Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Coincidence? Take a Closer Look

Brendan Haywood, at times this season, has been as dominating a center as we have had in some time. Averaging 9 points and 12 rebounds a game, he has been very active for the Wizards on defense and has been able to score in timely situations. With Etan out indefinitely, it seems rather timely that Brendan would step up and perform a little more to his potential. But wait...he played a lot better last year when Etan was hurt. In fact, after starting the first 20 games of the season, Etan got hurt and by the time Etan was ready to start practicing again, the Wizards were 8-1 with Haywood at center. He was averaging 9 points and 10 rebounds. Sound familiar? Don't get me wrong, I love the production we are getting from the center position right now, but it kind of sucks that Etan had to have open-heart surgery for Brendan to play well and with confidence. Why do I say that? Because I happen to know the history behind these two and I am in the unique position to shine some light on these facts.

Exhibit A

In the third grade, Etan Thomas comes home from school early. He was sent home by the school nurse for a case of rampant lice in his hair. He missed 2 weeks of school and was almost held back an entire year because his cursive writing skills were so far behind the rest of the class. That same week a young Brendan Haywood comes home all smiles--he got the lead in his class' school play, Gulliver's Travels. Sure, his height had a lot to do with that, as he was already 6'3" by the time he was wrapping up grade school, but it was the way he came out of nowhere to land the gig. The school drama teacher noted on his final report card that, "All year long, I wanted more out of Brendan. Even though the rest of the class is white, he still did not do enough to win the lead roles in 'Shaft', 'Malcom X', or 'Ali'. But for some reason, that one week for 'Gulliver's Travels'...he was really on."

Exhibit B

On the way to high school one morning, Etan was involved in a 5-car pile-up that resulted in severe casualties for him and those in his car. The freshman he was driving to school that morning was savagely sliced in half, while Etan suffered broken ribs, a broken leg, a concussion, and lost his right eye (which is of course why he has that glass eye to this very day). He was in a wheelchair for 2 weeks, and his high school sweetheart dumped him when his lack of depth perception (because of the glass eye) resulted in an unfortunate bedroom mishap. That very same month, an awkward Brendan Haywood, only 1 year younger than Etan, lost his virginity to the hottest girl in school. In a page torn out of that year's yearbook obtained by the Ahern Inquirer, a very telling note was penned from his classmate Todd "Whitey" Whittington: "Thank God you finally broke up with Patricia. Her moustache was scary, and her fake leg is not even the same length as her real leg. But nobody can take away that magical night with Amy "Booba" Lishus. How you pulled that off I will never know, but I can tell you this. You were in a kind of zone then that you have never seen since! P.S. Tough luck losing the leads in 'Ali', and 'Shaft' to me in grade school. You would have been great! (No way you could have touched Sean O'Flanagan's performance in 'Malcom X' though.)"

Exhibit C

Things were going great for Etan. He was big man on campus at Syracuse. Nobody ever would have seen this one coming: anal fissures. He missed the entire 2nd half of his sophomore year battling this dreaded condition. It was because of this that he changed his major from Molecular Biology to Poetry. It was also because of this that he had surgery on his anal sphincter muscle. And it was because of that he wrote the poem, 'Ode to a High Fiber Diet'. If you could possibly be more shocked, consider this: During that same semester, Brendan Haywood enjoyed unprecedented success as the elected representative for his dormitory floor. Among the many initiatives passed that semester was the "Flip-Flops Save Lives" shower slogan; the much heralded "Drop Your Nugget, and Watch Me Chug It" toilet billboard campaign to encourage flushing; and the now legendary "Have a porno, Leave a porno; Need a porno, take a porno" collection box (he got the idea at 7-Eleven.) A political science professor at UNC at the time commented, "Dorm politics has never been dominated like this before. This kid has come from out of nowhere to perform at an unbelievably high level. I can't explain it. Plus I think it is alarming that kids need to be 'encouraged' to flush more."

Exhibits D and E

The last two seasons Haywood has all of a sudden shown up to play when Etan was out of the picture. This is MEGA-troubling. If I was Etan Thomas, I would watch out for any mysteriously tall, bald, headband-wearing nurses in his hospital room. Especially one with a bad Muhammad Ali impersonation.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Unwatchable. Unforgiveable. I am done with the Redskins.

Where do I even start with the Redskins/Eagles game? Oh I know, I am never watching another Skins game again. PERIOD. (sorry, bolding a period does not set the tone to how pissed off I am). Cowboys/Skins next week, I will not be watching. I vow never to watch another game until Saunders and Gibbs are both gone.

First things first. Who runs the ball on 3rd and goal from the 8 yard line!?!? The only possible team that should call this play is the Chargers. Yeah, that is a not a compliment to Norv Turner. And, how many times do we have to watch McNabb scramble for a 1st on 3rd and 21? Especially now that he has 2 flat tires!

I was actually in Philly for the game and listened to their WFAN announcers before the game. To paraphrase, "The Redskins are terrible. They have no passing touchdowns to a WR. Every team has focused on the run (because that's Joe Gibbs football) if you want to stop the Redskins, focus on Portis and make Campbell beat you. They barely beat the Jets and Dolphins."
Tough to argue that. However, Campbell was doing just that. First half he was completing long passes and actually looked quite solid. So went wrong? Very simply, COACHING. We seem to be the only team that does not make half-time adjustments.

Yeah, I take to heart Philly talk radio commentary as much as I do Kornheiser's predictions in NASCAR, but it just goes to show how simple and predictable our Offense is. The one gadget play we run every 3 weeks always results in a disaster.

Someone needs to be held accountable for this loss. And I am sick and tired of Joe Gibb's "we fought real hard" and "we have lots to think about it and it all starts with me." F*** THAT. Joe, you are single-handedly losing games with your decisions. Running the ball. Burning timeouts. Last week it was challenging the spot of the ball on a run up in the middle (no one could see anything) and this time on the Betts fumble. Is your headset broken? Are you so senile that you can't understand English from teammates that the play is not clearly visible?

We need a blowup at the post-game podium. I'm talking Denny Green throwing the mic, I'm talking Mora "PLAYOFFS?!" Joe, you need to show and share the same frustration we have and that you give a shit. I have a strong feeling once Joe is gone players will only then reveal how screwed up this hierarchial chain of command is. Two coordinators that run the whole show and one senile mastermind that overrides when he feels like. Whoever called that run on 3rd and 8 needs to step down immediately.

And why is Jason Campbell not audibling? There was one third and short where BOTH safeties were in the box? What do we do, exactly what our tape from the last 7 weeks up the middle. Outcome? STUFF. Punt it away.

I wanted to see at least 1 QB sneak in that situation. I feel like JC should be able to put his head down and get a couple yards almost any time he wants to do it. Especially when we are running no-huddle. But naturally, short-yardage situations this year have turned into 3rd and longs thanks to some timely penalties.

Which leads to my next question, if Belichick coached the Skins, would we have won that game? I'm pretty sure we would have. The Redskins CONTINUALLY make devastating penalties. How is this possible at week 8 AND AT HOME! The first drive of the game it was the illegal contact. So instead of a punt, the Birds get an automatic first and an eventaul TD. Then, the false start by Cooley on third and goal from the 3. How does this happen at home?!?? Inexcusable. Unforgiveable.

And why is it that substitute players bring NOTHING to the table? Once Sean Taylor went down, Pierson Prioleau got absolutely worked. We might as well have had Calvin Booth playing safety. On that crushing Westbrook score, Prioleau was running the wrong direction, and the only play he had to make was force Westbrook to the sideline. What does he do, run towards the sideline allowing Westbook to cut back open in the middle of the field. Does Prioleau attend the same practices as everyone else or he is being coached at Springbrook High? I am not expecting anyone to replace Sean Taylor, but you are in the NFL for a reason. At least play some fundamentals!

Our offensive line has been able to overcome injuries this year thankfully but as a team this is not working.

What is really disheartening is that the Skins right now are as good as they will get. We are not building anything. We have simply been treading water for the last 10 years. We've had some decent draft picks, but Dan Synder's will to continually buy over-priced fee agents to fill holes is a proven anti-pattern. I give Snyder props for bringing in Gibbs and handing the reins over, but enough is enough. If there's one free agent you sign, PLEASE let the next one be a General Manager. We all know you can afford the best, if not, just raise parking another $20 a car, which you'll probably do anyway. Once we have a GM, we can then input a MODERN day coach that is proven and players can trust in following.

For my part, I say to the Redskins entire coaching staff, "Thanks for nothing." I am focusing on the Wiz now. (*sigh*).


Thursday, November 8, 2007


This can't be right. This just doesn't make sense.

With every 3 yard pass on 3rd on 4, every 4 yard run on 3rd on 5, and every decision to punt on 4th and 1, the amount of people calling for Joe Gibbs to retire--or worse, for Joe Gibbs to be fired--grows exponentially. They scream, "He has lost touch with today's NFL player," "He has no feel for the flow of today's NFL game," "He seems lost and confused on the sidelines, and it's costing us games." To all of these people, I ask a question famously offered by The Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan--"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
It is absolutely that simple.

I told you before the season that not only were people ignoring this year's team, they were dismissing this franchise. Like us, Coach Gibbs is far-removed from the greatness of the teams that won championships for D.C. We are not even in the championship debate any more, and it has nothing to do with the Coach's decision to throw or pass or call a time-out. This town can thank Norv Turner, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerrfel, Jeff George, Deion Sanders, and VINNY CERRATO for our current state of name but a few of the folks who have contributed to the craptastic environment that has grown and festered in the last decade and a half.

We survived (barely) the Norv Turner years. Like passing through a desert, that span of time tested our wills, and it is clear we lost some people along the way. Terry Robiskie and Steve Spurrier managed to suck so loudly that the great success of Marty Schottenheimer in 2001 is hard to discern. Steve Spurrier shouldn't have been released from his contract--he should have been charged with a felony. In addition to criminally ruining the career of our last 1st round quarterback by employing a pass protection scheme that was DESIGNED TO GENERATE SACKS, he embodied the "Better to give up than show up" attitude that we witnessed in Deion Sanders and Lav Coles when each of them left town. Norv is captain of the all-time "Abandon the Run" team, Spurrier is captain of the all-time "Abandon the Quarterback" team, and Schottenheimer was just plain abandoned.

Gibbs doesn't have the word abandon in his vocabulary. Down 17-3 to the Jets (a bad team), he stuck to his game plan and scraped out a win that left me wanting to vomit. It was not a pretty win but he decided what it would take to beat that team, and he went out and did it. One of the greatest players to ever suit up on the defensive side of the football, Champ Bailey, gets a pass from being blamed for anything--he was fed up with this franchise. But he had the decency to approach Coach Gibbs like a man and tell him he was done instead of doing it on TV through the media. Thanks to his professionalism, we at least got a franchise running back in return for him--though you won't hear me extolling the virtues of RB's over franchise CB's.

But we made it back to Joe and he made it back to us. He never folded his losing hand, even blaming himself for the early failures of an organization in complete disarray. Have we enjoyed Super Bowl success since his return? No. But we don't deserve the luxury of judging our team in terms of championships these days. We haven't deserved that since Joe left.

On to my most pressing concern. We call ourselves the Redskins' faithful...where's the faith? Part of what makes us so insufferable to the rest of the league's fans is the way we hold Gibbs to Christlike status. If that seems backwards even to us, the fact that we would choose to turn on him now is even more backwards. Are we better off than we were four years ago? Of course we are. This team is heading in the right direction. The speed at which we are heading in that direction is debatable. But the signs of progress are hard to ignore. We have a starting quarterback who is about to make his 16th career start, giving us a look at what he can do over the course of a "full season". Currently 7-8 in his first 15 starts, there is no real leap in the major stats from his 7 starts last year to his 8 starts this year except for one--WINS. He was 2-5 last year. He is 5-3 this year. Is anyone going to confuse him with Tom Brady? Of course not. But is anyone going to confuse him with John Friesz, or Heath Shuler, or Rob Johnson? Of course not.

The caliber of person at the leadership positions on our team--Campbell, Landry, Fletcher, Samuels, Jansen, Daniels--is at the highest level since the last group of players to suit up for Gibbs. Sure, he did not bring all of those guys in, but he sure kicked a few guys out who didn't meet his standards. I would include Sean Taylor in his own category. As long as we can re-sign him, his maturity and approach to the game these days has all the makings of a most distingushed career.
You want to play the "should've" game? Let's play. We "should've" lost to the Cards. We "should've" lost to the Jets. But we "should've" beaten the Pack. And we "should've" beaten the Giants. Net result is still 5-3. Fun game.

Finally, a little dose of reality. Does Joe Gibbs look like he is in a 100% comfort zone out there? No. Does he give us the impression he knows exactly what to do in every situation instantaneously the way he once did? No. Does he appear to be taking too many cues from any of the zillion coaches on the sidelines and upstairs? Yes. But to call for his firing? Where does that leave our team? How does that continue with the trend away from disarray that GIBBS started? How does that make us better? And what has Vinny done to prove he is capable of replacing Gibbs with someone who will take this ball and run with it?

Keeping the faith is not supposed to be easy. When you have to do it, it generally means you are clinging faithfully to something that is not readily apparent, or visibly seen. We have reason to believe, and that reason is very very simple. We are better off now than before the return of Coach Gibbs. Where previous coaches did not deserve the chance to continue their reigns of terror, inadequacy, and apathy, Gibbs has earned the right for us not to give up on him.