Remember how Michael Lombardi picked the Redskins to win the NFC East?
“Even the Redskins fans think I’m crazy,” the NFL Network analyst said, when I got him on the phone this week. “I’ve been called an idiot on Twitter by a thousand people.”
Lombardi said the feedback he received over his Redskins pick was rivaled only by his picking the Texans to miss the playoffs. Still, at least a few experts agreed with him on that one. But on the Redskins thing, he was an extreme outlier in a universe of 3- and 4-win predictions. Was this a grab for blog attention?
“I would never say anything to get attention,” Lombardi told me. “I study tape; I don’t try to get attention. I say it because I see it. I could be wrong in my evaluation, but I watch what they do, I watch what they’ve done. The team will be ready, Tim Hightower fits what they want to do on offense, and they’ll be a problem for teams to beat this year.”
More after the jump ...
(Editor’s note: Speaking of predictions, Dan is taking your three bold predicitions for the 2011 Redskins now and discussing the best ones in his video Q&A at 1 p.m. today. Submit predictions — or anything else you’d like to talk about — now, and be sure to watch later.)
Of course, Redskins fans are used to perennial optimism from local analysts like Joe Theismann, who once again picked the Skins to win 33 regular season games and both the AFC and NFC championships this month.
But you could dress several yaks and a few Mongolian shepherds in burgundy and gold and Theismann would predict a deep playoff run, so that’s little comfort. Lombardi ran the personnel departments for two NFL teams. And he’s watched a lot of the Redskins this summer.
“You’ve got to watch the tape,” he said. “The offensive line’s playing better. The have personnel that plays the 3-4 defense; that’s gonna separate them. Kerrigan and Orakpo, if they get the lead, there’s two guys who can rush the passer. Fred Davis fits the system perfectly. I think Hightower will help them. The quarterback’s gonna do what they want him to do; last year they couldn’t get the quarterback to do what they wanted.
“Mike [Shanahan’s] a good coach; he was embarrassed last year, and I think Mike’s out to prove some people wrong. There are a lot of areas you can like the team. I think they have a much better team [this year], and a much better understanding of what their team is.”
(As for Beck vs. Grossman? Lombardi sides with the latter. “It wasn’t even close in the preseason,” he said. “Ultimately, it comes down to how well they manage the quarterback. You manage quarterbacks, and this system is friendly to quarterbacks.”)
And Lombardi’s prediction, of course, is also based on the rest of the NFC East. The Giants are decimated by injuries. The Cowboys, he said, have “significant areas of transition.” The Eagles are talented, but “Michael Vick has got to stay healthy for 16 games,” Lombardi said, and he doubts that will happen. Which leaves a certain team that beat both the Packers and the Eagles during a wretched 2010 campaign.
“Those are two really good teams, and they beat them,” Lombardi said. “They were in just about every game last year with a team that wasn’t as good. They’ve beaten all the teams they have to beat. It isn’t like they’re staring into the abyss; they’ve beat these teams with bad teams.”