Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A guy, Detroit fan, on a football discussion board mentioned that the Lions Postgame show opened with the Hallelujah Chorus. That's awesome. Congratulations to the Lions fans, their players & coaches, and the organization. I'm very happy to see them get off that streak. I personally am impressed with the Lions coaching staff and their new GM. I think that team is on the road toward becoming good, and in a year or so we won't see any shame in a team losing to them.

But for that elusive 1st victory: what could make it more perfect?

To have it come against the Redskins!

O, isn't the world simply wonderful at times? What's even better is that no one was shocked by this outcome, except Dan Snyder & Vinny Cerrato. (And maybe the population of Detroit.) The Lions were a sexy upset pick this week – my wife picked them in her office pool. Not against the spread, but to win straight up. I can't count how many times Redskins-Lions showed up as an "expert's" upset pick in the week leading up to the game.

The Washington sports world has declared Armageddon. The Washington Post's page on the game was headlined, "Fail to the Redskins". One piece was titled "At a Loss, and at Crossroads". Another went "Time to Make a Change". Columnist Mike Wise's piece on the game was titled "An All-Around Debacle". He writes:

But if Zorn lost this game, Greg Blache lost this game, too. His full-of-holes defense was scored upon on inexplicably long drives... Vinny Cerrato also lost this game. His second-year, second-round receiving draftees – Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Thomas – caught one measly pass each in a game in which the Redskins sorely needed to go to someone else other than Moss seemingly every pass play, after his offensive line looked more in need of help than another running back activated this past week.
Most of all, Zorn's players lost this game
Longtime Post columnist Tom Boswell had a piece titled "Focus Vanished Long Ago". He writes:
This was not the culmination of any short-term trend or mistakes in strategy. This loss was years in the making.
Will the Redskins adopt [the right attitude, in response to the loss]? To do so, they may have to fight through an incredible amount of self-delusion about the talent level on their team. This week, Clinton Portis said he thought the Redskins had the most talent in the NFL. Comments like that have been common in the Redskins' locker room for the past 10 years – regardless of all available evidence. Not only is the view tolerated at Redskins Park, it is encouraged and marketed. Where does this fallacy arise? In the owner's suite, where the price of players is equated with their performance? They refuse to define themselves by the final scoreboard but, instead, cling to their own private view of themselves and their far higher value – sometimes based on their performances in other years or even on other teams.
After a wonderful 10-catch, 178-yard game, wide receiver Santana Moss fell into the deepest and worst snare – and one that constantly catches the Redskins. Moss said many reasonable things after this defeat. But he also said the magic words that always make my skin crawl in a locker room. "We are the better team," he said.
Anyone who has ever seen "The Hustler," perhaps the best of all sports movies, remembers Paul Newman's character saying to Minnesota Fats, "Even if you beat me, I'm still the best." George C. Scott's character says to Fats: "Stay with this kid. He's a loser."
...they will never be elite winners, especially in a team sport, until they defeat the idea that their potential, their fame or their wealth matters at all. Only their performance – which is kept on the scoreboard for a reason – counts. That's why teams beat individuals.
Well put.

Even itself hammers the team. Larry Weisman has a piece called "Break Down in Motor City" which begins:
No brains, no heart, no courage. The game tape to be reviewed on Monday comes straight from The Wizard of Oz.

Personally I don't really mind when a player says that the guys in his locker room have the most talent of any team in the NFL. That's nice: it's how a player should think of his team. "Benign brainwashing", is how Boswell once described a similar manifestation.

But Boz is right to draw attention to the "we're the better team" nonsense. The self-deception of this organization doesn't stop at the locker room. It goes all the way up to that clown Vinny Cerrato, and the Little Napoleon himself, Danny Snyder. It gives me an evil joy to see them get what they have earned. Not, "what they deserve" in the sense of bad people getting what's coming to them; I mean, get precisely what their efforts and decisions have merited: a flawed brittle unmotivated squad that has enough flashy talent to win a few games and get up near playoff contention, fooling you, before falling short as their multiple overwhelming weaknesses are revealed.

Snyder bought this team in May 1999, and we've seen 10 full seasons of his stewardship. Over those 10 seasons the Redskins record is 76-84 (.475) in the regular season. That is just about exactly what I'd expect of them.

(Their record is better in lawsuits against their own fans.)


  1. FWIW, I don't think this year's version can be described as having "enough flashy talent to win a few games and get up near playoff contention, fooling you, before falling short." I do agree that it's what they've been over the past decade for the most part, sometimes making the playoffs and other times not coming close; but mostly flirting as you said.

    This year's team is likely to be terrible. There will be no flirting with playoffs this year. Let's face facts here. It's great Detroit is off its streak, but that team is still a bad football team. And the Skins got beat. Not cause they were asleep at the wheel...they saw this coming a mile away and still got flat beat. They could barely handle the Rams at home.

    Look up and down this schedule. There's a lot of weakness there. Their next three opponents are a combined 0-9 right now. These next three weeks will tell us everything we need to know about just how bad this team is. If they're 2-4 or worse after that, there is only one winnable game - @ Oakland - the rest of the way. It's entirely possible to imagine Washington as a three win team.

    Even if they go 2-1 to be at .500 over that stretch, I still think they'd be a 4-6 win team. If they go 3-0, then maybe I'll take them as more of a flirt. But I don't see that happening. Carolina isn't good, but they're not as bad as their record, and I don't see the Skins going there and winning that game.

  2. This is pretty awesome. It also has relevance to the Posnanski piece.


    It's absurdly early to write off the 2009-10 Redskins as a failure at 1-2. But it's a decade into Snyder's tenure as owner, and not too early to reach a verdict on the joyriding amateur interference that passes for his management. What's ultimately wrong with the Redskins, the reason they annually fight to be merely average, is not the fault of Jim Zorn, Jason Campbell or any other employee, it's the fault of Snyder. Anyone who doubts his involvement needed only listen to Zorn on Monday following the Redskins' loss to the winless Detroit Lions. "I'm sure I'll be spending a lot time with him this week," Zorn said. Now, surely Zorn has better things to do than to explain the elementary and the obvious to his owner: They don't have an effective offensive line or a pass rush.

    This is Snyder's team; he was intimately involved in assembling it. He keeps his favorite players on speed dial, watches practices on the sidelines and demands face time and explanations from the coaches he personally hired. Whatever you think of Zorn, he is Snyder's own selection. It was Snyder who told Joe Gibbs, "He would make a great head coach." He is personally responsible for naming Vinny Cerrato, a proven failure, executive vice president of football operations, for the Redskins' lack of core strength, for their inability to power the ball in the red zone, which is thanks to his decade of neglect of the interior lines in favor of big free agent signings.


    But it says something about the dark, untrusting environment at Redskins Park that a team of highly paid veterans doesn't yet know its character and is fighting for its soul after just three games, trying stave off panic and finger-pointing and to remain cohesive. After losing to the Lions last week, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, "You either want it or you don't. A lot of these guys don't want it. They want the other stuff." The paycheck-player, where's-mine environment is set by an owner who never seems to value the right qualities, and who so often seems to equate the size of a contract with character. How long can some players continue to give more while making a lot less? And how long can all of them keep fighting for Zorn when no one in the front office will step forward and preach real loyalty, by publicly declaring, "This is our coach and the path we're on."


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