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First the big change, now the chain reaction

Quarterback Jason Campbell, out earlier with a shoulder injury, and Coach Jim Zorn have a meeting of the minds after Campbell's third-quarter interception was returned for a touchdown by the Giants.
Quarterback Jason Campbell, out earlier with a shoulder injury, and Coach Jim Zorn have a meeting of the minds after Campbell's third-quarter interception was returned for a touchdown by the Giants. (John Mcdonnell - Washington Post)
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By Thomas Boswell
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thanks for the new general manager. Now, can we have a new team?

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The Redskins can hurry up and get a new coach, too. Because, once you utterly undermine the coaching staff you have, all that's left is barely disguised chaos.

The last five weeks have been a merciful interlude of respectability for a battered Redskins team, playing at the limits of its ability for the sake of pride. But what Bruce Allen, the team's new GM, truly needed was an honest NFL reality check on the team he has inherited. The New York Giants provided the answer on Monday night: 45-12.

The Redskins, held together by the bailing wire of a doomed coaching staff and the pride of a handful of stubborn veterans, finally fell apart before a national TV audience at the hand of an old rival.

"This is the worst game of my career. We got beaten in every phase of football," said quarterback Jason Campbell, who wore a big black eye symbolic of his whole team. "This was worse than [losing 52-7 to] New England because this was at home."

By halftime, the Giants' margin was 24-0 and the crowd at FedEx Field, though it summoned the irritation to boo the Redskins off the field at intermission, hardly seemed surprised. The visitors were fighting for a playoff spot. The Redskins, now 4-10, were merely fighting to keep from being a league-wide joke.

When Redskins owner Daniel Snyder pulled the plug on Vinny Cerrato, the executive vice president of football operations, last Thursday with three games to play in the season, he may not have understood the chain reaction he set in motion. Or at least he may not have feared it sufficiently.

When the old GM goes, that means the unsuccessful head coach that he hired is going to get canned too, as soon as the season is over. (Or on Tuesday.) That means his staff may be totally sacked, too.

Now the Redskins know that the only people on earth who can't possibly be their coaches next year are the men who are still in charge of them. What you have left are 45 men in free fall.

Once you kick out the last remaining supports from under the coaches, so that they have no future and no authority, their sense of futility seeps through their team, whether they intend it to or not. A barely maintained order turns to chaos.

When Jon Gruden, the ESPN color commentator in the TV booth, has a better chance of being the 2010 coach than the man on the sideline wearing the headset, this is what you get: an organization-wide embarrassment in which the Redskins look comical and dispirited.

"You can say all [the distractions] don't matter, but, true feelings, sometimes it can matter," Campbell said. "You do focus on it a little bit. You try not to but we've been blocking out a lot of things this year. We didn't even look like the same team."


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