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Kornheiser - Still Time Before a Last Gasp


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There's Still Time Before a Last Gasp

By Tony Kornheiser

Tuesday, October 21, 2003; Page D01

So who's talking Bandwagon now, huh?


In fact, they're talking mutiny. The natives are restless. And they're steamed. They want players cut. They want assistant coaches fired. They want heads to roll -- maybe even the head coach's.

Nobody said this at 2-0. Nobody said this at 3-1.

Then they were asking for playoff tickets.

But with what's happened in the last two games -- that second-half debacle against Tampa Bay, and that no-show against Buffalo -- our nation's capital is facing a heightened level of uncertainty as far as the Redskins are concerned. Let me put that another way: If there was a "Homeland Security Redskins Terror Alert," we'd be at code orange, spiking up to red.

You're probably wondering what my advice would be, given that I was Steve Spurrier's loudest advocate.

Well, in the words of that old middle linebacker, Meat Loaf, I'd say, "Let me sleep on it."

Baby, baby, let me sleep on it.

I'll give you an answer in the morning.

No Redskins team ever needed the bye week as much as these Redskins. They have been awful in their last two games, and their fans are apoplectic about what's going wrong -- repeated penalties on the offensive line, repeated sackings of the young quarterback, repeated breakdowns on defense. Nobody's gotten better. And what's worse is the upcoming schedule. Before the season began you'd have called the succession of games against Dallas, Carolina, Seattle and Miami a "soft patch." Now it looks like concrete.

Oh, it's a mess all right. And it can't help that the head coach wondered if his players quit in the Buffalo game, and threatened to bring in players from the street if need be. (Which street, K Street? All he'll find there is George Clooney and James Carville.)

Spurrier-watchers know that his pattern is to fire off some rockets after a loss, then aw-shucks it the next day, as he did yesterday. But what Spurrier said after the Buffalo loss has the whole town roiled and riled up. Where fans are now appears to be halfway between panic and cataclysm.

So here's what we do.

Take a deep breath.


Doesn't that feel better? (Try it with a shot of Johnny Walker Blue this time.)

Let's approach this rationally. There's a tendency in this town to overreact where the Redskins are concerned. At 0-5, people wanted to run Joe Gibbs out of town, and Gibbs ended up in the Hall of Fame. At 0-5, people wanted to run Marty Schottenheimer out of town, and Marty ended up . . . in San Diego -- which is technically out of town -- where he's now 1-5. At 7-6, the owner actually did run Norv Turner out of town, and what did it get him? Marty!

The lesson: Be patient. And by patient I mean, how about waiting 10 games before demanding that everybody be fired. Life isn't sports-talk radio. Everybody can't be fired after every loss. (You'd never be able to collect all the parking passes.)

There's no question that Steve Spurrier's graph here hasn't been the steady climb upward I said it would be. I'm as confused as anyone why the offense has suddenly shut down, and why the defense seems to have lost contact with the people they're paid to stop. I don't know if players have quit, but they certainly seem to be taking liberal leave.

Some of the stall on offense surely has to do with having a second-year quarterback who hasn't seen enough NFL defenses to know how to beat them all. But there's no excuse for this plague of penalties on the offensive line, or for the sieve the defensive line has become. It's a terrible blow to the system when your offense and defense fall apart simultaneously. You can't stick the paddles on everybody's chest at the same time -- the power surge would be so strong Pepco would go dark again. This time for a month.

What makes Spurrier's circumstance appear more dire is what Bill Parcells is doing in Dallas. Which is making miracles. Parcells inherited a crummy team that was 10-22 in the last two seasons and turned it around overnight, presumably by the strength of his personality alone. It's impossible for Redskins fans to look at Parcells's success with the hated Cowboys and not ask, "If Spurrier is so good, why isn't he doing that here?" The answer is Parcells arrived in Dallas fully formed as a great NFL coach (and was greeted by a ridiculously easy schedule; look it up), and Spurrier came to Washington as a great college coach. What Parcells already knows Spurrier has to learn. It will take Spurrier more time than it takes Parcells. But, yes, there's a growing number of people who wonder how much time.

Excuse me, Tony, are you still behind Spurrier?

Sure, I am. I'm just dropping somewhat farther behind him. Hahaha. Come on, it's a joke.

Spurrier knows he can't bring in people off the street. This isn't Florida, where he had three top recruits at every position. He and his assistants have to "coach up" who they've got. They have to teach the players to stay onsides, and to avoid personal fouls. And they have to convince players the punishment for such mistakes is getting benched, even if it means benching some stars. Most of all the coaches have to get the players to give all their best at all times -- something LaVar Arrington said yesterday he isn't sure all the players are giving. It's about self-preservation, because it always follows that when the players quit, the coaches get fired.

Some teams use their bye week for rest and relaxation. The Redskins need it to retrench and refocus. No 16-game season is lost at 3-4. Keep telling yourself that each time you exhale.

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"The answer is Parcells arrived in Dallas fully formed as a great NFL coach (and was greeted by a ridiculously easy schedule; look it up)"

OK, Tony, lets look it up. The Redskins and Cowboys play exactly the same teams during the season except for two weeks. And so far the Cowboys have played four of the teams (Jets, Giants, Falcons, Eagles) the Redskins have played during what Tony referred to on the radio yesterday as a "brutal opening stretch" for us and are about to play a fifth (Tampa).

What a moron.

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