Redskins' revolving-door policy keeps optimism out, mediocrity in


August 03, 2005|By David Teel

GLOOM is good. Check that. Gloom can't be any worse than the fervent, delusional optimism of past Washington Redskins training camps.

Since Daniel Snyder's hostile takeover of the franchise in 1999, the Redskins have had more expectant saviors than the gang on Gilligan's Island. Coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs. Players such as Jeff George, Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, LaVar Arrington and Clinton Portis. The hype surrounding their arrivals was dark-chocolate tempting, and many of us swallowed it whole.

And what hath this annual gorging wrought? Bupkis, that's what. One playoff appearance, in 1999.

Well, as Washington convened camp this week, the Super Bowl-or-bust crowd was as quiet as the Mark Brunell Fan Club. Indeed, good luck finding anyone outside the friendly confines of Redskin Park who projects Washington making the playoffs.

Saviors? Not among this bunch of imports.

Santana Moss and David Patten may start at wide receiver, but unless they morph into Randy Moss and George Patton, they alone won't carry the Redskins to postseason. Quarterback Jason Campbell may prove to be a draft-day heist, but not this season.

No, if Washington is to levitate into playoff contention, last season's core players and coaches must improve markedly.

The upgrades need to start with Gibbs and his staff, especially his offensive assistants. Be more creative, and mercy, devise some passing plays that net more than your average toss sweep.

But don't dump all your venom for last season's 6-10 on the coaches. They certainly didn't get much help from their players.

Brunell flopped as the starting quarterback; backup Patrick Ramsey was better but not better enough; absent dependable tackle Jon Jansen, the offensive line blocked poorly; Portis, a Pro Bowl running back with Denver, averaged a career-low 3.8 yards a carry, despite a 64-yard jaunt on his first regular-season touch.

Defensively, the 'Skins were right good. Often stuffed the run, usually pressured the quarterback. But middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, the team's leading tackler, and cornerback Fred Smoot departed via free agency, leaving unproven folks such as Lemar Marshall, Walt Harris and first-round draft choice Carlos Rogers as possible replacements.

Still, if Gibbs and the Redskins are to repeat their 1980s transition from chumps to champs, they must obsess over offense, specifically the passing game. Washington produced a league-low five pass plays of 40 yards or more last season, and the details are damning.

Four of those plays came in the first four games, and after a Brunell-to-Laveranues Coles hookup of 45 yards against the Browns, the Redskins attempted 387 passes without a 40-yarder. Their next "deep" play came on their final pass of the season, a 45-yarder from Ramsey to Taylor Jacobs that set up the clinching score in a 21-18 victory against the Minnesota Vikings.

Gibbs, naturally, isn't buying the doom and gloom. He says Washington retained as many key players as any other team in the league, if not more; he says the working stiffs are confident in coaches/management, and vice versa.

Then again, what else can he say? That he'd rather be hangin' with his NASCAR team as Tony Stewart contends for a second championship? That the likes of Sean Taylor and Arrington make John Riggins look angelic? Give Gibbs this: If his second act fizzles, he won't lay the blame on Snyder, the players or anyone else.

"Nobody could have done more than Dan did," Gibbs said. "If we don't get this done, if I don't get it done, it's strictly going to be my responsibility."

David Teel writes for The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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