Picking Splinters: Preaching Patience

October 25, 2006 4:35 PM0 comments

Realistically, I don’t think anyone anticipated the Redskins putting Sunday’s game against the Colts in the win column. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone thought Washington would collapse so completely in the second half.

It goes without saying that the Redskins have problems — lots of them — and they were all on display Sunday. Peyton Manning pounded on the Redskins’ injured secondary. Rookie back Joseph Addai averaged 7.7 yards per carry against a porous defensive line. Free agent acquisition Adam Archuleta was torched again, this time by receiver Reggie Wayne for a 51-yard scoring strike. On offense, the Skins failed to establish a run against a team giving up an average of 167 rushing yards per game entering the contest (though Portis was battling a calf bruise and a helmet to the groin). And when Washington fell behind in the third quarter, Mark Brunell’s nickel and dime arm was not going to provide the quick-strike Washington needed.

The most disturbing part of the second-half debacle was the post-game quote from tight end Chris Cooley in Monday’s Washington Post, stating that Washington’s coaches are still learning their players and figuring how to best utilize them.

I’m sorry, come again? Still learning their players? Guys, you’re seven games into the season, and effectively two losses from missing the playoffs. Pavlov’s dogs learned faster than this. What the heck has everyone been doing?

I’m getting so sick of hearing about offensive coordinator Al Saunders’ 700-page “War and Peace” caliber playbook. What’s that, like 2,100 plays? And in all this time this coaching staff hasn’t found more than like 20 matches for the personnel the Redskins actually have on their roster. What good do 700 plays do for the Redskins when they apparently also need Kansas City’s Trent Green, Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez and the rest of Saunders’ former players in order to run them properly?

While talk radio has been overrun by calls for backup Jason Campbell to assume the starting quarterback job, I think this issue has affected the Redskins’ season more than Brunell’s arm strength. Call me crazy, but not knowing your personnel nearly halfway through the season seems to be a massive failure.

Here’s the catch though. I don’t think Saunders, Gibbs or even Gregg Williams should be fired. Believe it or not, I think their retention is the key to success next year. For three of the past four years, Washington players have had to relearn everything they’ve known each training camp because Daniel Snyder, in his infinite wisdom, still believes money can buy a Super Bowl ring. To that end he’s brought in new coaches and coordinators to shake things up.

Having never spent a lick of time in an NFL training camp, I’m not sure exactly what time is required to learn a playbook each season. I do, however, know this: Last year, the Redskins finished at 10-6 and made the playoffs. This year, after these off-season “upgrades,” Washington needs nothing short of a post-bye week miracle to hit that mark again.

I also know this: Since the 2000 season, teams with static head coaches have excelled.

Seven teams have had the same head coach since 2000 — the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Seahawks, Eagles and Broncos. That group accounts for seven of the 12 Super Bowl teams during that time span, with five of those claiming the Lombardi trophy. Combined, they’ve made 26 playoff appearances since 2000. And at the moment, four of those teams sit atop their respective divisions.

This is my case as to why familiarity is important. Rather than scrapping everything and rebuilding the foundation nearly every season, as the Redskins have since Snyder’s takeover in 1999, these teams have been refining their respective systems and building on their achievements.

Right now, it appears that what the Redskins have here is a failure to communicate. How else can you explain that seven games into the season, no one knows who’s who on the field and what’s what in the playbook. It’s not hard to believe, given that four men have the words “Head Coach” somewhere in their title. For the next two weeks, these guys need to lock themselves in an offense and figure this mess out. Maybe Jason Campbell is a better fit for Saunders’ offense, or maybe Al Saunders’ offense needs to find more plays to suit the Joe Gibbs-endorsed Mark Brunell. But this current approach is just not working.

These coaches are smart and successful, they’ve proven that in the past, but they need to find a system that works for the parts they have. And Daniel Snyder needs to give them time to get in right. It might be unorthodox for him, but given the impressive results provided by “stable regimes,” Snyder’s best possible off-season acquisition would be patience.

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