FedEx Field ever goes unsold, guaranteeing that every game every year will be on local TV.
- Fred Smoot—He's gone from being a brash, cocky kid who talked just to hear himself talk to being a team leader who speaks for the players. Smoot has still managed to maintain that brashness, a refreshing quality among today's players. Oh, yeah, almost forgot the on-field aspect of Smoot; he's a tough as nails player who can lock down any receiver in the league.
- Tom Tupa—The first Redskins punter in years who doesn't automatically boom every punt from the opponent's territory through the end zone on the fly. He hits pitching wedges that die inside the five where they get down by. . .
- James Thrash—It's become cliché to talk about this guy, what a team guy he is, how he's willing to do anything asked of him, how he just wants to win. Well, it's become that because it's true.
- Joe Gibbs—He's back home where he belongs. Give him time, he'll get it done and he'll get it done the right way.
On a personal note, I'd like to thank all of you who check out this space to read what I have to say about the Skins. This is a lot of fun to write, but it's a heck of a lot more fun knowing that so many of you get some small bit of enjoyment out of it.
Hail to the Redskins and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
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