By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
When the NFL debut of Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was ruined by a 20-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Coach Joe Gibbs appeared as upset after a loss as he had been all season.
He mentioned the word "principles" four times in a 54-second span, a reference to the Redskins' abandonment of the running game and the inability of the defense to stop the Buccaneers' ground attack. Redskins running backs Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett combined for 44 yards on 12 rushes in a game in which neither team led by more than 10 points.
For a team that said it wanted to run the football on offense and stop the run on defense, Campbell rushed as many times as Duckett, while the Redskins' defense gave up 181 yards on the ground to a 2-7 team that for the season was averaging half that. Over his three previous games, Tampa Bay running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams had rushed 35 times for 103 yards. Against the Redskins, he had his best rushing game of the season, with 122 yards on 27 carries.
"I think we have certain principles that we know, that we win by and when we abide by those we're going to win football games. Right now, we're not getting that done," Gibbs said after the game.
"We have certain principles. We have to run and we have to stop the run when we get back to those, we can start winning football games. And when we violate these certain principles we're not going to be able to win any games."
Instead of elaborating on his remarks, Gibbs yesterday was at his most vague about what kind of blueprint he has in mind to guide the team for the remaining six games of the season.
"I think what I'm kind of focused on right now is that this game is kind of where we are. It's not what we want to be, and so I told the players there was still a lot of time in the next day and half before I see them again," Gibbs said, adding that he met yesterday with some individual players for their opinion.
Gibbs continued by saying that his goal was to attempt to appeal to the players to play their best six games of the year.
"I think what's important for us is that if this is where we are, we kind of know what we can be and what we'd like to be," he said.
"And going back to the games and a bunch of those films where we played extremely well and did some good things. Then I think what's important for us on Wednesday is to say if that's the case, this is where we are, this is where we want to be and what's important for us to say is, 'How do we get there?' "
Gibbs said he would not isolate the various problems that have led to Washington's 3-7 record. He would not address the play-calling of associate head coach Al Saunders, even though the offensive players have groused about the lack of a power running approach. Gibbs himself yesterday said he was unhappy with the pass-to-run balance in a game in which Campbell threw 34 times.
"I don't think any of us in this organization are happy with defense, special teams or offense. And I know that's the way I feel, and I think the players feel the same. I think we're all together," Gibbs said. "I don't think we feel like it's special teams. I don't think we feel like it's defense. I don't think we feel like it's offense. I don't think we feel like it's the structure of what's being called or anything. I just think it's all of us together. Like I've said all along, the biggest role that's played in all of this is me."
Despite having built a reputation on his offensive philosophy, Gibbs said he had no intention of taking over the play-calling.
"We already have someone calling the plays," he said.
The Redskins are one of the worst teams defensively, a top 10 defense the previous two years that is now ranked 28th in points allowed, last in sacks, interceptions and turnovers and 30th in total defense and against the pass. The Redskins have the highest payroll in the NFL, and only Detroit, Arizona and Oakland have worse records. With the possibility of a playoff berth growing slimmer after losses in five of the last six games, fans are left to watch the progress of Campbell.
Asked what else fans have to look forward to over the next six games -- four of which are at home -- Gibbs said:
"I think our fans are what I feel good about. Our fans always make the right decisions. I don't think there's anything that makes us better. I never try to coach up our fan base. They're normally ahead of me. I don't make predictions and try to tell someone here's a rosy picture or anything else. You try to work as hard as you can. You don't know where this is going to go. It's week to week. It's year to year. That's what the NFL is. You have to make it happen, and if you don't make it happen you're in for hard times."