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WP: 'Everything Needs to Be Improved'

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'Everything Needs to Be Improved'

Redskins Look to Move On After What They Say Was Worst Moment in Tough Season

By Nunyo Demasio

Two weeks ago, Coach Steve Spurrier bluntly equated the Washington Redskins' chances of making the playoffs to the odds of winning the lottery. So it was anticlimactic when the Redskins were officially eliminated from a wild-card berth after Sunday's 27-0 loss against arch rival Dallas.

But the outcome generated attention for another reason. Although Spurrier declined to rate the loss yesterday -- "that's up to you guys," he said -- his players described it as easily the nadir in a season replete with low points. And cornerback Champ Bailey, who is the most tenured Redskin along with right tackle Jon Jansen, described the outcome as his worst moment since joining the club in 1999.

"It's not even close," said cornerback Fred Smoot. "Worst loss of the year."

After a 3-1 start that hinted at a magical season, the Redskins swooned with some of their most embarrassing performances in recent memory. Even though the Redskins had provided a glimmer of hope with three November losses by four points or fewer, Sunday was such a debacle that the outcome has enveloped the franchise with befuddlement and gloom as the season winds down.

The Redskins (5-9) are left searching for answers as to why a team that started with promise may end up with its worst record in six seasons. The Redskins must win one of their final two games -- at Chicago on Sunday, then home against Philadelphia on Dec. 27 -- to avoid matching the 6-10 mark of 1998, which came after an 0-7 start.

"We really ain't got no identity right now," Smoot said. "Until we win some games, we're just another bad team."

During his 11 NFL seasons, linebacker Jessie Armstead is familiar with teams assigning blame after disappointing records. Armstead doesn't expect things to be any different with a club that has the highest-paid coach in the NFL, the second-highest payroll and an owner who generates the most revenue in the league.

"At the end of the season, everybody will put a spin on the situation," Armstead said. "That's the way football goes, right or wrong."

But several Redskins believe that responsibility should be spread throughout the organization. "Everything needs to be improved," Bailey said, "for us to improve."

The sentiment within management is that Spurrier needs more experienced assistants, although the Redskins are familiar with the NFL head coach with the most experienced staff: Marty Schottenheimer, whose San Diego Chargers are 3-11.

The Redskins' defense was ranked fifth in the NFL last season, but has plummeted to 21st under first-year coordinator George Edwards. The Redskins' offense is ranked 24th, a regression from 20th last season, indicating Spurrier hasn't proven that his Fun 'n' Gun scheme he brought from the University of Florida can translate to the NFL. Spurrier is 12-18 in his Redskins tenure and has never won three games in a row. The most alarming aspect of Spurrier's record, however, is his 2-9 mark in the NFC East.

According to a Redskins source close to Daniel Snyder, the owner's suite was like a funeral during Sunday's loss. But the source, who requested anonymity, said that Snyder hasn't budged from last week's declaration of "absolutely" retaining Spurrier.

After one of the most active offseasons in the club's history, Snyder and Vice President of Player Personnel Vinny Cerrato changed about one-third of the roster with an infusion of speed and youth. But the Redskins assembled one of the feeblest defensive lines in the NFL. The club released defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson during the first week of the season before making two trades to acquire defensive tackle Lional Dalton and Martin Chase. Sunday, Dallas running back Troy Hambrick rushed for 189 yards on 33 carries, averaging 5.7 yards. The effort was the third-best rushing performance in Cowboys' history. No Redskins defensive lineman had more than two tackles.

Only the New Orleans Saints (7-7) have a higher payroll than the Redskins, yet Washington appears to have several overpaid players who underachieve.

"We've got a lot of talent but we're just not winning," Bailey said. "If you watch the film, you'll see what's wrong."

Before facing the Cowboys, it didn't appear as if Washington could sink any lower than a few other performances this season. The Redskins initially appeared to hit rock bottom during a 24-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 19, when they were forced to punt 10 times. After the outcome, Spurrier questioned his players' professionalism. Following a bye week, the Redskins lost to Dallas, 21-14, as quarterback Patrick Ramsey was sacked four times in the first half.

Even in a nail-biter like a 24-23 loss on Nov. 23 at Miami, the Redskins were embarrassed, handing the Dolphins their best comeback since 1980.

Afterward, Spurrier solemnly summed up the game -- and the season -- with words that are still relevant: "It didn't work out tonight for all of us. We're all losers now."

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