Sunday, May 31, 2009

Facebook Is an Amazing Tool

Or not

Demonstrating once again the double edged nature of modern communications, an NFL player has gotten in trouble for Facebooking. Atlanta Falcons rising fourth year reserve offensive tackle Quinn Ojinnaka was arrested Friday after a domestic altercation with his wife who had confronted him over contact with another woman via the monster social network Facebook. He says she started it when she tried to stab him with a pen, Quinn in turn did the chivalrous thing and threw her down the stairs and then out the house.

I must be the last guy on the planet not on Facebook, everywhere I go everyone is on it and connecting with everybody. Friends, family, classmates, old girlfriends, friends of friends and that girl that posts 200 status updates a day. Young, old, for business, for personal use, minimalists that lurk and new generation exhibitionists that do not know the meaning of the word privacy, it is a wonder to behold and check this out:

Time spent on social networking, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc, overtook time spent on email, this year in February. Remember this moment, 2009 was the year web 2.0 really arrived. A link to the original Nielsen study is here (PDF).

No matter how far into the future we get there is one thing that never changes: your wife does not want you getting too familiar with another woman. For those of you that had not previously realized this I advise you to write it down and put it in your wallet.

Quinn Ojinnaka: uncredited image from here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Naming Names

Call them whatever you want

This week I had the opportunity to engage with a prominent non sports blogger at a meet and greet for a political candidate hosted by a mutual friend. As subject matter experts are wont to do when they have an audience, this gentleman held forth and held forth and held forth some more. When he got into the mechanics and logistics of running an active blog community he began to quantify the time commitment over and above the rest of our lives, like most bloggers writing on a given subject is not his primary source of income.

He described a two to three hour daily commitment to monitor events, crank out content and screen comments. This was the point, over an hour into our discussion, that I chose to mention by way of common experience that I too was a blogger with an active outlet, writing about the Redskins, that I had been at it nearly three years and was about to hit one th-

When he turned to me and interrupted, I don't like the name, I wish they would change it and then he walked away. Later he would come back and we would resume our discussion, perhaps a bit more formally, it was clear to me that he felt the name was racist and while I do not believe he thought me to be racist per se I do believe I ran afoul of his liberal sensibilities.

The tussle over the NFL's Washington franchise name is decades old and spurs debate in all quarters, and the story never seems to go away; a week ago yesterday a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Redskins in the nearly 20 year case brought by American Indians to force the team to pick another name, whether based on racism or discrimination or based on economic forces by nullifying the team's trademarks thereby reducing the inherent and marketable value of the brand to zero.

This latest ruling does not touch on the nature of the brand, the name, logos and imagery, nor does it speak to whether the law considers the brand racist. Rather, this case upholds a lower court ruling that a case against the trademark was filed too late and as such the plaintiffs have no standing to pursue a case. There is no doubt this case will continue in some form.

And so it goes, I have developed a position on the name after years of exposure to arguments both sincere and non, just wait until the next time the Redskins lay a beatdown on that AFC team that guy you work with roots for, he will tell you at least my team name is not racist, I have been on all sides of the argument in my lifetime as a Redskins fan and for some people it is a great passion; just this week Tony Brown of Hog Heaven writing at Bleacher Report posted up an impassioned piece on why Redskins is important to him: the history, the colors, the fight song, the names, the Redskins are in the heart of Washington and of Redskins fans and he cannot imagine giving that up; it is penance through allegiance, forgive us if it offends your eye, it is our love and we will not compromise, because we cannot.

I have a much different opinion on the matter and it can be summarized thusly:


Call them whatever you want, rename them the Washington Insiders and make the logo a stylized version of the Incredibles logo. Call them the Metropolitans and make the logo a map of old DC. Potomac Thunder. Washington Monuments. It does not matter, the NFL team that plays here will be my team.

Seriously, do Ravens fans hold it against the team that they are really the Browns? Maybe a few old Colts fans but not enough to make a dent in the season ticket list. And how about those Browns, does anyone in the City of Suck hold it against the current Browns team that they are a do over franchise? Down in Houston they lost the Oilers then got the Texans, seems like that town is ok with it.

If the Redskins change their name, logo and colors it is not the end of the world. It will not happen because you think it is a racist name, they are a business and are invested in those trademarks they will defend them. If you can convince them legally or otherwise to change it then good on you. Yes I think the name should probably change. But I am fine if it does not. It does not matter, this is my team.

Redskins logo from here, surely Chris Creamer's Sports Logos is one of the best resources on the internet for dead enders like me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Move Jason

Getting out at a good time to get out

Word on the street is Washington Post Redskins beat reporter Jason La Canfora is leaving the paper and moving to the NFL Network, which around here we lovingly refer to as the NFL (Network) since it is owned by the league and is as much a state controlled entity of the NFL as ESPravda 980 is of the Redskins.

Over his time at the Post Jason became a flash point for the Redskins community, as the paper and I use that term loosely moved to engage readers with comments and blogs, it permitted Jason to move away from straight reporting and to represent what he saw as well as what he thought. Some liked that about Jason and some did not.

Jason also ran afoul of the team itself, his confidence in his security at the Post permitted him to put the paper's imprimatur on what many Redskins fans were thinking and a few blogging about but that you would normally never see in straight media, like VINNY LIES AGAIN (I am paraphrasing here), at one point shadow general manager and Vinny Cerrato and Jason were in an ill advised flame war, Dan Snyder has spoken of scurrilous reporters clearly with Jason in mind and Ashburn court jester Larry Michael used to do a segment on the Redskins cable access show making fun of Jason specifically.

Despite the high quality of Jason's writing, the depth of his insight and the popularity of the Redskins Insider blog on the Post website, it must have made for some headaches for the editorial and managerial staff at the Post to have Jason around. I mean when the highest ranking official of the team he covers for a living will answer nothing but no comment to his questions and a third to a half of the comments on his very blog trash him for not being a fan boy or for not being objective enough or not swallowing the team's bullshit and printing it like all the other good little beat reporters, I can see how that might become a problem in a time when newspapers are starving and the Post is carrying two beat writers for the Redskins, Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid, whom I hope gets the lead beat writer position.

This move makes sense for Jason, he gets away from print, gets a chance to get on camera and talk rather than type and hopefully this move signals the NFL (Network) is serious about reporting, not afraid to bring in someone honest and no longer driven by talking heads that all seem somehow familiar.

Good luck Jason, thanks for keeping me up on the Redskins these last five years.

An archive of every Jason La Canfora piece appearing in the Washington Post print edition since July 2006 is here. Jason was the main driver of Redskins Insider located here, archives also go back to July 2006.

Jason La Canfora at Redskins Park in Ashburn:  from here via here.

Jon Jansen Released


In a story breaking this hour, the Redskins have released ten year veteran right tackle Jon Jansen, a move that frankly surprises. I first heard of this move from Matt Terl's ORB (Official Redskins Blog) Twitter feed, and then found John Keim with a breaking news blurb at Washington Examiner.

After last season I presumed there would be a competition for right tackle, with Washington's signing of 400 pound Mike Williams it was looking like at least a four way battle between Jon, Mike, rising third year Stephon Heyer and 29 year old journeyman Justin Bridges.

Although it was clear Jon had a tough season I was still of the belief that he could compete for a spot, if not starting then a depth spot. I guess the team thought otherwise.

I know Jon wants to play this season and I hope he finds a team.

Jon Jansen: Washington Post photo from here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Have Some Questions for Steve Jackson Too

An OBHR case study

Matt Terl over at the ORB (Official Redskins Blog) continues to use his immense powers for good, nabbing interview after interview with Redskins players and coaches and providing critical insight into how the team is run and what the day to day is like inside Redskins Park.  It is like nothing Redskins fans have ever had before.

Tuesday Matt published an interview with Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson, a former NFL player, Steve played defensive back for the Oilers and Titans for his entire career from 1991 to 1999, over the same period former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was on staff, and current Redskins cornerbacks and secondary coach Jerry Gray was a teammate of Steve's for one season in 1992.  Steve joined the Redskins staff as safeties coach along with Gregg Williams in 2004, and had been safeties coach in Buffalo for three seasons when Gregg was head coach of the Bills.  Matt's interview with Steve is very good, you should go read it.

I have some questions for Steve Jackson too.

Back around Thanksgiving 2006, as the Redskins were in the second half of an ultimately bitterly disappointing 5-11 season, ESPN published a magazine piece by Tom Friend entitled Reeling Redskins Awash in Troubles, a 4000 word account of how bad things were inside Redskins Park, Joe Gibbs had become but an observer, money was rarely spent productively, and leadership was by committee.

But the most damning element of the story was the unraveling of the Redskins defense.  Tom writes that Gregg had a barely contained disdain for Joe Gibbs' quote high school unquote offense in that first year of 2004 and that the phenomenal success of Washington's defense that season, highlighted by linebacker Antonio Pierce, gave Gregg such a big head and such confidence in his system over his players that he allowed Antonio and cornerback Fred Smoot to depart in free agency.

Things seemed still to be on track performance wise in 2005 as the defense turned in another top ten finish and the Redskins went to the playoffs.  Gregg's contract and salary went to his head.  The team got rid of linebacker LaVar Arrington, cornerback Walt Harris and safety Ryan Clark.  Going into 2006 Gregg was convinced the scheme was the thing.

Also going into 2006 were changes to the defensive coaching staff.  DeWayne Walker, hired away from the Giants by Joe Gibbs in 2004 to coach the Redskins secondary and cornerbacks, left to become the defensive coordinator for the University of California - Los Angeles Bruins.  According to Tom Friend, Steve Jackson had wanted the secondary position back in 2004, feeling he had earned it with his time in Buffalo, and was disappointed when Gregg selected DeWayne for the job.  When DeWayne moved on Steve assumed he would be elevated to coach of the secondary.

Which did not happen.  Gregg's former player from Houston, and former defensive coordinator from Buffalo, Jerry Gray, became available after Mike Mularkey was let go in Buffalo, Jerry had been on Gregg's staff and was retained on Mike's staff.  Gregg hired Jerry to be secondary and cornerbacks coach, passing Steve over.

Steve's feelings were hurt so Gregg placated Steve by giving him greater autonomy as safeties coach and permitting Steve to convene meetings of the safeties independently of the secondary as a whole, meaning the safeties and cornerbacks were meeting separately, which is out of the ordinary according to Tom Friend and anonymous players quoted in the piece.

To hear Tom write it up Steve grew more petulant during the season, bitter that Jerry had the job Steve was supposed to have, and even when in the face of terrible performance on the field the secondary began meeting together, Steve would huff and skip the meetings.

To add injury to insult, Tom outlines how the safety techniques taught by Steve that year deviated from the traditional Cover-2 that was Gregg Williams' signature, and that it measurably caused safety play to regress in 2006.

I think any Redskins fans who remember that season will agree that by the end the entire secondary was playing bewildered, though you will recall that Shawn Springs missed most of the season, leaving the Redskins with Mike Rumph and Kenny Wright at cornerback, and the Adam Archuleta experiment was a failure, leading to significant playing time by then 35 year old Troy Vincent and journeyman Vernon Fox at safety.  As such I always attributed some portion of that unit's poor performance to not having the horses they needed to compete and then losing interest.  It is an interesting angle that Tom Friend claims, that some portion of the poor performance was attributed directly to Steve Jackson's flawed coaching.

As the 2006 season wore on Steve began berating players openly, then began withdrawing on the sidelines in practice and on game days.  Throughout it all Gregg Williams was not an activist manager, did not handle the situation and did not signal a demand for order, leading to assistants running amok and players wondering what was happening.

Ultimately as we all know Gregg Williams and his staff was retained through the 2007 playoff season, and Steve Jackson and Jerry Gray were retained by Greg Blache prior to Jim Zorn's fisrt season in 2008, they remain in the same positions on the defensive coahing staff.


I do not drag this up simply to cause a stir, to the contrary safety play improved in 2007 and 2008, this is of course partially attributed to the addition of talented players such as LaRon Landry and Chris Horton, and if there were ever any counterproductive techniques being taught, it looks as though they have been corrected.

I would simply like to know Steve's reaction to this piece and the allegations inside it.  Steve is second only to Gregg Williams as the target of attack in the story, and this piece caused quite a stir when it was published, as we now know, the featured anonymous player with the harshest words for the team was Adam Archuleta, a safety and therefore perhaps with the most to say about Steve and Gregg.

Many Redskins fans discounted the story at the time as a case of opportunism on the part of Tom Friend, exploiting a disgruntled player and portraying every aspect of the team in the worst possible light, and yet there it was, published at a time when the Redskins were flailing miserably, I covered that entire season and the defensive play overall was well deserving of the 31st overall ranking, on their way to 5-11.

How did Steve react to this story at the time?  Is there any truth to hurt feelings or rivalry between Steve and Jerry Gray, still currently coaching together?  Did he ever sulk in meetings, in practice or on the sidelines?  Was Steve ever called out or the recipient of feedback as to the quality of his coaching technique in 2006?  How has he changed his methods since then?  How is his relationship with Gregg Williams?  With Jerry Gray?  With Greg Blache?  With Jim Zorn?  With Dan Snyder?  When he looks back on that season and this ESPN article, what are his impressions?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Steve Jackson, Oilers defensive back in 1994: Mike Powell / Getty Images from here via here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Story Update: Jack Pardee

Did just about everything

While the staff here at worldwide headquarters is heads down preparing a slew of offseason wrap up pieces, I have an update to a previously run Curly R story.

Two years ago The Curly R ran a multi part summer tent pole series on the career of former Redskins player and coach Jack Pardee, a story told through the lens of the game played between Jack's Oilers and Joe Gibbs' Redskins in November 1991 when both teams were Super Bowl contenders.

For those that do not remember this epic game between the Warren Moon Drew Hill Haywood Jeffires run and shoot Oilers and the Mark Rypien Earnest Byner Gary Clark line up and knock you around Redskins, it was the first time Jack Pardee had been back to RFK Stadium since Jack Jent Cooke and Bobby Beathard fired him after the 1980 season, Houston kicker Ian Howfield missed a 33 yard field goal to win with four seconds left in the game, Darrell Green intercepted Warren Moon in overtime and Chip Lohmiller sealed the win to move the Redskins to 9-0 on their way to 14-2 then victory in Super Bowl 26.

I researched this piece meticuously over more than six months and had no direct input from anyone associated with Jack Pardee or the Redskins, I wanted to get Jack's story right and get it on the record for today's Redskins fans, an appreciation for history is very much part of what being a Redskins fan is all about.

Fast forward two years to last week when I got an email from Jack's son Ted Pardee, a former University of Houston linebacker himself:

I am sorry I did not see this posting before now – what a great account of my father’s experience with the Redskins and a summary of what happened after. Thanks for writing – too bad my dad was not considered for the all-Redskin team a few years ago.

We Pardee’s will always love the time we lived in Washington, and Dad’s experience as a Player and Coach – both experiences were great.

Writing about people is always a more personal experience than writing about games and sport, words never die, emotions are involved and someone always has a different opinion. When I started work on this piece I set out to tell a story about a game and the story I wound up writing was about a man. I am very proud of this series, and the thought that it might invoke smiles or happy memories in the minds of the people closest to this story makes me happy.

If you have not yet read Redskins Greatest Games Volume One: Oilers at Redskins November 3 1991, head over and give it a read, as is often the case in life, football serves as a convenient metaphor, in this case for the career of Jack Pardee.

Jack, if you are reading this, thank you again for everything you did for the Redskins and for football.

Jack Pardee in 1992: Ken Levine / Getty Images from here via here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today We Are a Virginia Lacrosse Blog

glad-ing. n. The feeling of euphoria that comes from having Danny Glading on your team

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the NCAA May Madness men's lacrosse quarterfinals day two in Annapolis Maryland, the University of Virginia slaughtered Johns Hopkins University 19-8, then I saw Duke win a squeaker against the University of North Carolina. It was all truly awe inspiring lacrosse to watch.

Right now I am watching 2008 NCAA champion Syracuse dismantle Duke 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter, UVA versus Cornell is next on ESPN 2 and I will be glued to the TV.

UVA takes the field with at least five of its nine seniors as starters, led by points leader attack Danny Glading, fear not for UVA, midfield shooter twins Rhamel and Shamel Bratton are sophomores and number one national recruit attack Steele Stanwick is a freshman.

Cornell tied for the regular season Ivy League championship, there is no Ivy League tournament, and beat Hofstra and Princeton in the NCAA tournament by a combined score of 17-12.

This ought to be a great game and the Cavaliers matche up well with this Big Red team, Virginia beat this Cornell team 14-10 back in March. Feel free to drop a comment or hit me on Twitter @curlyr. Wahoowa!

Washington Post mini preview | Virginia will be wearing shirts honoring their former teammate Will Barrow, Will graduated last year and committed suicide in Charlottesville in November.

Danny Glading in last year's NCAA Men's Lacrosse Semifinal: Getty Images from here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Redskins 2008 Coaching Search - One Year Later

Threading the needle to an NFL head coaching job

Set aside in your mind for one moment how sloppily and how haphazard the search for a successor to Joe Gibbs seemed a year ago.  Forget the Joe Gibbs victory lap, the hatchet job on Gregg Williams and the leadership silence over 32 days in January and Febraury 2008 as Dan Snyder rooted around for a better candidate, one that never materialized so he promoted the offensive coordinator that had never had playcalling as a regular job duty.

Let's go back for a mo and see what might have been...


Bill Cowher, former Steelers coach
First appearance in chronology (op. cit.):  9 January 2008, one day after Joe Gibbs' resignation, unidentified associates of Bill's indicated he was not inclined to return to coaching in 2008, and Bill himself expressed this on 20 January, and sure enough he did not.  Note carefully that regardless of Bill's actual interest, Vinny Cerrato would have worked very hard to ensure this candidacy would not come to fruition, as the on boarding of Bill Cowher would mean the off boarding of Vinny.  Ultimately not a serious candidate, Bill will be back in football soon.

Jim Schwartz, (at the time) Tennessee Titans Defensive Coordinator
First appearance in chronology:  10 January, Joe Gibbs' resignation plus two days, Jim was the first interviewee for the head coaching position, two days later Jim Schwartz is sounding less than hopeful, and Jim falls out of contention.  On 16 January 2009 Jim Schwartz was named head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Gregg Williams, Redskins Defensive Coordinator
First appearance in chronology:  omnipresent until his dismissal on 26 January, although Gregg ultimately had four interviews with Dan Snyder and team leadership it is my belief the team never wanted him and that he was never a serious candidate.  After spending 2008 as Jaguars defensive coordinator Gregg is now defensive coordinator in New Orleans.

Ron Meeks, Colts Defensive Coordinator
First appearance in chronology:  14 January, plus six days, the Redskins expressed interest and requested permission to interview, it was granted and Ron interviewed with the Redskins on 17 January and again on 29 January and then dropped out of contention.  Upon the retirement of Tony Dungy as Colts head coach, Ron left Indianapolis and became the Panthers defensive coordinator.

Jim Mora, Seahawks Assistant Head Coach - Defensive Backs
First appearance in chronology:  15 January, plus one week, Jim Mora interviewed the following two days but withdrew on 18 January, likely with the foreknowledge that he would be named Seattle head coach upon Mike Holmgren's retirement.  Jim Mora is now head coach in Seattle.

Steve Spagnuolo, Giants Defensive Coordinator
First appearance in chronology:  21 January, plus thirteen days, the team cannot secure an interview with Steve until after the Super Bowl on 3 February, has a phone interview with Dan Snyder on 4 February and an in person interview the following day, spends the night and interviewed the next day as well.  Steve Spagnuolo left Washington on 7 February, there is dispute over whether Steve and the team agreed Steve was a year or two away from being a head coach.  As it turned out, Steve was a year away, on 17 January 2009 Steve Spagnuolo was named head coach in St. Louis.

Jim Fassel, former Giants coach
First public appearance in chronology:  22 January, plus two weeks, Jim Fassel's first appearance in this story was actually back on 11 January, Joe Gibbs' retirement plus three days, when Dan Snyder's plane, Redskins One was spotted in Arizona, Jim Fassel managed to have two interviews in secret with Washington, one on 11 January (op. cit.) and the other on 21 January before the news was made public to an outpouring of fan derision.  Jim Fassel was nearly named head coach on 23 January but was ultimately strung along by the team until the final days of the search before being cut loose.  Jim Fassel is now head coach of the Las Vegas franchise of the brand new UFL.

Jim Zorn, Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach
First appearance in chronology:  23 January, plus fifteen days, Jim Zorn interviewed that for the soon to be vacant offensive coordinator position, Al Saunders would not be quote released unquote for another three days (op. cit.).  The following day conventional wisdom began to coalesce that Jim Fassel would be the head coach with Jim Zorn as offensive coordinator and Rex Ryan as defensive coordinator.  However Baltimore blocked a lateral move for Rex causing the plan to collapse.  That same day, the 23rd, Seattle opened talks with Jim Zorn about staying on in Seattle, however seeing the writing on the wall with Jim Mora, Greg Knapp and no place for him, Jim decided to take the Washington offensive coordinator job on 25 January.  Thirteen days later, with options dwindling the team began to interview Jim Zorn for the head coaching job, his interviews ran into the next day.  The following day, 9 February, Jim Zorn is named head coach of the Redskins.

Josh McDaniels, Patriots Offensive Coordinator
First appearance in chronology:  24 January, plus sixteen days, due to poor planning the Redskins, or lack of real interest, the team did not request an interview with Josh during the down week between the Championship games and the Super Bowl and therefore Josh was not eligible for interview until after the Super Bowl.  On 11 January 2009 Josh McDaniels was named head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Steve Mariucci, Carpetbagger
First appearance in chronology:  27 January, plus nineteen days, with Steve's ties to the west coast system and his NFL Network contract expiring many factors came into place, absent the enormous backlash associated with Jim Fassel, Steve became a serious candidate quickly, the team announced in 31 January that it would interview Steve but never actually do, he is no longer considered a serious candidate by 5 February.

Al Saunders, Redskins Offensive Coordinator
Never interviewed for the position, never considered by the team, dismissed on 26 January.  Spent 2008 as offensive coordinator in St. Louis, is currently not employed by an NFL team.

Pete Carroll, USC Trojans Head Coach
First appearance in chronology:  29 January, plus three weeks, the Washington Post reported that discussions between Pete and the team had happened earlier in the month, were unproductive and ended.  Not a serious candidate.

Kind of nice not to have another circus this offseason.

Redskins head coach Jim Zorn as seen through two of Washington's three Super Bowl trophies:  AP photo from here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Can You Even Argue with This?

Cool, I've still got five minutes til my next bad decision

Once again Sports Illustrated has rated the NFL owners, giving us their opinion on the top five and the bottom five, would you be surprised to learn that Dan Snyder is a bottom five owner according to this study?  The SI drop on Dan:

Snyder is a good businessman and spares no expense with one of the most profitable franchises in sports. But maybe that's the problem: The young billionaire runs the team more like a first-time fantasy-football manager. Among the most expensive outlays: nearly $225 million committed to LaVar Arrington, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Laveranues Coles and Adam Archuleta. Though those mistakes were at beginning of Snyder's tenure, Washington still hasn't come anywhere near the Super Bowl and has had five head coaches during his decade of ownership. Think Snyder learned his lesson? This past offseason, he locked up three players -- Albert Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall and Derrick Dockery -- for a combined $162M.

I guess I sort of take it as an article of faith that Dan Snyder is a bad NFL owner; the team has shown little in the way of true stability and strategy ever seems to be ad hoc, barely looking past the hood ornament, unable to look down the road.

So I was surprised to see Kevin Ewoldt at Hogs Haven take such exception to the notion of Dan Snyder as bad owner.  Kevin attacks the SI piece with such gusto, so many caveats and such thin persuasion that I first thought the piece was comedy, a dark joke on the exact sunshine fanboys that came out in the nearly 90 comments to rally around the regime, to hope against hope that things will turn out right this year and to trash anyone that disagrees.

The intro to the SI piece lists some of the evaluation criteria:

...the willingness to spend money to improve the team; the stability and capabilities of the front office and management; the amenities at the team's venue; and the club's culture and interactivity with fans. Of course, weighing heavily in the decision was the team's success or failure on the field.

I will rebut the core theses of Kevin's piece at Hogs Haven, in his order:

Team's success on the field:  Kevin leads with the fattest possible stat:  two playoff appearances in four years and makes the comparative argument against associating the Redskins with the other four bottom feeders, Lions, Bengals, 49ers and Raiders.  I would agree with the arguability of Washington's having remained competitive.

Let us look at the overall and division records in Dan Snyder's conveniently even ten years as Redskins owner:

Overall record regular season:  76-84, or 47.5% with three winning seasons.  Equivalent to a 7.6-8.4 record a year but since you cannot win a partial game just like you cannot have a partial child let us obey the rules of elementary school math and round up to 8-8 which happens to be the most common season ending record under Dan Synder, having happened three of ten times.  As a football fan I do not feel satisfied with an expectation of seven or eight wins a year.

Overall division record:  27-39, or 40.9% with one first place finish, two second place finishes, four third place finishes and three fourth place finishes.  So the team is doing even worse against division rivals than against the league at large.  If you are not building a team to win your division then you are hoping for a wild card which is like not even bothering to ogle hot chicks at the party, just going ugly early and calling it a night.

So fine, these records are probably not the bottom five in the league, in the context of what Dan Snyder spends and how much control he exerts directly they are consistently and predictably bad.  These criteria overlap.

Owner's willingness to spend money to improve the team:  Kevin howls, and rightly in a literal sense, that this criteria is in Dan Snyder's wheelhouse, that spending money is what this guy does.  Which is true.

And he does it badly with tons of bad money going out the door.  Clearly Sports Illustrated is not simply rating the dollars spent, but also the quality of the dollars spent and the results garnered from expenditures.

The vetting process for new free agent contract offers appears to be a giant circle jerk at times, a negative feedback loop where everyone is trying to divine what the owner wants, not necessarily what the team needs, and make the owner think it was his idea.  The Washington Post's Lost Season series on the 2006 season debacle goes into some detail on the self reinforcing decisions made in offering contracts to Brandon Lloyd and Adam Archuleta; in the moment and in the aftermath there was always Joe Gibbs to stand up and take responsibility, but under the covers are players not properly vetted and not properly evaluated against poorly defined team needs.

Go back if you want and walk the line on players that got paid:  Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeremiah Trotter, Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd.  Not all were total failures and at least two had some good times here, just look at what the team needed at the time and what they got and tell me if it was money well spent.

Stability and capabilities of the front office and management:  Kevin believes that the team has made large strides in this area and that Dan Snyder has not been a part of the player selection or roster moves since Joe Gibbs arrived in 2004, that Dan Snyder has owned up to his mistakes from the quote early 2000s unquote and that despite all the coaching turnover the team is progressing into the top half in terms of stability with all the guys they have now.  At the end he grudingly agrees with a bottom five ranking.

In terms of stability in the front office the Redskins have been very stable but then again so has the government of North Korea and how is that working out for the citizens of that country?  With the exception of 2001 when Marty Schottenheimer fired him immediately upon taking the job, Vinny Cerrato has been at Dan Snyder's side and will continue to be as long as Vinny can stay in favor.

And let me tell you:  Dan Snyder is involved in every major player move this team makes.  Even the great Joe Gibbs admitted everything had to run by owner, even just for reference and rubber stamp.  If there is even the perception internally that the owner is watching things then kiss football independence goodbye and kiss worrying about your job hello.  See also Gregg Williams and Marty Schottenheimer.

The team's cronyistic stability limits the team's options for change as well.  Redskins fans hear an uber name associated with the Redskins every so often as potential coach and or general manager, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan.  The reality is as long as Vinny Cerrato can keep Dan Snyder's attention focused on the shiny bauble and away from a real football mind then we will never see one of those guys in Washington.  Do you think a Bill Cowher or a Bruce Allen negotiates with some search committee?  Hells no, these are direct, personal conversations over fat steaks and good Scotch, the elite have no need for Vinny Cerrato and he would be out of a job literally of  not figuratively if the Redskins were to make a really radical move to change things in the front office.

Repeat:  as long as Vinny Cerrato is here we will never see a real football guy in Washington because that would threaten Vinny's empire and he will do anything honorable or dishonorable to defend his turf.

As far as capabilities I think the results speak for themselves.  Two first round quarterbacks, one of whom is long gone, the other the team tried mightily to get rid of.  One offensive lineman picked since both incumbent tackles turned 30, and he could not get on the field last season.  Letting Super Bowl Champion Ryan Clark go to pay five times more for Adam Archuleta.  Signing not one, not two but three receivers identical in profile to Santana Moss while ignoring anyone looking more like Randy Moss.  Letting Derrick Dockery go in free agency and not even making a serious move to replace him until training camp when it cost a fourth round pick to get a 34 year old.  Nabbing Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly but missing both Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson.

I could go on.  Do not confuse longevity with capability.  Even if Kevin is correct, that the team is making strides in this area, which I do not believe to be the case, would you get ten years to figure out how to do your job?

Amenities at the team's venue:  here we learn that Kevin has club level seats at which point I must digress and hope Kevin does not get mad about this piece and that perhaps if we took in a game together we would certainly discover we shared a passion for good football in Washington.  :)

Kevin's only complaint in this area is the lack of high definition jumbo screens at Redskins Stadium and while I agree that is only part of the real problems.

First, the stadium location is terrible.  Placing Redskins Stadium in Landover was a spite move to begin with and not about the fans, the Redskins belong where they played for 36 years from 1961 through 1996, in the District of Columbia.  Getting in and out of games is a misery in every mode of transportation.  With such a poor location the lack of a convenience shuttle from Metro to the games is shameful.

Second, the stadium itself is bordering on an embarrassment.  Like the Pentagon, Redskins Stadium was slapped together in eighteen months under duress, more or less a copy of Giants Stadium, itself a better memory than experience.  Redskins Stadium is decaying before our eyes, there appear to be no new monies invested in improvements, only in basic maintenance.  The first thing meeting game attendees is rusty stair rails, the burgundy pads surrounding the field for player safety, crowd delineation and television images are faded to a washed out pink.  The public address system may or may not be adequate, I cannot tell with so much crap blaring from the speakers, loud music at inappropriate times, and did I mention that the team plays crowd noise through the PA for poor acoustics and lack of a truly throaty home audience?

Look around at who's got new stadiums in the NFC Beast:  Eagles (2003), Cowboys (2009), Giants (2010), Redskins (1997 but feels ten years older).  Time for a change.

Club's culture and interactivty with fans:  Kevin rehashes the charging for training camp debacle in 2000 then goes on to talk about the Draft Day party at the stadium and all the charity work Daniel Snyder does that we never hear about before closing in disappointment over the implied poor methods used by Sports Illustrated to research these rankings then commits the logical fallacy of describing how he might conduct some portion of the research for this piece if he were SI; such generalizations intentionally or unintentionally attempt to lead the user to believe that such methods were of necessity excluded in the original work when there is no evidence to this end.

Since Dan Snyder took over the Redskins in 1999 the club's culture has been a owner thinks he knows football and doesn't and won't hire anyone who does and keeps making simple mistakes and getting out maneuvered by division rivals and misunderstanding foundational basics of long term football team building and continually favoring players from outside the roster over players on the roster as though there is some magical performance level that Redskins players can never attain and giving Marty Schottenheimer total control then firing him when he takes it then wasting two years on Steve Spurrier and nickel and diming fans to death without putting a premium product on display and following Joe Gibbs 32 days later with a guy not even hired as head coach a week earlier who then improves the incumbent quarterback's play and then tries to get rid of him not once but twice kind of culture.

Dan Snyder does not give a shit what Redskins fans want.  We have one thing that matters to him:  dollars to give.

In terms of interactivity with fans, I will say the team must be above average.  The website has good information if you can figure out how to navigate it, the team has its own blogger which is not at all like a team writer, fans can attend training camp and things like Draft Day and produces radio and TV content for the truly insatiable.

However, interactivty is a factor of openness, and the Redskins are not an open organization.

I do not assume the Sports Illustrated report that started this thread is the result of lazy reporting; to the contrary I think they have maybe more institutional and objective knowledge about the league and associated owners as a whole than any other one outlet.

If there are any prejudices, and laziness is a form of prejudice, they would stem from the frosty relations the Redskins organization has had with national media for so long, Dan Snyder burst onto the scene a decade ago, spent scads of money, flailed worse than a giant grouper on a hot deck, got some bad press and retreated from the media more or less altogether, it has only been in the last two years that Dan and the team have begun to open up and a major component of that opening up has been the radio and TV media empire Dan has cobbled together and converted into the proverbial choir that gets preached to.

Yes for Redskins fans it is jarring to see Dan Snyder grouped with Denise DeBartolo York, Mike Brown, William Clay Ford and Al Davis, not because the Redskins are that kind of bad, Dan is a totally different kind of bad.

And damn, is there not a better picture of Denise DeBartolo somewhere they could have used?

Dan Snyder:  uncredited image from here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jim Zorn Needs to Get Introspective on His First Year Introspection

Memory can be a funny thing.  Weak offense cannot.

With a hat tip to Jimmy Shapiro at Zucker Media Group, last Wednesday Redskins head coach Jim Zorn did an interview with Chris Myers and Steve Hartman on radio station KLAC in Los Angeles, a Fox Sports affiliate, coach Zorn discussed a wide range of topics in this one segment piece, head back through the link above for the audio.

After white gloving the controversy over trying real hard to replace quarterback Jason Campbell, Steve Hartman asked about the Jekyll and Hyde 2008 season, the key exchange is as follows:

Steve Hartman:  ...Why was it so difficult for your team to score last year?

Jim Zorn:  well we had a big problem during the season, almost every game from the plus fifty to the plus twenty.  When we got inside the red zone, we could score.  Our problem was maintaining the, er, sustaining those drives to get us into that area.  Now when we did get into field goal range, many times we missed a field goal.  When get a third down situation in that area, we would fail to convert.  It was a big frustration, but that was part of the problem.  We had our struggles, everyone tries to put out their best guys and we got a little banged up.  We played four very tough defenses in the third quarter of our season and it hurt us, it really hurt us.

The numbers unfortunately do not agree with coach Zorn and his assessment of the team's ability to score if they could just dagnabbit get into the red zone.  And I am not going to go all Greg Trippiedi or Cold Hard Football Facts here, this is easy stuff to find with the Google, thanks to Pro Football Weekly and the weekly box scores.

In 2008 the Redskins had 48 red zone possessions.  NFL rank:  19th, a number that would to support coach Zorn's position that the team had a hard time getting into scoring position.

Of those 48 red zone possessions, the Redskins scored 23 touchdowns, or 47.9%.  NFL rank:  24th, a number indicating the team did even less with the fewer opportunities the team had relative to others.

Of those 48 red zone possessions, the Redskins scored either a touchdown or a field goal 38 times, a scoring percentage of 79.2%.  NFL rank:  29th, a number that says at least when they couldn't score six they couldn't not not score three.  More underperformance.

So coach was half right.  In 2008 the team did have a hard time getting into the red zone.  About the other half, the scoring once the team got there, coach Zorn needs to go back and look at the tape, even adjusting for the hard time the team had getting into scoring position, the team was down in the bottom quartile.


Some other tidbits from the interview:

Jim Zorn's biggest challenge of his first year:  being able to talk to the media in an honest way and keep his stories straight, so many media outlets, fans want more and more Redskins football.

Curly R quicktake:  I would have thought coach Zorn's biggest challenge of the year would have been trying to figure a way out of what became a 2-6 downward spiral but that is just me.

Jim Zorn also addressed the question, can the media get a coach fired?  Jim said he did not know, media wants answers, they want to find out the truth, they want the story.

The real problem, as asserted by coach Zorn, is when the media gives opinions they have not researched on a daily basis out on the field and know all elements involved; people want to state opinions about a guy, something they want to believe but may not be true; deriving opinions without knowing facts is the thing that pisses off coaches and players.

Curly R quicktake:  this peurile assumption among players, coaches, owners and elite commentators that it is not possible to look from the outside and see what is happening on a team is complete bullshit.  I am not concerned with whether, say Devin Thomas had a great day of practice and whether coach is planning on getting the guy looks this Sunday, what I see is what I see on the field, if Devin appears in few plays and is not a factor in those plays then I know all I need to know about Devin.  Sorry Devin, I did not mean to pick on you.

On to Dan Snyder, as a set up to a question about the kind of owner he is co host Steve Hartman said the following:

Now your owner is one of those front and center guys, that can be good and bad, at least you know where he is at all times, but at the same time he's shown some patience with coaches, I think Norv Turner all those years, he only made the playoffs one time and got plenty of opportunuties, so when you're talking to Daniel Snyder after the season, was there a sense of urgency, is there sort of a blueprint, a gameplan for the years ahead?  How exactly does he approach it?

If coach Zorn knows the gaping fallacy in this statement he was a gentleman not to regulate Steve for it on the air, and if coach Zorn does not know the story of Dan Snyder, Norval Turner and patience then allow me to share the Cliff's Notes:

In fact Dan Synder was not patient with Norval Turner, in Norval's last full season of 1999 Washington made the playoffs, the year Dan Snyder took over and inherited Jack Kent Cooke's last coach.  In 2000 with the league's first 100 million dollar team mired in mediocrity Dan Snyder made his first big move with the help of Pepper Rodgers, firing Norval after thirteen games with the team at 7-6 and still alive for the playoffs.

After that dreadful week fourteen 9-7 loss to the Giants Dan parked Norval in his Redskins Stadium office for more than two hours before Norval finally got sick of being treated like a child and went home.  He was fired the next day.

All of that notwithstanding, according to coach Zorn, Dan Snyder is patient, he showed patience, the big post season question by the owner was, what happened.  And coach Zorn said all the right things about Dan's passion for the game, his passion for the Redskins and how as an owner he wants to know where are the failures as well as the successes.

I also noted coach Zorn referred to the owner as quote Dan unquote, not quote mister Snyder unquote.  There was quite a bit of buzz when Jor Gibbs took the podium in 2004 upon his return to the Redskins and called the owner Dan, he had only ever been known publicly by team personnel prior to that as mister Snyder.

And Jim Zorn thinks Holmgren will be back in the coaching 

Jim Zorn:  AP photo from here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tonight Once Again We Are a Capitals Blog

He put the biscuit in the basket

The Red will be Rocking in Chinatown tonight as the Washington Capitals take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in decisive game seven of round two of the NHL playoffs and I am once again a hockey fan. Our man Alexander the Great, Alex Ovechkin leads a team that went up two games to none, then lost three straight then won the tying game on the road, Monday's game was another heart attack overtimer.

Lay back and enjoy the show, 7pm on Comcast SportsNet, and head over to On Frozen Blog to drop them a comment on the gamenight open thread.

Alex Ovechkin scoring over Marc-Andre Fleury last Saturday in Washington: Reuters Pictures from here.

An Interesting Question

Short answer: yes. I mean no.

So quarterback Jason Campbell went and took charge of minicamp. Yes the same Jason Campbell that wanted a trade if the team brought in another starter has now found his spark, something teammate Chris Cooley said this evening in an interview on NFL Network Jason needed to find, maybe all the quarterback controversy helped him to find it.

Jason Campbell will be the Redskins 2009 starting quarterback and barring injury will play the entire season. I am a Jason Campbell guy so I think this is good, minicamp reports that head coach Jim Zorn continues to work on Jason's fundamentals, technique and ball release are even better news, it is my contention that the whole of Jason Campbell's improvement as a professional quarterback last season was due to the tutelage of Jim Zorn, a man known for developing quarterbacks. If coach Zorn can make Jason more comfortable with his body on the field then the reads and passing will take care of themselves.

So if Jason will be the Redskins starter in 2009, what about after that? Jason's rookie contract is up after this season and the team has not offered him a new one, perhaps because they are not sold on him as evidenced by sweaty palmed pursuit of football nympho Jay Cutler or barely legal Mark Sanchez, I sort of envision Dan Snyder in a dirty trench coat on a hot southern California day watching from the bushes for a glimpse of Mark coming out of class, and perhaps because the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire and the team is hedging that Jason will become a restricted free agent absent a new deal.

I would expect there to be a market for Jason's services after this season though obviously with every free agent a restricted free agent if no CBA is renegotiated the market for Jason will be lower, perhaps no one would be willing to shell out a contract the Redskins can just match.

Cindy Boren at Washington Post Redskins Insider distills the issue down to a simple question: is this Jason's last year with the team. What I want to happen and what I think will happen are two entirely different things.

What I want to happen is this: give Jason Campbell starter money, a five or six year contract. Give him stability and take away the uncertainty as to whether the team wants him. If it does not work out then cut him in year two or three, happens all the time in the NFL. Of course this scenario requires the team actually to want Jason, a precondition I am not certain is fulfilled.

What I think will happen is this: regardless of their finish this season, barring a Super Bowl run, team leadership will start telegraphing that they are looking at quarterbacks in the 2010 draft, perhaps Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, perhaps Texas' Colt McCoy, maybe even a disastrous pick like Florida's Tim Tebow.

Washington is taking a quarterback in the first round next year. If they cannot get their guy at their selection they will trade up to get him, package up lower picks, 2011 second or lower round and or players to move up if they have to. Then Jason Campbell can go fuck himself, the team will have their new quarterback and Jason will be a restricted free agent. They will toy with him before ultimately letting him go after declining to match his next offer.

And even in the more optimistic scenario where the CBA is back in effect for 2010 Jason would be unrestricted and if he has a halfway decent season with no change in heart by the team on his long term status as starting quarterback he will pack his things and say later pricks.

I predict Jason Campbell will be a good quarterback in 2009 and not a Redskin in 2010.

Jason Campbell at Redskins May 2009 minicamp: AP photo from here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CSN Redskins Nation Wrap, 12 May 2009

Why am I doing this? It's May.

There is a Redskins themed show on in the Washington area almost every night and I never watch any of them except be accident, then last night after the Washington Capitals magically beat the Pittsburgh Penguins to force a round two game seven tomorrow in Chinatown, neighbor Bill let Comcast SportsNet, the locally focused sports network, run on and Redskins Nation came on, and right there in front of us was our very own ORB (Official Redskins Blogger) Matt Terl trying to get a word in edge wise with host Larry Michael.

So I decided I was going to check out Redskins Nation, weeknights at 10:30pm, more regularly and when I did to summarize it for the out of town Redskins fans with no access to the show. Feel free to drop a comment or shoot me a note if you have any particular feelings about this show, I know it is a team production, I am going into it with an open mind in pursuit of more information and insight about my beloved Redskins. I may have show notes.


Prelude: during Comcast SportsNite in the 10pm slot before Redskins Nation there was Nicklas Backstrom, forward for the Capitals, sporting a black ball cap with the Redskins curly R logo for today's media availability. Rock on Swedish hockey forward Redskins fans.

Cold open: Larry Michael teases Mike Williams in studio, minicamp footage and more. Opening sequence is not bad.

First segment: music ran over Larry's comments opening the interview with RT Mike Williams, that's a production issue. Mike recounts his college and pro career so far, the interview is interrupted awkwardly by LG Derrick Dockery intruding on the set. Mike discusses his college (Texas) relationship with Derrick. Derrick and his wife had a baby girl on Friday? Congratulations to them! Mike was very politic about his weight, prefers right tackle to any other position on the line. Cameraman cannot figure out how to get Mike in frame, shuttling in and out and moving side to side, another production issue. Larry awkwardly keeps looking from camera to Mike, if he is going to split his looks they need to move a camera over to Larry's right so his swings are not so far between guest and camera, it would be better if Larry just concentrated on his guest then swung back to the camera to outro the segment and go to break.

Second segment: begins with Larry teasing the Capitals, CSN has coverage tomorrow, I will be watching and Curly R will once again be a Capitals blog. One hundred and twenty-four days until the season opener, Larry teases an early betting line on the game... after the next break. Coverage moves to taped coverage of OTAs with Larry voice over, all linemen working on footwork, they all look like they are dancing. OL Will Montgomery is from Centreville High School? Way to go local boy! Then coverage of lineman doing ten yard dashes, timed by assistant strength and conditioning coach Harrison Bernstein, who just turns 31 tomorrow. There must have been more exciting practice field coverage than that.

Back in the studio, Larry is envisioning Brian Orakpo and Albert Haynesworth on the line togther... mmm QB sandwich. Larry say Pro Football Weekly is projecting Brian as a possible rookie of the year. Really bold prediction there guys, he was a high draft pick and will play for a great defense. Second segment ends with tease of our man blogger Matt Terl in the next segment.

Third segment: opens with tease of Capitals-Penguins game tomorrow, then around the NFL. Favre blah blah blah. Then on to OUR MAN MATT TERL, Larry, show our man Matt a little love in this segment, Larry just said this was his favorite segment but not because of Matt. Matt's most valuable insight was regarding the competition for the number two quarterback spot, after three days of camp Matt is not ready to cut Colt Brennan. Larry answered a question about a Georgia Redskins fan wanting to see Redskins Nation, Larry informed us that team generated media is territorial like broadcast coverage and that it cannot be shown in Georgia. However Redskins Nation will be running shows on weekly opponents in the regular season, Washington plays Atlanta so we know we will see footage of the 1992 raining seat cushions playoff game. Matt was generally impressed by the rookies at minicamp though did not get a chance to see them all. Show outro ran a really old sounding version of team song Hail to the Redskins.

All in all not bad, I look forward to tomorrow night.

Comcast SportsNet Redskins Nation logo, detail from here.

Inside baseball: Chris Cooley says Redskins PR department worked Jason Campbell over not to make like Jay Cutler while the team was trying to get rid of him.

Bang it on NFL Network or Sirius NFL Radio right now, Chris Cooley is on next segment talking about Jason Campbell.

Happy Birthday Andre Carter

High steppin into 2009

Please join me in wishing Redskins defensive end Andre Carter a happy birthday, Andre turns 30 the big three oh today.

Andre came to the Redskins with the 2006 class of free agents and has been a stead presence on the right side of the line. He must be bursting to get back on the field with the additions of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency and outside linebacker slash defensive end Brian Orakpo through the draft. I think it is safe to predict Andre's sack totals will go back up this year.

Happy birthday Andre!

Andre Carter in a very unnatural position: AP photo from here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tonight We Are a Capitals Blog

Up against the wall.  Again.

Time to strap it on for another elimination game, my Washington Capitals are down three games to two to the hated Pittsburgh Penguins, losing three straight after taking a commanding 2-0 lead to start the series.

Our man Alex the Great, Alex Ovechkin is doing everything he can, need to see the rest of the team step up, Mike Green what happened to you and can we get one more goal from the back line from Sergei Fedorov who it still seems weird to me plays in Washington.

Go Caps!

Alex Ovechkin:  Getty Images from here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Jim Zorn

Becoming one with his city

Please join me and the entire staff of The Curly R in wishing Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn a happy birthday, Jim turns 56 today.

Happy birthday coach, bring us an early Christmas present this fall.

Jim Zorn with his family at the Washington Capitals 4-3 playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on 4 May 2009: Getty Images from here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Power is out in my Fairfax Alexandria neighborhood so no blogging tonight, we are up on Twitter though, follow us at

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

" looks like we don't know what we're doing."

One hell of an admission

The Washington Post's Jason La Canfora, about the most knowledgeable Redskins writer right now, had a great piece in the Saturday edition on the emerging contours of a likely and frequent topic of the Redskins 2009 season and that is the state of the offensive line and how the early numbers are really against the kind of unit performance Washington will need to get back into the playoffs.

Bottom line: it's bad kids and it appears that everyone inside and outside Redskins Park knows it. A sample from the Post piece includes Clinton Portis:

I'm not the GM, I'm not the owner. I'm not the head coach. I talk to 'em, but my opinion... you voice your opinion.

I can read his opinion through those ellipses. Head coach Jim Zorn himself:

That position [right tackle], right now, you hate to say it's up for grabs, because it looks like we don't know what we're doing.

The coach just said they do not know what they are doing at right tackle. Well they say the first step to getting better is realizing you have a problem. A quote from an anonymous NFL executive:

If signing a guy like [410 pound Mike Williams who has been out of football for three seasons] isn't a sign of desperation, I don't know what is. I'm not sure what they're doing on the offensive line.

Another year of neglect, let us walk down the line:

Left tackle
Incumbent: Chris Samuels
Age: 32 on opening day 2009

2008 performance: generally solid through twelve games; nursed a lingering knee injury that caused him to miss one game; tore right triceps in game thirteen and was lost for the season; Pro Bowl selection.

2009 outlook: Chris will be 32 and recovering from surgery, did not participate in minicamp while recovering. Backup scenario unclear, there is third year middling tackle Stephon Heyer and one of several possibilities in free agency, rookie or otherwise.

What's wrong with this picture: team officials, starting with owner Dan Snyder, do not believe that 32 is quote old unquote for a left tackle, perhaps this is why they went with defensive end slash linebacker Brian Orakpo and not blue chip left tackle prospect Michael Oher out of the University of Mississippi, who if he were to work out could protect Redskin quarterback blindsides for years to come.

This is not an editorial comment on whether Brian will be a good player but rather an illustration of the opportunity cost involved, Washington already had a top five defense and the team went with more defense and not quarterback protection.

So into 2009 Chris comes, 32 and with knee and arm injuries from last year, and no established backup in place.

Left guard
Incumbent: Derrick Dockery
Age: turns 29 in September

2008 performance: Pete Kendall started every game the last two seasons at left guard for Washington, at 36, a free agent and in search of a starting job and starting money Washington went in another direction and re signed 28 year old Derrick Dockery. Derrick is a boomerang Redskin, returning to Washington after two years in Buffalo, no one can really explain why they let him go, he had a good year and was not all that expensive.

2009 outlook: the position should be in good shape with Derrick, Pete had a great two year run and I still hold out hope that he will come back and re sign as a depth player, that would make this position about the most solid on the team.

What's wrong with this picture: although the position is in good shape now, decisions have consequences. If Washington had moved to re sign Derrick after 2006, or secure a better option than Todd Wade they could have saved this year's fourth round pick, the price for Pete's services, meaning they either a) would still have a legitimate left guard incumbent, b) would have had a fourth round pick to use on a lineman or c) may not have had to pay 27 million dollars over five years to Derrick bolster the position.

Incumbent: Casey Rabach
Age: turns 32 in September

2008 performance: Casey is a reliable starter, having only missed one game in two seasons and precious few snaps during the rest. Casey does have a tendency every now and again to commit penalties and or miss blocks in clusters.

2009 outlook: despite Casey's age I think this position is generally in good shape, the key here is depth, there has been no consistent backup with Mike Pucillo in 2007 and Justin Geisinger in 2008, Mike is no longer with the team and Justin is not a natural center. There is some hope, one of the better rookie free agent signings be the Redskins might be Edwin Williams out of the University of Maryland, he was a top ten rated center and managed to slip out of the draft, there could be some depth on the horizon.

What's wrong with this picture: Casey has been consistent, like most other positions along the line the team has been reacting rather than proacting. A 32 year old center with no backup in the wings? How is that smart no matter whether your quarterback is Jason Campbell, Mark Sanchez or Jay Cutler.

Right guard
Incumbent: Randy Thomas
Age: 33 at season opener

2008 performance: Randy played every game in 2008 after missing all or most of fifteen games in 2007 due to a torn triceps suffered in game two of that season.

2009 outlook: Although many have decided Randy is in decline I tend to think the problem is with the right side as a whole, Randy can still be serviceable to good, optimistically, lack of legitimate backup is disconcerting.

What's wrong with this picture: the past two seasons Jason Fabini was the backup right guard, Jason started 13 games in Randy's absence with the triceps injury in 2007, 34 years old himself Jason was not re signed by the Redskins and is currently a free agent, like Pete Kendall he may be a good investment as a backup, he acquitted himself quite nicely two years ago and without much game wear and tear might still be able to play.

Right tackle
Incumbent: Stephon Heyer started 3 games and Jon Jansen started 11 games at right tackle (Jon missed game fourteen against the Bengals and game fifteen against the Eagles with a knee sprain and would have started those games had he been available)
Age: Stephon will be 25 and Jon will be 33 when the season starts

2008 performance: this was the real weak spot last season, Jon was demoted to backup in camp, with Stephon getting the job in a decision I still think was suspect, the caricature for both players was that Jon could no longer pass block effectively and Stephon was still learning to get nasty in run blocking. After three games Jon got the job back when Stephon hurt his shoulder and never gave it back, the whole right side of the line was a problem all year.

2009 outlook: the team does not consider Jon a starter any longer (op. cit.) though Jon seems to think otherwise. Stephon is a rising third year player and is a Joe Bugel favorite, Joe may see potential or Joe just may not want to quit on his guy, it is not uncommon for offensive linemen to take three to five years to mature. The team appears to be telegraphing their opinion on the matter, bringing in a 400 pound guy out of the league since 2005 and a 29 year old journeyman with legal troubles.

What's wrong with this picture: neither of the tackle positions is well served with the scattergun approach; that is to say going into camp with ten year veteran second round pick and longest tenured Redskin Jon Jansen, rising third year undrafted Stephon Heyer, 400 pound Mike Williams and well traveled Jeremy Bridges is not a plan, that is desperation, that is throwing as much shit at the wall as you can and hoping something sticks.

The Redskins have spent a lot of time and money recently on receivers, tight ends and defensive ends and have done little to give the quarterback the protection he needs. I lay the bulk of last year's 2-8 decline to the end squarely at the feet of the offensive line.

If nothing really changes in the offseason then expect that nothing will really change in the regular season.

Redskins offensive line on the first day of May 2009 minicamp: Joel Richardson / Washington Post photo from here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Food Review Ignores a Key Menu Item

Not so secret ingredient

Judy Battista, the great football writer at the New York Times, had a good piece in yesterday's edition about the creep of the NFL into every corner of the calendar, the Super Bowl bleeds into the Combine, then free agency, the Draft, then minicamp, organized team activities, more free agency then finally training camp, the preseason, the regular season, the post season, rinse repeat.

If you are a football fan then you love it, there is news all year, spasms of activity separated by long stretches of fan speculation and obsessing on minutiae, hanging on every coded word spoken by every coach and team executive.

Kind of a macrocosm of the regular season isn't it? Like a soap opera addicts we have little real action relative to down time, we fill the week with trash talk, commiseration, speculation and armchair coaching.

Thank god for Sirius NFL Radio, for all its warts and its too frequent pro league position it keeps me entertained and my jones fed year round. And that brings me to the gaping hole in Judy's piece. Not only was the satellite radio channel and deal to broadcast every game not mentioned, there was no mention of the rise of alt media complementing the NFL's year round schedule, going hand in hand, by the football addicts, for the football addicts.

And I am not simply talking about blogs, no sirree. Blogs, the well written and regular ones, are certainly a major element of that, there are others as well.

Sports Blog Network, the beneficiary of a large round of funding late last year, is popping up as link outs on and Yahoo Sports. Blog syndication networks like Sphere are putting content right into traditional media pages with relevance.

National Football Post, an independent network of writers covering the full scope of the game. Imagine a newspaper where every section was about the NFL.

Cold Hard Football Facts, independent statistics, better and more granular than any traditional media outlet could justify publishing, it is like grain alcohol.

Pro Football Talk, the incredibly reliable rumor mill, putting Chris Mortenson to shame.

Podcasts and internet radio, like Harry Hog, as a matter of fact I have been invited to sit in on a couple of internet radio shows this season and yes guys I will get those pictures from when I ran into you at the December Bengals game in Cincinnati before camp.

And there are many others, the world of football reporting is very open right now, everyone can find their fetish and satisfy it safely and without shame whether you are into straight news, wild opinion, you like to touch numbers or even if you crave the voyeurism of fondling content generated by the players themselves.

To be sure the league is pushing a year round agenda, the NFL is a juggernaut with no sign of slowing down, as we speak I am already blocking out my piece on this weekend's minicamp, and that is the point. There are more outlets, those outlets can generate a legitimate audience and the league will only be working more closely every year with alt media.

The divisions between media outlets are crumbling, from the league's perspective it is just all NFL all the time and I take it in the main line.

Redskins 2009 seventh round draft pick Marko Mitchell at the NFL Combine in February: Getty Images from here.