Patience builds confidence, victories

Winning 2 after 0-5 start, has Redskins accepting Schottenheimer, system

October 30, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Perhaps the larger lesson in the Washington Redskins' mini-turnaround is that the words just have to sink in before they can take hold.

Since the beginning of training camp, coach Marty Schottenheimer has been saying that his system would work and that things would get better.

While outsiders were laughing too hard at Washington's 0-5 start to hear Schottenheimer, his players were seeing enough incremental improvement to believe that something good was on the way.

"We'd see things. We'd see dropped passes in the end zone, we'd see things that had us right there. And it was a matter of making a play here and there, which we are [doing] now," said guard Dave Szott. "You're seeing receivers down the field come up big and stretch the defense, and that opens up the running game. It all works hand in hand, and I'm just proud of the way guys are playing."

Now on a two-game winning streak that includes Sunday's 35-21 victory over the New York Giants, Schottenheimer and his mantra of faith and trust don't sound so off-the-wall to anyone, least of all the players.

"It's one of those things. You don't just show up one day and have confidence in who is telling you what to do things," said tackle Jon Jansen. "And you don't just show up and they have confidence in you. It takes time. We would like for it to take a little less time, but I think we have that confidence now."

Whether the Redskins have more confidence in themselves and Schottenheimer because they are winning, or whether the winning brings on the confidence, is a theoretical argument best left for another time.

For now, the players are believing and letting the rest take care of itself. Despite their horrid start, the Redskins are just 1 1/2 games out of first in the NFC East.

"I think everyone outside this locker room counted us out after the 0-5 start. Marty just kept telling us, `We're getting better, we're getting better.' Now, we're starting to reap a little bit of the benefits from all the hard work," said receiver Kevin Lockett. "We're starting to play better. One thing that is good is we're making plays at times when we really need them."

Indeed, Schottenheimer said one of the key moments Sunday was Brett Conway's 43-yard field goal at the end of the first half that gave Washington a 17-14 lead. The Redskins barreled out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

That kick, along with Derrius Thompson's touchdown catch from Lockett with just two minutes gone in the third quarter, not only gave the Redskins an insurmountable lead, but also the confidence to hold off the defending NFC champions.

Schottenheimer said that beyond the trust the players are exhibiting in his no-nonsense system, they also are developing confidence in their quarterback, Tony Banks, who had his most impressive start as a Redskin, going 11-for-19 for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

Schottenheimer said Sunday's game plan was altered to allow the mobile Banks to roll out more, as well as throw the deep ball, another of the ex-Raven's strengths.

"He's made great strides and he works very hard at it," Schottenheimer said. "One of the things, and I've had to talk to him about it, is that he gets frustrated if he doesn't do it perfect. I tell him, `Don't beat yourself up over it. You've got another play to play. Now, go do it.' "

NOTES: Schottenheimer said neither of his defensive ends, Bruce Smith (shoulder) nor Marco Coleman (elbow), reported setbacks from their return to action. Tight end Stephen Alexander (high ankle sprain) is doubtful for Sunday, having already missed two games. Rookie cornerback Fred Smoot (leg) may miss his third game on Sunday.

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