Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dread Bye Week Post

Battle stations

While not exactly coinciding with the Sunday of the bye week when Curly R generally publishes the Dread Bye Week posts, I thought it important to put up a few notes on the state of the team at the middle point of the season.

And it is not hot. In fact it is a complete reversal of fortune from last year.

The Redskins are 2-6 and have beaten two teams, the Rams and Buccaneers, teams with two wins between them and Washington's margin of victory over the two teams was a combined five points. An offensive consultant was brought in as another set of eyes which led to head coach Jim Zorn being stripped of playcalling duties, which were handed to Sherman Lewis, the offensive consultant that had been with the team less than three weeks at the time of his first game.

Most decisions have been bungled, case in point the playcalling. When the decision was made to hand playcalling duties to Sherman Lewis, the original thought was plays would come from Sherman Lewis to Jim Zorn to the quarterback.

And while I thought that was a bad idea at first I have changed my opinion. One day later the team announced that the playcalls would come from Sherman Lewis to offensive coordinator Sherman Smith then out to the quarterback, with the head coach listening in. To make things more interesting, Sherman Smith gets to call the run plays, that's two playcallers and neither is named Jim Zorn.

Turns out I think this revised process is a mistake, coach Zorn has been the playcaller, leaving the management of the offense as a whole to Sherman Smith, who has never called plays. Now Sherman Smith is out of his element, relaying plays to the quarterback and calling his own running plays when Sherman Lewis says it's ok to run the ball. Sherman Smith may be a good running game playcaller, he has simply never done it before and was suddenly doing it seven games into the season. This is not the sign of solid NFL strategy and decision making.

Meanwhile coach Zorn is supposed to be managing the offense as a whole now, something he has never really done in a season and half with the team. Like Sherman Smith and the play relay, coach Zorn may be a good motivator and in game strategist, it is simply not something he has had to do as part of a game.

Put in a new playcaller and flip the two highest ranked offensive coaches in gameday duties and two games into the new process the team is scoring 17.0 points per game, 3.8 more than the 13.2 per game average before the switch. So I have no idea what that means, it seems to tell me though that the playcalling was not the problem in Washington.

If there is a problem with Jim Zorn it is not the playcalling, it is a lack of urgency in practice, a softness that translates to getting pushed around on Sundays, this Redskins team is a bunch of cagey veterans and young guys looking for inspiration and they cannot even tell they are soft.

Quarterback Jason Campbell is getting the shit beat out of him, eleven sacks in the last two games as the offensive line deteriorates into a shivering pile of jelly. Twice in last week's game eight against the Falcons Jason had to leave the game injured, both times he managed somehow to return.

And yet somehow Jason is having a career season, if you believe the passer rating system is an accurate measure of a quarterback's performance.

Jason's career rating, parts of four seasons, is 81.4. His rating for the 2009 season is 86.5. His passer rating has risen every season. Within this season his rating has been above 90 four times and above 100 once.

This with so little help from his receivers and his offensive line. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are not making a difference, Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss look perfectly average and Jason's favorite target, tight end Chris Cooley, is out at least another three weeks, possibly more. Chris' replacement, second year tight end Fred Davis, let a catchable ball bounce off his hands and be intercepted, that pass as returned for a touchdown.

If the passer rating system matters then it is pretty obvious to me at this point that Jason Campbell is not the problem with this team.

The front office continues to weather a storm that began after game two, a weak win against the Rams. Inactive list dweller rookie linebacker Robert Henson tweeted after the game that fans could kiss his ass and most make less money than he does. It made the front page of the nation's capital newspaper and to make matters worse, other players hopped on top, saying the fans needed to get behind the team and the booing was a quote shame unquote (op. cit.).

Some of us tried to remind the team that winning cures all ills and the team seemed not to be listening as the Redskins lost five of the next six, along the way we saw Jim Zorn and Sonny Jurgenson get in a fight, a fan try and sell his allegiance on eBay, after three games and a 2-1 record the way 2009 would play out would become obvious to some of us: it was basically over, that we were going to pile on the coaches and players for another couple of weeks and then the spotlight would turn where it has not been on a national scale for a decade, on owner Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato.

Which is exactly what happened. Former players, TV pundits, football cognoscenti and commenters from across the spectrum turned their open attention to to the open secret the national media has largely ignored for a decade and that is the Redskins are a very poorly run team. Here is just one example featuring Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe, Ron Jaworski, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson all laying into how the team is run. When you have Keyshawn looking down on you, you know you are in the bottom of the barrel.

The team's reaction? Take it and lump it? Thank the fans for their loyalty and ask for another? Accept even the possibility of a notion that they are not doing it right?

Nope, their reaction was to tighten down. Displays of fan dissatisfaction and outrage were suppressed, the shadow general manager threw the coach under the bus with comments of handing him a playoff roster, this right after a vote of confidence in the coach that was more than a week after anonymous senior players asked for it in the media.

The owner, clinging to a horseshit policy of not commenting during the season, when the stage is supposably only for the players and shadow general managers, sent out his attack dog lawyer as a proxy to blame the media and take on every story with fantastic plausibilities about how sorry if you got kicked out for wearing a Snyder Sux t-shirt or if you got tricked into a club seat contract and then almost got sued, mistakes were made.

And we have eight straight weeks of this left.

The 2009 season so far has been nothing but a complete trainwreck.

Vinny Cerrato: Getty Images from here.