Late October in Washington, D.C. is a beautiful time with the changing colors of the landscape from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the greens fast changing to reds, ocher and gold, the maples and other deciduous foliage dropping their leaves, the ground becomes a reddish gold carpet. Many residents including politicians, sports fans and nature lovers find it a perfect time to commune with nature. This year is like most as the temperature quickly drops and the wind sweeps the leaves which waft gently to the ground. And like last year, Redskin fans have more to like about the Fall weather in D.C. than the performance of their team and its volatile owner, Dan Snyder. The loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Monday night dropped their season record to 2 – 5.
Prior to the Eagles game, Snyder and his sidekick, general manager, Vincent Cerrato, decided that the team’s poor performance was due to the ineffectiveness of their young head coach, Jim Zorn, as a play caller. They scoured the available talent, both working and lazing, and found their man, Sherman Lewis, a former football man who had had success as an offensive coordinator back in the day. They offered Lewis an opportunity to get back in the game before he retires for good and made him the offensive consultant to the team. Zorn was effectively neutered by the decision, but kept his game face and said all the right things as if scripted by management. The players too, from Clinton Portis to Santana Moss, put a positive spin on it.
The early results came in last Monday night as the Skins lost for the 1st time to a team that had won a game this season. The first 6 games of the season were against teams that were winless when they met the Redskins. At least for one week, the Redskins made 4 of their opponent’s fans happy by winning their 1st game of the season at the Skins expense. The Eagles game was to be different with the Skins getting back to a winning way under an offensive guru’s play calling. In fact, the Eagles entered the game with a loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders the week before.
The final score of 27 – 17 suggests a reasonably competitive game. However, the truth was that the Skins quarterback, Jason Campbell, had another horrid game like the week before when he was benched at half time. He fumbled the ball, threw an interception and scrambled, ducked and dropped to the ground as he was almost protection less. The offensive lines which was composed of several new faces due to the loss of pro bowl left tackle, Chris Samuels, and right guard, Randy Thomas, to injuries. In Samuels case, a serious neck injury ended his season and probably of his career. During the game, Zorn urged and encouraged his players while Snyder’s man in the booth, Lewis, relayed plays to an assistant who communicated them to Campbell. This relay process often left Campbell and his teammates with only a few seconds to learn the play call and prepare for it. On many plays, the Eagles defense ran right through the pass protection or run blocking to the point that observers began to wonder if the offensive linemen were still trying to remember what the play was. Like the games before, the Skins fans showed their displeasure and began to boo early, but this time Snyder and Cerrato became targets too.
In 1999 when Snyder bought the team from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke for a price that was the highest paid for a sports team, there was hope in the Nation’s Capitol that a young energetic owner would bring back the glory days of the George Allen and Joe Gibbs era. The record speaks otherwise as the Skins under Snyder stand at 78 wins and 89 losses. This season the Skins again have to look at their recent draft choices as being one major reason that their offense stagnates and underperforms. It is an axiom in football that an effective and cohesive offense line sets the table for success, but for the 2nd year in a row Skins management bypasses offensive talent in the draft to bolster other positions. The result is a team with a makeshift line with mediocre ability not capable of beating even winless teams at home.
Snyder never one to lose a marketing opportunity decided that it also time to make headlines. The team announced this week that from now on fans may not bring signs to the game. Local pundits wrote that Snyder was worried that there would be too many signs with “Fire Snyder and Cerrato” or worse. This is a team owner who’s harsh and litigious methods with season ticket holders were exposed in a front page article in the Washington Post in September, 2009. The article by Linda Davidson exposed several cases where the Redskins sued fans including a down on her luck grandmother for failing to honor their multi-year ticket contract. Worse was the statement by local businessman James Nesbitt who showed proof that someone had forged his signature on a contract renewal for season tickets. Nesbitt settled on a compromise but feels that the team has crooked business practices.
What Snyder has in mind to do next if the team continues its poor performance is likely an overhaul from head coach to players with Zorn likely the 1st to go followed by long time line coach, Joe Bugel. Remember it’s the coaches and the players fault.
With an extra week to think about other things like the beauty of the Fall season, Redskin fans can only hope that the team can win another game beginning with a trip to Atlanta on the 8th against a good Falcons team. By then most of the trees will be barren and the prospects for the rest of the season for Redskin fans will be settled allowing them to either easily take a bye on Sundays from watching further games or to feel some reason to spend time and money on their home team.