So here they are, 2-4 with losses now to 3 teams previously in the “0-fer” category. The head coach looks over his head, the players are pointing fingers, and management is undermining team leadership, all of which has the media in a full-on feeding frenzy. Whats going on here? Is it time to panic yet? No. But change is obvious. I’m not talking about a new GM or new “personnel,” which are the en vogue things to say about the franchise right now. I don’t even think an in-season coaching change is necessary...yet. Why? The Redskins are who we thought they were. They have a solid-if-unassuming defense, and a veteran offense that’s been on a learning curve since last year. In addition, they are developing young offensive playmakers to fold into the mix (is it really possible for a GM not named Matt Millen to bust on 3 straight receivers?). We’ve all heard the complaints about the offensive line: that they aren’t very good, and there’s no depth, blah blah blah…but so what? That shouldn’t be the only lynchpin to the offense. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has been sacked more times than any other QB, and they still put up 26 points per game. Same thing with Big Ben, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl last year. Also, let’s not forget that this offense includes pro bowlers Portis, Cooley, Moss and Sellers.
The fact that the offense has been consistently awful for most of Zorn’s tenure makes me want to believe that coaching, specifically the play calling, is a big part of the problem. Especially when you look at what happened after Collins replaced Campbell yesterday. Exactly! Nothing happened because it was the same offense. You can’t upgrade the QB now, and Campbell is probably the best option for the rest of the season, so let’s work on the play calling. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there is anybody on this staff that can take on this role with positive results. Enter Sherm Lewis. At least he’s had success before and I really hope he’s a quick study. By the way, this was clearly an issue last year, and it’s an indictment on Zorn that he didn’t fix it himself. I’m not saying it was handled properly, but in the end I think the right decision was made.
And despite the fact that the combination of VP of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato and owner Daniel Snyder are regarded as “the worst front office in the entire NFL”, which might be true, their recent moves make some sense. It was the worst-kept secret that the Redskins were shopping for a new QB this past offseason, now I think we all know why. And with last year’s defense playing solid but lacking true playmakers (aka game-changers), they went out and got some of the best ones available. So far this season the defense is ranked 5th in the league in both points per game and yards per game, and now with the presence of Haynesworth and Orakpo, we have 15 sacks already, on pace for 40 this year (we had 24 all of last season). DeAngelo Hall might not be able to tackle a dummy, but he is tied for 2nd in the league with 3 picks, while nobody else on the defense has any. To me this qualifies as “showing improvement.”
We can all be critical of the Redskins' front office for not believing in the “next man up” philosophy, and rightfully so – next to QB play it’s the fundamental difference between annual and perennial contenders. They have given away lots of draft picks, which they should stop doing, and they should stop restructuring (and guaranteeing) contracts – unless you’re talking about franchise QB’s or future HOF’ers. But regardless of what the front office has or hasn’t done in recent years, it’s reasonable to expect the team as it exists today to score more points than they have this year, especially with the soft schedule, even if the team was run by a bunch of pre-schoolers.
They can start by spending more time practicing and studying, and playing with more discipline and “heart,” whatever that means (if this is a reference to the Indian kid with the pet monkey from the Captain Planet cartoon, I doubt he could help. His powers were the weakest of the Planeteer quintet, the only thing he could do was communicate with nature. Lame. Earth was the most devastating force by far). Environmentally-conscious, cartoon super heroes notwithstanding, everything else is correctable, as long as the players realize that they are responsible for making the adjustments. And I think it’s ironic that some players have publicly asked the front office for a “vote of confidence” on Zorn’s job, which wouldn’t be necessary if they had just beaten the “0-fer’s.”
Oh well, at least 2010 looks like it’s going to be an uncapped year. I’m sure they will make plenty of headlines again this offseason.