Fassel puts on a worried face

Giants coach: Redskins may be `coming together'

NFL Week 4

October 07, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Jim Fassel is a little frightened, or at least he is for public consumption, and Brian Billick can probably empathize.

The New York Giants are 14-point favorites today at Giants Stadium against the Washington Redskins, and Fassel, who coached the Giants to the Super Bowl last season, has the fear that the coach of a good team has when it plays a decided underdog: That the bad team will pick that day to gain its bearings, as the Cincinnati Bengals did in Week 2 against the Ravens.

"When I look at a team, I always look at matchups and how our guys match up against their guys. I know one thing: They [the Redskins] have good players and they have a good coaching staff," Fassel said last week.

"They just haven't come together, but at any time, they'll come together and we've got to assume that they'll come together against us. That's the way we're approaching it."

The numbers, and Washington's play to date this season, however, suggest that Fassel might have little to worry about. The Redskins have been blistered in three losses by a combined score of 112-16, and their offense and defense are each ranked last in the league.

To make matters worse, the locker room is rife with rumors that the team's veterans are chafing at the relatively authoritarian rule of coach Marty Schottenheimer, so much so that Schottenheimer had gripe sessions with the team twice last week.

This past week, Schottenheimer assumed some of the blame for not communicating with the team, allowing that he hadn't bothered to explain the numerous changes he has wrought in the lineup and in the practice regimen because he assumed the players instinctively knew what he wanted and why.

"The irony of it is that everything I do when I coach, I tell them why. And there were some things that we did that I didn't tell them why. And I made a mistake. And I should have told them why," Schottenheimer said. "The irony is when I coach and when I teach, I always tell them why because I think if you understand why, it makes it easier to do it."

For now, everything seems to be simpatico.

"I'm believing that they will change. Coach Marty and everybody in this organization wants to win," said middle linebacker Robert Jones. "It could have been an assumption on his part that most guys got it. Some guys knew it, some guys understood what he was doing and some guys weren't on the same page. He just had to make it clear for everybody."

Even with better communication, today's task won't be an easy one, especially given the Redskins' decided weakness in defending the run, in which they are ranked 30th.

Already, rookie LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, Ahman Green of Green Bay and Priest Holmes of Kansas City have each run for more than 100 yards against Washington. And the Giants' offense, ranked 20th overall - while far from prolific - moves the ball on the ground well, witness Ron Dayne's 111 yards last week against New Orleans.

"We've had three weeks in a row where somebody has run for over 100 yards on us. Somewhere along the line, we've got to stop this. We can't have this week in and week out," said safety Sam Shade.

Meanwhile, the Redskins did show some signs of offensive life in last week's 45-13 debacle against Kansas City, in their first week with Tony Banks as the starting quarterback, producing the team's first touchdown of the year.

"The name of the game is consistency, to keep the ball away from the other team," said tight end Stephen Alexander. "That's something that we're still trying to get to, and I think we're doing a better job of it, but we're not quite there yet."

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