The Redskins

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2007; 11:00 AM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins.

The transcript follows.

Read Jason's blog, Redskins Insider.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins


Jason La Canfora: Hello all, happy Turkey Day Eve.

No iPod this week -- will be listening to conference calls with the Bucs as I do this -- so let's get right to it. Have at me.


Boston: I thought this week's loss overshadowed the coaching staff's best game of the season. Gibbs managed the game well, the offensive line held together despite Wade's injury, and the defense was at least put in position to make plays. I know you've suggested Gibbs may be overmatched this time around, but I see a guy who still has the capability to coach in this league. His players never quit and he understands his personnel. I wish he gambled a bit more and protected time outs (and draft picks), but he's totally changed the culture of this team. Remember, there's exactly one excellent team in this league: New England. We're right there with everyone else.

Jason La Canfora: The only thing I had a problem with is something that's never going to chance because it's who he is this time around -- kicking the 50-yard field goal instead of going for fourth and short.

I'm not so sure about changing any culture -- this team still can't win two games in a row with any sort of regularity at all and has essentially no home field advantage -- 15-14 at home -- despite the biggest stadium in the league. Overall, game management has been a huge issue and it's something that has not gone unknown by the players at all.

But, as you say, they are in the same boat as 60 percent of the league -- right around .500, somewhere in the middle of the pack.


Arlington, Va.: Jason, I'm not sure how to take this morning's article about the Redskins standing to prosper from the potential tiebreaker wild card situation with Detroit and Arizona. They have some difficult games ahead of them and people like Chris Samuels need to be worried about an emerging Bucs team rather than potential wild card situations. I'd say The Washington Post is jumping the gun quite a bit by publishing that article. Redskins Stand to Prosper From Tie (Post, Nov. 21)

Jason La Canfora: Jumping the gun? I don't see that at all. The article simply showed who they are competing with down the stretch for a wildcard spot and how the schedules and tiebreakers could line up.

This is all everyone is going to be talking for the next six weeks with like six teams in a horse race and jockeying for position every Sunday.

Rackers missing that field goal at the end of regulation in the Arizona game to me is the single biggest event of this season so far, because without that Arizona tiebreaker, and with what would be a 4-6 record and 2-5 NFC record, the Skins would be cooked.


Silver Spring, Md.: Jason -- by my count, there's now seven wide receivers on the 53-man roster. How crazy is that, and how long will it be that way? Once Thrash heals his guts out, who gets cut?

Jason La Canfora: Six healthy and seven total. It is mind boggling. Something happens around here every week that just makes you scratch your head.

What makes it beyond weird is that until the Dallas game you could rarely if ever find a time with even three receivers on the field at the same time (up until then when they did got 4 wide Cooley was pretty much always one of them).

So you carry all these receivers and most of the season let Thrash and McCardell rot -- even though they make plays when given a chance. And Caldwell surely has something to offer, and started for New England last year, but they won't put him on the field and then you had the ongoing Lloyd debacle.

Well, anyway, plenty of depth there. Don't blame them for taking a chance on this Mix kid at all, has good size and everyone knows they have needed a big target for Campbell for a long time. But I don't think they can carry seven wideouts and also carry that Randy Thomas roster spot too long.


Northwest Washington: JLC, I know you are not an old-school Redskin guy, but I am quite sure you have heard that one forte of the Gibbs I era was halftime adjustments. In Gibbs II, I have not seen much if any adjustment at half. I am perplexed by the lack of adjustment by Williams's defense. Could we not go three-deep or double Terrell Owens? I really cringe when I see our middle linebacker trying to cover the deep middle.

Jason La Canfora: They actually played a fair bit of cover-3 in that game and TO was doubled ... but when a young safety bites on a look off and starts creeping down on a tight end and the quarterback throws over the top, look out.

Trust me, they were played deep zones constantly, with Springs in man with a double on TO early on. Only thing I fault Gregg for is getting away with the man on TO and going full-on zone a lot in the second half, and by the time he switched back it was too late.

As for the one play with Fletcher -- that's the Tampa-2 defense. It's a part of the field London is responsible and he has made some huge plays in that defense this season. He turned his hips the wrong way when Romo faked a check down and Landry turned the wrong way and looked to play the outside route rather than TO down the seam, and he walked into the end zone.

Lot of huge mistakes by the young safeties. If Taylor is back there I don't think there's much chance TO has four touchdowns -- and three long TDs at that. But he's going to be out for a few more weeks, so the kids better learn on the fly, fast.

As for Gibbs -- 17-14 with a halftime lead this time around. Most losses with a halftime lead in the NFL since 2004.


Richmond, Va.: Is Marcus Washington nearing the end of the line? His body seems to have failed him the past two years with lengthy injuries.

Jason La Canfora: They are going to have some real tough decisions to make on guys like Marcus and Cornelius, who have both been slowed by injuries repeatedly in recent years and have some huge cap numbers coming up.

My gut is they both restructure and play ball, but I would not be surprised if one of them is not back. If he could ever go through an offseason without having to rehab from surgery and then stay healthy through that preseason as well, I think Marcus could be a beast again, but that's a lot of ifs and he has been dealing with serious lingering injuries for two years now.


Richmond, Va.: Let's forget about what's on your iPod. What's in the pipe that you guys are smoking at The Washington Post? Playoffs? Sure, they're reasonable in the sucky NFC, but the 'Skins are not showing an ability to beat anyone. Shouldn't this team be focusing exclusively on the game at hand, and not looking at the schedule -- especially with guys like Chris Samuels already talking about being able to afford to lose a game?

Jason La Canfora: Dude, who said they are making the playoffs?

Let's slow down. The point of the article was to say how horrible the NFC is and that even sub-.500 teams will be in this thing till the bitter end. That's just reality dude.

Last year the Skins were a 5-11 team that still was not mathematically eliminated until like Week 16.

Would not be shocked if a 7-8 team still had a shot entering the final week of the season this time around.

Trust me, no one is proclaiming the Skins to be anything close to a great team ... but even if they lose to Tampa they still could be mediocre enough to get in the playoffs.


Washington: Can we talk about the hypothetical offseason moves? For instance, which general managers would be available (could we see Casserly again)? And who would be on your list of draft picks and free agents? And what areas would you focus on? My preference is to shore up the offensive line (Jansen and Thomas are too injury-prone, unfortunately) and the secondary. What do you think?

Jason La Canfora: Wow, offseason already? I'm not going there. Dan Snyder has you brainwashed. We've got the six biggest games of the season coming up, let's enjoy the run.

You have to spend 80 percent of your time on this beat focused on all the bull -- Gibbs coming back? Contract renegotiations, the next wave of over-priced free agents ... all of that so we can get to 16 games that matter. So let's worry about the games.

We'll be picking this thing apart all of January and February. And there will be guys gone (Springs, Lloyd) but these six games will dictate a lot of their decisions.


Mount Airy, Md.: Will the Dec. 6 Bears vs. Redskins game be shown on a local channel, or just the NFL Network?

Jason La Canfora: I am sure it will be on some local outlet but have not checked which one yet.


ashburn va: you have a very lack of knowledge! Redskins will go to the superbowl!

Jason La Canfora: Gotta luv the power of positive thinking.


Cato June: Will I be playing this Sunday or will my coach discipline me for my recent bout with intoxication?

Jason La Canfora: Listening to your coach on the speaker phone right now. My gut is you might, but haven't had a chance to ask him yet. I will update it if I get some news.


Reston, Va.: Jason, do you think Gibbs will return as coach next year, and who are the most likely on-deck candidates if not?

Jason La Canfora: My gut feeling is he will be back, but again, the end of this season's story is still untold. As long as his family is in decent health I think he's choice would be to come back.


Washington.: Watching Campbell grow into the offense this year has certainly given me hope for the future (although not necessarily this year). Still, I feel like the offense is struggling with an identity crisis -- one week they're a running team, the next a passing team. Is this just an offense going through growing pains, or is this a struggle between a Gibbs running offense and the more wide-open attack of Saunders? And which one will show up on Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: I think Gibbs gets overly concerned with the opponent every week rather than finding an identity and format that works for this team and then forcing other people to stop that.

The players definitely feel that is you load up on all this talent at WR and have a TE like Cooley, and a young, strong-armed unflappable QB, you might as well use them and spread it and go for the throat a little more. But Gibbs's nature is conservative and there has clearly been a feeling out process with this offense and this young QB.

My feeling is they need to add more to the no huddle and spread the field more, put more pressure on opposing defenses and take what they did in the second half against Dallas and continue to put it to use.


Portisville: So, the 'Skins were not playing from behind until well into the third quarter, but they deviated from the run to go pass-heavy. Do you think this was in anticipation of a Dallas run of scores, or was it a change in philosophy? What do you think will be emphasized in the Tampa Bay game, run or pass?

Jason La Canfora: When Dallas started scoring from 30 and 40 yards out, I think it forced their hand a bit. Trust me, Gibbs must have apologized 10 times during his press conference Monday about throwing that much. It was clear it pained him to some degree and he went on and on about the need to be more balanced.

But they knew Dallas was going to keep attacking the young safeties.

I think they will try to run early against the Tampa-2 and force them to bring a safety down, but these things are often dictated as the game goes along based on score, time, etc.


Lorton, Va.: When do you think we will be getting Randy back? Please say for the Giants game.

Jason La Canfora: That's about right. Might be a slight chance they can get him back for the Chicago game.


Baltimore: With the current cap situation and the hits that will come because of departures, do you see Sean Taylor and Jason Campbell signing long-term deals?

Jason La Canfora: At least one of them this offseason and the other would probably be done by the end of next season.

The cap situation looks horrible now, but that's how it looks this time every year. Anyone making too huge of a deal about that now isn't paying attention to how they operate here.

They'll convert a ton of those base salaries to new bonuses, pay the player up front and prorate it for cap purposes. The problem is they are perpetually overpaying guys who are getting too old or hurt, and keep getting caught in that same situation.


Bethesda, Md.: The Redskins always have had trouble with Joey Galloway especially on those seam routes. Any chance that'll change their scheme, considering that TO did the same thing to them?

Jason La Canfora: No way they'll change the scheme -- Bucs don't run the ball that well and the 'Skins will continue to alternate between Cover-2 and Cover-3 and I would imagine Springs would be doing some man work on Joey underneath that umbrella (he goes way back to Ohio State with Galloway and used to man him in practice as a red-shirt freshman, watching Joey blow past him time and time again. those early competitions helped Shawn get to where he is).


Roanoke, Va.: Enjoying the chats as usual, Canforamous Maimous. How soon do you see Mix making an impact on the offense? I think it may improve Campbell's confidence even more having a reliable target he threw to for a while in college. Confidence in this offense among the players seems to be growing every week, especially in Campbell, and I think having another big target may be the best thing to happen to Campbell in this injury-fest of a season.

Jason La Canfora: It can't hurt having him around. I think he could be interesting in the jumbo package and with that size he would have the assets to be a target in the red zone.

I would think he would need at least until next week to be ready -- especially with six other WRs on the roster.


Gaithersburg, Md., in the house!: Jason, I always look forward to your chats ... getting tired of a lot of the soft-hitting, "afraid of what the Redskins might think if I am critical" coverage going on in this town. ... What is the real deal with Williams's defensive schemes these days? Is he asking players to do things that are impossible? I am hearing things from players about having to cover multiple areas out there and then the coach says "technique" errors are to blame. What's up? Listening to my iPod today -- "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Gordon Lightfoot.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks, boss.

They were playing the same stuff they have played all year. Landy, Doughty, Fletcher and Prioleau -- the four guys most directly involved in those bombs -- would be the first to tell you they made breakdowns that you can't have against that QB and that WR.

For three quarters they shut that team down using the same scheme. I think Greg could have used more man, but in terms of blitzing more or scheme, he didn't have a whole lot of options. Hopefully for them it was a learning experience for some of the young guys.


Bethesda, Md.: Sean Taylor:

a. most important player on the team

b. should be first-team All-Pro

c. move over Ronnie Lott

d. all of the above

Jason La Canfora: b.


La La Land: I know you've said at all along that after the good luck with Samuels's knee and Campbell's knee in preseason, the 'Skins can't complain for a second about injuries this year.

While I totally agree, isn't it fair to say that this team has been hit abnormally hard this year by the injury bug?

Look at what's happened in the secondary, which was the deepest part of this team.

I would argue that team depth is the most underrated quality in the NFL these days. Tom Brady and Belichick are obviously the two biggest factors in the Pats success.

But after that, what I envy most is all their interchangeable parts. It seems like when their starters go down, there's no drop off in play from their replacements. I don't expect the 'Skins to end their front office craziness any time soon, but if I were in charge, I'd emphasize depth over big splash signings. Your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: I think you make a great point about the Pats -- they have been unusually lucky with the injury bug. Look what's happened to Indy since they got hit.

I don't think the 'Skins are unusual at all in terms of injuries, but if you look at Dallas, Green Bay and New England, there is no denying that their overall superior health has been huge (once Glenn comes back for the Cowboys that offense could be truly beastly).


Christchurch, New Zealand: Hey Jason, greetings from N.Z. On my fuzzy computer screen down here, it sure looked like McIntosh had the pick. Did the officials have a different angle? What did Gibbs and Rocky have to say? Cheers.

Jason La Canfora: New Zealand in the house? That's awesome. Hello in Kiwi Country. Thanks for joining us.

Gibbs is usually the first one to rant and rave about a call and tell us that he's "sending it in to the league." We got none of that on Monday even after giving him a couple of chances to do so. That speaks volumes to me. Also, Rocky was not exactly moaning and complaining about the call after the game, protesting mildly at best, so I tend to think they had an angle that made it the right call.

But I agree, on what I saw from TV it was very close.


Glasgow, Scotland: Will 9-7 make the playoffs? Even though the Packers and Cowboys are the best teams in the NFC, if the Redskins can make the playoffs, I would put them up against any other team in the NFC. For me Dallas's and Green Bay's 9-1 records are more to the fact that the NFC has a lot of evenly matched teams and their AFC opponents are from the weakest two divisions (New England aside), rather than them being such a class above the rest of the NFC. If the 'Skins can stay healthy and make the playoffs, the only starters they would be missing are Jansen on offense and Rogers on defense, and in all likelihood facing a playoff game against Tampa Bay or Seattle. The experts are saying our last six games are hard, but if the offense can continue to play like it has the past two weeks and the defense can play decently, then we have every chance of winning four or five games.

Jason La Canfora: Now Scotland? How cool is that (Just got a rejection letter in the mail Saturday from The Herald there in Glasgow, dated Sept. 4. Applied for a Senior Football Correspondent job (football being soccer in this case); don't think I got much consideration. Anyway, I digress.)

I agree that if they get in as the second wild card, going to Seattle or Tampa is hardly a death sentence and I could see them winning in either spot. Getting into the playoffs would be tougher than winning either of those games, to me.

My gut feeling is that the G-men and Cards are the wild card teams, but the 'Skins, like I said, will be in it until the end barring a total collapse here.


Fairfax, Va.: I think there's a lot of revisionist thinking suggesting that Gibbs has always been conservative. I don't recall ever hearing this discussion when Monk, Clark and Sanders were catching passes along with Clint Didier. Those teams were not run-heavy. I just think Gibbs has taken the afraid-to-lose route in his second coming because he doesn't yet trust his guys.

Jason La Canfora: Conservative this time around. I'm just covering this incarnation of the Redskins, not the ghosts. His M.O. this time around has not changed.


Washington: I believe the Thursday night Bears game will be seen locally on Channel 20.

Jason La Canfora: There you have it. Thanks for the assist.


Ashburn, Va.: Not to be Scrooge, but did Lloyd really get hurt or is this the thing to finally end this charade?

Jason La Canfora: Just saw him walk out of here with his shoulder looking like Frankenstein. He definitely got hurt. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, though.


Arlington, Va.: Jason, With the Redskins signing that tall wide receiver dude, it got me to thinking ... what happened to Clarence Moore? He was that 6-6 receiver that Baltimore cut at the start of the year. I thought that the Redskins should have signed him back then, but they opted for Reche.

Jason La Canfora: I thought the 'Skins would be big into him as well, but last time I checked -- about three weeks ago -- they never brought him in for a look.

I know Clarence had workouts with Miami and Tennessee, but I am not sure if he ever got signed. He did some nice stuff in the red zone and on jump balls with the Ravens a few years back.

This kid Mix has the same attributes it seems and is tight with Jason and is younger, so like I said, no harm in that. Gotta take a look-see.


Tampa, Fla.: Jason, according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, every NFL team but one is at least $5 million below the 2008 cap. The exception, of course, is the 5-5 Redskins, who are $19.5 million over the cap. Can you impeach a team owner for incompetence?

Jason La Canfora: Like I said earlier, anyone who is making a big deal out of that isn't paying attention.

They will re-do 10 contracts -- as always -- move the money around, take the cap hits on Springs and Lloyd and still have money to add two or three significant players in free agency.

Snyder is always willing to go cash over cap like crazy, and when you make as much money off the team as he does than you damn well better do it. But, as I said in last week's chat, you guys tell me where this approach has gotten him and how it's advanced the franchise.


Tampa, Fla.: Hey Jason. I live in Tampa, but I was born and raised in D.C. area. Tomorrow's game should be interesting -- two pretty evenly matched teams. Garcia has looked really good. Fortunately, their lack of wide receivers matches our lack of secondary. I think this game will come down to who runs the ball better. Any predictions?

Jason La Canfora: Any predications? First I've got to change my flight and hotel and convince my wife that I have to miss Turkey Day to fly to Tampa.

Please tell me this game is still on Sunday and not tomorrow? Did I miss the memo?


Washington: J La, what happened to Vernon Fox? Why isn't he considered Sean Taylor's backup at free safety after what he did last year in spot duty? I would like to think he wouldn't have been caught out of position as badly as Doughty and Prioleau were in the past two games.

Jason La Canfora: They wanted more of a physical presence back there and someone who could intimidate a bit. That's not Vernon. Vernon would have trouble covering the kind of ground they are asking the free safety to cover this season as well.

Prioleau to me would be who I would turn to if they sit Doughty, but I credit them for giving the kid a shot and looking at some youth and I'd give him another chance. Playing two kids together is the real tricky part, but you know they're not sitting Landry.

Tough spot to be in, that's for sure.


Skins/Eagles Tiebreaker: Who has it? They tied overall in points, 45-45.

Jason La Canfora: Will come down to NFC record, and then maybe even their division record.

Skins are 3-4 right not and I believe the Eagles are 3-5.


Jason La Canfora: Hey guys, got to run. Open locker room will be starting shortly. Thanks for all of the great questions and please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

As always, you can check me out on the blog -- Redskins Insider -- or contact me via e-mail.



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