Out of the box: A week off for a team that needed it, sadly though the problems left behind last week did not go away as the Redskins travel to Atlanta for a game against a playoff contender. Finger crossing is now a sanctioned fan behavior.
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The Story So Far: The play of the Redskins has long ceased to be the main story of the 2009 season with the focus placed squarely on the management of the franchise, it has been an open secret for a decade that the Redskins were not helmed by a bunch of guys with deep and wide football knowledge and rather by a bunch of guys that do not know how to manage a team, and others afraid to tell those guys the truth.
Now that the Redskins are cratering out of the bye with a 2-5 record and the hardest stretch of football still to come, it seems like the floodgates are open, the backstabbing is rampant, and the national football attention has turned to owner Dan Snyder and shadow general manager Vinny Cerrato, and it is not pretty. In one piece alone the Washington Post's Len Shapiro rounded up remarks critical not just of how the team has played but mainly of how the team is run, by the likes of Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe, Ron Jaworski, Mike Ditka, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson.
Last week it was the New Yorker, this week it is Rolling Stone, when you have these types of publications piling on the Redskins and Dan Snyder then you know it's bad.
Throw in remarks early in the second half of the bye week by Jim Zorn's last employer, former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren about how bothered he was by team management's treatment of coach Zorn and maybe you can cross Mike and Bill Cowher off the list of prospective head coaches after Jim Zorn is inevitably fired in January.
In other not football news, the team appears to have altered, without warning, the stadium policy on signs made and brought in by fans. Sign making is a hallowed tradition in football, from the D-fence to the Next On SportsCenter, and signs have been permitted in Redskins Stadium and its predecessor RFK Stadium for decades. No longer, if you bring one in now, even one that purports to send well wishes to your husband stationed in Afghanistan, you will not be permitted in with it, and if you do get in with it you are likely not to see the security guard rushing up behind you to knock it out of your hands. This policy was obviously altered to ensure there was as little fan dissent displayed as possible and the team's new chief operating officer David Donovan even had the courtesy to gin up a wholly bullshit excuse that pointy signs were a danger of head poking. You cannot make this stuff up.
And defensive coordinator Greg Blache completely embarrassed himself by making an unannounced statement to the press on Thursday defending Dan Snyder from the evil John Riggins. Am I dreaming? Is all this stuff really happening? It may be time for Greg to go into that retirement Dan Snyder lured him from last year.
You should be embarrassed you embarrassment of a football team owner and by the way nice touch getting in front of the microphones and cameras at a charitable event held way away from Redskins Park or Redskins Stadium and attended by only a few local media members where you could be fairly certain you would not be put on the spot too seriously. Nice accountability. You do make George Steinbrenner look rational.
It is all ceasing to matter though. Redskins fans have lost faith that their team can ever be good under this owner. At this rate team management will not need to put up with those fuckers in the stands much longer.
In football news, the Washington Post has another enterprise piece on the Redskins endless march of quarterbacks since Dan Snyder took over in 1999, ten to be exact, the piece examines the surprise many football cognoscenti expressed when Joe Gibbs and the team traded three draft picks for the 25th pick in the first round of the 2005 draft to take Jason Campbell, to read this story it would appear that Jason is just another guy destined for the heap, his rookie contract is up after this season and the team is not negotiating an extension with him. While the piece is good for historical purposes it fails to include the fact that, despite playing in his umpteenth system in umpteen years, Jason Campbell is having a career year.
second year tight end Fred Davis canceled his bye week trip to southern California to stay in the Washington area and work with tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim on blocking, it was great new to hear how conscientious Fred is and how seriously he is taking his move to primary tight end in Chris Cooley's absence. It is not exactly heartening to hear that coach Wachenheim and Fred went back to quote Pop Warner unquote basically to go through all the fundamentals of blocking. So in other news last year the Redskins used a second round draft pick on a player in a position where they had no need and where blocking large men is a big part of the job, on a guy that did not have strong blocking fundamentals. It would be hard to be a worse blocking tight end than Chris Cooley, it would appear Fred has managed that feat simply be getting out of bed.
Congratulations to defensive end Phillip Daniels, he is the winner of the team's Ed Block Courage Award for 2009 (op. cit.), the award named after the former Baltimore Colts trainer and is given to the player dealing with the greatest adversity on the field. Phillip tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2008 training camp and missed the entire season, necessitating the trade for Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, and Phillip is playing this season through a torn biceps. Good on ya Phillip, you are 36 and still rocking.
Tailback Clinton Portis is still on pace for his worst non injury season as a Redskins, it looks at this point like there is no chance Clinton will be able to break former Redskins freight train John Riggins' team rushing record of 1370 yards this season which is ok with me.
Is cornerback DeAngelo Hall a changed man? Check his profile and you tell me. His time in Atlanta was rough and ended in total disaster and then he was deemed so bad in Oakland that the team and interim coach Tom Cable cut DeAngelo eight games into last season when DeAngelo had just signed a seventy million dollar contract with 24 million dollars guaranteed, so if I understand the way NFL contracts and guaranteed money work, DeAngelo got 24 million dollars for eight games. There is even a story that when the Falcons played the Raiders last season DeAngelo was in the tunnel at halftime trying to pick a fight with his old team. Could be an interesting game if DeAngelo gets too close to his old teammates and the team that ushered him out the door.
And thank god receiver Antwaan Randle El is finally off punt return duty, the guy fair catches everything except the ones he should and the ones he drops, saying quote the situation has changed, head coach Jim Zorn announced Monday that DeAngelo Hall will take his place as primary (op. cit.), with Santana Moss in there as well though the team wisely does not want to risk injuring Santana on punt returns. DeAngelo has not returned punts with any regularity since college but for cripes sake he cannot be worse than Antwaan.
Wait what? Coach Zorn changed his mind? Antwaan is still returning punts? From what I was able to learn this week it sounds like Antwaan heard through the grapevine that he was benched from the return game and stormed into coach's office to ask what the fuck was going on. And because Jim Zorn is essentially neutered or Vinny Cerrato is effectively calling the personnel shots, coach Zorn rolled over, I cringe anymore when I hear coach trying to explain away the removal of his manhood.
And I do not even know where to begin with this playcalling thing. Consultant Sherman Lewis will call the plays for the second consecutive game, it is Jim Zorn's gameplan, Sherman Lewis' runs the offense on gameday with help from offensive assistant Chris Meidt, Sherman Lewis calls the pass plays, he lets offensive coordinator Sherman Smith know when he wants a running play and Sherman Smith then calls the running plays, and coach Zorn will run the two minute drills and make the final calls on fourth downs. Maybe this can work, I do not know, it certainly looks like this sets up the various parties in competition for who can make the best, and most calls.
Curly R aside: From the department of Bus Undertossing we have the best story of the week, back on 14 October anonymous senior players with the Redskins asked through the media for team management to issue an endorsement of head coach Jim Zorn, the better to what was becoming and still is a regular distraction to the players, basically it was the roster asking for the team to shot or get off the pot, either say you are going to keep him or get rid of him so we can move on and focus on playing football.
The team did not and then magically nine days later shadow general manager Vinny Cerrato held an impromptu press availability where he weakly endorsed coach Zorn for the rest of the season, saying coach Zorn would be the head coach of the Redskins for the rest of the season, and here is the best part, quote and hopefully into the future unquote. Setting aside the disingenuity of these comments given all that has happened with the other set of eyes, the stripping of the playcalling, the cornering and flashing of the contract terms, now we are to believe Dan Snyder is going to hold fire on canning Jim Zorn until January.
That is not the story though, everything above is old news, the story this week, heading into the bye week, was Vinny Cerrato's interview with reporters from Tuesday 27 October wherein he affirmed his belief that team management handed Jim Zorn a playoff capable roster.
Clearly at 2-5 the Redskins will not make the playoffs without some sort of divine football intervention and as such submitting these comments for public scrutiny is therefore by definition team management stating openly that the head coach has failed to hold up his end of the bargain. And there are other examples of internecine warfare inside the Redskins, between the team and management and between and among players.
Now we can argue all day about whether this roster is playoff capable, I guess at some level they all are, right? But this latest development speaks to two factors very much playing into the resolution of this disastrous 2009 campaign: 1) No matter what they say, they hate Jim Zorn and he is gone and they will undermine him every chance they get; and 2) The front office is in such deep denial that they are unwilling to execute their duty as partners in the process of building a winning team.
There can be no progress with an attitude such as this from the front office.
Trainer's Table: Going into the bye week there were a number injuries, the most severe of course being left tackle Chris Samuels' neck, the team had been posturing for some time that he would be heading on the season ending injured reserve list and the trigger on that move was pulled on Halloween. Game five against the Panthers was in all likelihood the last time we will have seen Chris Samuels in a Redskins uniform.
Linebacker HB Blades and cornerback Byron Westbrook both suffered knee meniscus tears in the Eagles game seven, they both had surgery this week and will be out of this game (ibid.), Stephon Heyer tweaked his knee and was in a brace to start the off week, meaning newly signed off the street tackle Levi Jones got some additional work with the first team at left tackle (ibid.). There was a laundry list of others (op. cit.), the bye week arrived at a good time for players to heal, as it always seems to.
Tight end Chris Cooley will miss his first NFL start ever with a broken ankle, leaving a huge void in quarterback Jason Campbell's target environment, Fred hopes to step it up (ibid.) and I hope so too, Chris was initially expected to be out for the season, now after surgery he is expected to be out a month. The promotion of rookie seventh round pick Eddie Williams from the practice squad (op. cit.) was really about another option to replace some of Chris' production. Eddie is technically listed as a fullback though he played tight end in college, he has never really been a lead blocker so he is not a threat to fullback Mike Sellers, which Mike needs right now, his play has been very sub par.
Punter Hunter the Punter Smith aggravated his groin on Wednesday and may not be able to go (op. cit.), the team signed another utility punter, this time Sam Paulescu. And safety Chris Horton tweaked his knee on Thursday (ibid.), the extent of any injury was not known and we may not see Chris in the game today.
Gameplan: The defense, featuring a much improved linebacker Rocky McIntosh, is carrying this team which is good in the sense that there is a high performing unit but bad in that every mistake the defense makes is magnified because the offense cannot make up for them. Gameplan hard on defense, realize you will win the game, and try not to be nonsensical (op. cit.) in playcalling on offense, Sherm.
My Take in 60 Words or Less: When you are talking about very average center Casey Rabach as the stabilizing force along your offensive line then you are fucked. Casey's a good guy and all, in the past eight games the Redskins have lost three ten year veterans along the line, the fall has been short and the landing hard for this offense. The end.
Washington Post interactive gameday, keys to the game, key matchups, roster. Broadcast coverage, with the closeness of these two markets it looks really tight.
Enjoy the game, I am recovering from my 40th birthday party last night and will be taking it easy with neighbors, watching the game on Shed TV.
This is a gameday open thread.
NFL helmet logos from here.