Thursday, July 29, 2010

Donovan's Not Mark Rypien, and Jason Was Not Jeff George - Part Two


Donovan McNabb is in town, this is really actually happening, and 2010 training camp starts today. This is a time for Redskins fans to rejoice every year, and this season there may be a team for us to be proud of no matter the record. Win or lose, Redskins fans never forget. Curly R's two part series on Donovan McNabb and Redskins history concludes.

Part One: More Than One Way to Lead
Part Two: Compared to What


In a Washington Examiner piece by longtime Redskins writer Rick Snider, Rick writes about a new quarterback leadership in town with the arrival of Donovan McNabb, a type of leadership Jason Campbell was incapable of demonstrating, that Clinton Portis' criticism of Jason was unfortunate but inevitable in the face of Jason's resolute stay medium approach to the game.

Then it gets even more jumbled in Rick's piece, he trots out Mark Rypien, and also revives the ghost of Jeff George, even if Rick's intentions were not direct, the effect of the second half of his Examiner piece is to draw the parallel between Donovan McNabb and Mark Rypien, and another between Jason Campbell and Jeff George. I think as an exercise in tugging the emotions this works, as a series of football analogies it does not.

Rick writes,

Mark Rypien was a decent quarterback with a great team around him. He led the Redskins to the 1991 championship and was named Super Bowl MVP because teammates knew Rypien could win late.

Jeff George was a much better passer than Rypien -- not even close skills-wise. But teammates hated George so much in 2000 that no one came to his defense when he was dragged by the Dallas Cowboys after a sack. His linemen saw it and didn't care. If that happened to Rypien, the game would have been delayed 20 minutes for fighting and the entire offensive line would have been ejected. (op. cit.)

That Redskins team, the 1991 team, was built to play with a lead and had a defense designed to force opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions, such as the 3 November 1991 game against the Oilers that the Redskins surely would have lost without Darrell Green's late interception of Warren Moon. Most of them though were big Redskins wins.

More typical of Mark Rypien's performance in a tight spot was the Redskins second playoff game in 1992, the Redskins had backed into the playoffs at 9-7 and beaten the Redskins lookalike Minnesota Vikings and headed to San Francisco. Mark threw a critical interception and botched a handoff to Brian Mitchell late in the game, it all came down to Washington needing a touchdown to tie, first and eighty from the Redskins 20 with ninety seconds left in the game. Washington spent forty seconds going twenty yards then it was fourth down and the game was over before the Redskins even crossed midfield. Why? How?

Because Mark Rypien was not a stretch leader and the Redskins were not known for their two minute offense, this Redskins team had never really had one. A no huddle offense designed to tire out the defense and keep the clock running, yes. A quick strike two minute offense with well oiled plays designed to play against opposing weaknesses, no.

So when you say Mark Rypien's teammates knew he could win the game late, what you really mean is that the defense kept the Redskins in tight games late and the offense was out there hoping to hit a long one or make something happen. Hardly the stuff of legends, working the huddle, sacrificing the body and playing sandlot ball for two minutes. That was not Mark's game.

As for the Jeff George reference, if I take that at face value then Rick is comparing the time Jeff was sacked and dragged fifteen yards downfield by Dallas defensive tackle Alonzo Spellman in December of 2000, no Redskins players came to his aid and the game continued, to the time Clinton Portis broke bad on Jason Campbell in a radio interview. And there are some similarities.

First though it is a bad analogy simply because it draws a parallel between a game situation and a non game situation, and a friendly fire scenario at that.

Beyond that though, in 2000, Norval Turner had been fired, receivers coach Terry Robiskie had been named lame duck interim coach, the team was falling apart and morale was at a low point. In 2009, the team had fallen apart, head coach Jim Zorn had been fired before the team plane had landed following game sixteen and in the disarray of a terrible season and abject lack of leadership, the remains of the team was at a morale low point.

And that is where the comparison ends. Jeff George was a prima donna player and a locker room cancer. The very definition of a jock asshole Jeff was foisted on the team by owner Dan Snyder who just wanted to watch that cannon release. Never mind that the guy blamed every bad read and interception on the receivers and treated his teammates like assholes.

Jason Campbell on the other hand got knocked to the ground dozens of times in 2009 and every time, many times in visible pain, got up and got back to work. If there was ever a time for a player to get bitter at a team simply unable to protect their quarterback it was Jason last season.

And yet he did not, he did his job and he was not the reason for the Redskins failure.

Neither comparison is valid an inch below the surface.

I do not think I am ready to throw analogies out there for either player.

Do not take it personally Rick, your insight into Donovan McNabb's leadership qualities are spot on. And comparatively speaking you are also right about Jason Campbell, it is not in his nature to dominate his teammates, Jason has a simple philosophy that motivation should come from inside, he has it and if you do not, he cannot give it to you so you better find it or GTFO.

Jason was not the problem in recent years and an analysis of Jason's performance in isolation will show he did his job and he improved every year. If Donovan brings success to this team it will be because the Redskins are playing like a team and not a bunch of guys that are either scared for their jobs or getting paid and don't give a shit. And that will be the difference, Dono will just be a symptom.

Donovan McNabb: Detail of photo from the ORB (Official Redskins Blog) here.




The original story conflates a number of issues that really need to be separate. Donovan is anything but a fiery, Rypien-type leader. Calling him one is like saying Donovan is a Jeff Garcia type, the player who in actuality is always held up in Philadelphia as exactly the kind of leader Donovan isn't.

Wilbert Montgomery


Symptom, cause or epidemic the players will like Donovan and will want to go to war for him. So much so that I believe they will personally be writing the doctor to see when he is expected back of IR.