Thursday, Dec. 18 at noon ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 18, 2008; 12:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Dec. 18 at noon ET to take your questions about the Redskins.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Well, got a feeling this will be lively as ever. Another big week at Redskins Park. Have at me.


West Falls Church, Va.: Since DeAngelo Hall is starting ahead of Smoot and Rogers, does that mean he's a lock to be resigned if he chooses to stay?

Jason La Canfora: Not a lock by any means and I imagine he may test the market regardless. But for sure they are taking a long look at him, and they love his ability to make plays on the ball. I expect they will throw some money at him after the season and we'll see if he waits it out to see what else is out there.

Playing press man with a single high safety and no pass rush isn't exactly a recipe for cornerback success or lots of INTS. I also wonder if Hall might fall into some old traps should he get another big payday. And the ramifications on Carlos Rogers would be significant (but Hall's superior ball skills make him very attractive, and I understand that preference).

It's going to be interesting, for sure.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Taste The Pain"


Northwest: Jason, after reading Sally Jenkins article it got me thinking more about Campbell. Do you have any stats on his attempts/completions in the different areas of the field? I feel like he may stack up poorly against other QBs in the league in passes that travel more than 15 yards from scrimmage. Also, is it just me or does he have no touch on the deeper throws. I think this is really preventing him from making those big plays down field. Thoughts? Campbell in Middle of It All (Post, Dec. 18)

Jason La Canfora: Sally is the best, eh? She's awesome.

As for JC, he's got a 110 QB rating on stuff over the middle and that remains his bread and butter (too bad they only have one legt underneath threat in Cooley, though they drafted two in April).

I think he throws a nice deep ball, they just have attempted fewer passes over 30 yards than most every team in the NFL, due in large part to personnel (only one guy can get free down there and he's generally doubled on obvious passing downs) and to the massive pass protection problems as well.


Philly Game: Predicition on the outcome? Although Philly appears to be on a surge, the Redskins are in a must prove situation and also a very distant math chance at making the playoffs (they wont but....), so with that, what are theri chances Sunday, given Philly is also in the distant math camp. BTW Eagles by 7

Jason La Canfora: I think the Eagles have to be the clear favotites, and with both of the Skins starting tackles out I fear for JC's health a bit against that Jim Johnson blitz scheme.

Johnson has watched what Dallas and New York and Baltimore have done to this QB, and I'm sure he's thinking he can gop one better.

On defense, the screen game has been giving them fits and nobody does it better than the Eageles. A healthy Brian Westbrook against these outside linebackers is not a favorable match-up for the Skins.

If they start slow it could be kinda ugly I think.

Nirvana - "Blew"


Jason Taylor: For the money he's making, Jason Taylor should have to dance on the sideline with the cheerleaders. With only 1.5 sacks, he certainly isn't earning his money on the field.

Giving up two draft picks -- including a 2nd rounder -- and $8.5 million for this guy tells you everything you need to know about the Skins front office. Bill Parcells must have laughed his ass off when he got off the phone with Vinny.

Jason La Canfora: No argument here.

If they bring him back at $8 million next season you guys should lead a fan revolt. At some point the rampant overspending on guys who are over the hill and wont be part of the future has to stop. No place like the present I figure.


DC: It's tough to argue with most of your assessments of the Redskins roster, but I think your contrarian streak got the best of you on a couple of points.

1) If Santana Moss is in the 15-20 range, then you cannot say he is not a #1 receiver. Sure he's not elite -- but in a 32-team league, if he is ranked between 15 and 20, then he is by definition a #1 receiver.

2) Portis is the only back in the NFC East to start every game this year. Only Brandon Jacobs has a better yards/rush average, and that is behind the best offensive line in the NFL. If the Skins line is as bad as you say (and it is), then I think you have to admit that Portis has been a very good back this year. You might argue that he is not worth the money he's getting -- frankly no RB is worth that much money -- but you can't honestly say he's the worst starting RB in the NFC East.

One last point -- you've talked about how the Skins need a real pass rushing DE. It wouldn't hurt, but I think the Skins real problem on the D-line is that they do not have a dominant DT to collapse the line of scrimmage and eat up blocks. I would much, much rather have an Albert Haynesworth than a Justin Tuck. But that's just me.

I'm sure you're getting all kinds of nastygrams today, and I'm not trying to pile on, because I agree with you for the most part. But I do think the Skins problems can all be traced to their lines -- if they could control the line of scrimmage, they would be a much better team. But I do think it's going too far to say that the Skins are the worst in the NFC East at every position.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks for the note.

On Moss, I said "at best" he's in that range. Some people I talk to put him in the 25-30 range. And not every starting WR in this league meets the criteria of what I would consider to be a true No. 1, a physical freak who creates for himself. To me there's about 10-15 of them in this league, which I was i say you cant even think about putting Santana in that category, and I say at best 15 ish.

I'm talking guys who blow up every week despite facing doubles and constant Cover-2. That's not Santana and that's not this offense.

2) All things being equal, I don't think it's hard to argue that Westbrook is the most complete back in the NFL and Jacobs is a monster who would be ideal for the way the Skins have to run the ball. I'd take him in a heartbeat, not even factoring in the money (which would make it a total nobrainer). Barber's dealing with this toe thing, but the way he is built he's no joke, either. Years of being misscast takes a toll and Portis has slowed bigtime in the second half. You can't argue it - no TDS, averaging 3.8 per carry the last six games.

Just my opinion. You can find RBs in the middle of the draft every year To continually pay Portis like he is the Tomlinson of 2005 is crazy to me.

I also didnt by any means say they are the worst at every position. I said the DBS and collection of backs/tight ends is very strong. The rest speaks for itself.

Radiohead - "Fitter Happies"


West Palm Beach, Fla.: Were you shocked that Fletcher did not make the Pro Bowl?

Jason La Canfora: I actually was not surprised at all. I didn't see it happening.


London Fletcher: "But because I'm not going out causing a lot of controversy, holding a private meeting with the coordinator saying this, this and this, causing a lot of strife on my team, I don't garner a lot of attention."

Was I calling out Clinton Portis?

Jason La Canfora: I think he was alluding maybe more to TO, but I can't speak for him. If the soundbite fits ...


Washington, DC: Will the Redskins be having any official or unofficial tributes for Sammy Baugh?

Jason La Canfora: They are working on it now, we are told, and will have some announcements later. I am sure they will do some things.

Business - "Outlaw"


The Need For Speed: In next year's draft, isn't this the one thing the Skins should be looking for, above all else?

A super-fast edge rushing DE. A lighting quick (even if undersized) OLB. Quicker O-Lineman who can get in space.

If there was one trait/skill/ability that you had to pick for the Skins' upcoming draft picks, what would it be?

And don't say "the ability to get on the field."

Jason La Canfora: I think that makes a lot of sense. With the quickness for sure.

Younger, faster better certainly applies. But that takes time and acumen and a plan.


Washington, DC: Will Campbell sign a contract extension this summer or do you think they will wait until next season to see if he really is the quarterback of the future?

Also, will the Redskins make a play with Haynesworth now being an unrestricted free agent?

Jason La Canfora: From what I am gathering they will likely let the Campbell thing play out next season. Maybe they throw one year on and do a little somethin something, but I doubt much beyond that. I don't see the longterm contract happening now given the way the second half has gone down.


Season tickets finally!: Hey -- while I'm reading this, I got a call from Larry Michaels offering me season tickets. I've been waiting for this call for 3 years!

Yeah, but I'm NOT going to pay good money to watch the Skins come completely off the rails surrounded by fans from opposing teams. And drinking $8 beers making Danny richer while he destroys the Skins.

You think I'm just typing it here? I'm telling them too!

Jason La Canfora:

To use one of my grandfather Rocco's favorite expressions - "Give 'em Hell."


Lorton, VA: Hey Jason, When Danny and Vinny got JZ as their coach, they KNEW what they were signing up for....a rookie coach implementing a new system with personnel (players AND coaches) suited for a power running game. It should come as no surprise that this team has hit a wall in every aspect. 1. no sacks? BAD D-LINE 2. lots of sacks allowed? NO O-LINE DEPTH. i'm not gonna say it's a bad o-line, but almost every team in the NFL goes at least 7-8 starter-quality players deep except for us 3. no passing threats? Moss is the only good receiver, and even he has slipped a step (dropped balls, separation not as good)

I'm actually impressed that Zorn has adjusted to this team's strengths. Campbell has the least INTs in the NFL so far, Cooley has a lotta catches. Portis having a good year yardage-wise. You cant tell me that our offense wouldnt be more dynamic if Campbell had more time to throw. I just hope Snyder and Cerrato see this and improve the two lines, instead of firing Zorn. A lotta people have been speculating that JZ is gone after this year, especially knowing that Portis gets more love from Snyder than JZ does.

Jason La Canfora: I see it much as you do my friend. They are getting exactly the scenario they put into place. It was alwasy gonna take a little while.

I can never vouch for what they do, however, and we've seen plenty of irrational decisions made over the years. Anything is possible in this building brother, and all the coaches and players know it.

Rage Against The Machine - "Wake Up"

(Swear to the higher power of your choice that the Ipod is merely on shuffle. I have not programmed the titles and I'm playing a setlist. Sometimes the synergy is scary).


Washington, DC: Is Vinny Cerratto's "we dont draft for need" comment the single most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? At this rate we'll end up with a roster of 52 terrible WRs.

Jason La Canfora: Pretty funny, eh?

Let's see, you and the owner chase around Chad Johnson for months and then Boldin and spend weeks before the draft focused on personnel and flying to Oklahoma time after time despite the medical team telling you Kelly's knees are a massive concern.

WRs are devalued in the draft with every scout and GM saying how few sure things they are, how there are guys in the 3-4 round possibly as good as anyone who might be taken in the 1st.

So it's a falling position, one where naturally a ton fo players will still be there, especially as you draft down.

Kelly has medical issues; attitude and maturity issues are major red flags with Thomas and Davis. No secret there.

You have set up wide receiver as your intenral biggest need - targetting Chad back in January, even before you have a coach and staff put in place.

And, then, wow, what a shocker, you load up at a position in the second round on players who are sliding down draft boards, you end up with a Rosenhaus client with your first pick, and, shocker, two more pass catchers too, while once again ignoring pressing needs outside of this dependent position, and a position in which you continually seek draft picks and big contracts (the owner has a thing for WRs, no doubt).

And, wow, what do you know, all three go through an entire season and prove to be exactly what everyone else in the league thought they would be (at least for this season). Davis misses a mini camp practice and never gets on the field or learns the offense. Kelly's knees are an immediate and constant problem. Teammates beleive Thomas's work ethic, attitutude and preparation are all questionable.

Well, what a shocker. Who thunk it.

Ipod skipped to Depeche Mode, but I'm gonna go back one song and replay the Rage tune. It's just too perfect. Last lyric of the ditty is, I beleive "What you reap is what you sow."


Cleveland Park: Here's what I don't understand about your recent crusade against Portis... he's playing behind the same terrible O line as Jason Campbell. He's playing with yet another new coach as well. He's playing on a team with virtually no passing attack to spread the field. These reasons justify your defense of Jason Campbell's poor play, and yet, Portis gets demolished by you in spite of the fact that he has remained the Skins best player through all of this. What gives?

Jason La Canfora: When has Jason been paid among the highest in his game at his position?

When has he put himself before his teammates?

When has someone else come in and played his position for HALF a season (not four games) and outperformed him?

When has he had to be paid just to show up in offseason meetings?

When does he decide to pull himself out of games whenever he likes?

Does he have an open door to complain to the owner whenever he wants (and if he did he wouldn't use it)?

He has a paid gig on 980 like Portis - when has he used it to throw people under the bus?

Does he get special treatment because he hangs with the owner in Vegas?

And it's nothing to do with being demolished. You come out and say you make no mistakes and you complain about the coach and the line ... and then you get fed the ball 25 times against the second worst defense in the NFL with the entire season on the line 4 days after starting a self-aggrandizing controvery, and you pick up 77 yards and have now gone 6 games without a TD.

Just calling it like I see it.


Boston: Are we going to see this same WR core next season or will there be any changes?

Jason La Canfora: A lot of the coaches here feel like that ship has sailed. They made the moves, got to at least see if they can salvage something from the kids next season, or give them the chance to fail on a deeper level.

You can't keep spending on positions that are so relient on others doing their job. get the lines right and you don't need 3 WRS making $10 million.

They've got to address other areas, and there are too many others to start focusing on.


Sterling, Va.: Do all of us who criticized Gibbs the coach owe him an apology? It seems that he was not the problem with the offense.

Jason La Canfora: Gibbs the team president is responsible for what 80 percent of this talent at least. And there's certainly problems there.

Gibbs had four years on the job and never made any sustained progess. I can't laud that.

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Sandpaper Blues"


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think Coach Zorn has too many jobs -- head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach?

Jason La Canfora: It was certainly an immediate concern we raised and I think that the lack of a more experienced passing game mind in the mix to help him is a flaw.

What they originally hired him to do made more sense, but like they said at the press conference,they just just kept coming back to the siren call of "Zorn" and how he was the perfect fit.

In which case, you have to be willing to give the guy a few years or your just wasting everyone's time.


Boston: With Rocky's knee problems and the age of the London and Marcus, how high do you rank linebacker as a need this offseason?

Jason La Canfora: It's gotta be right there with interior O Linemen, DT and DE.



Just sayin'

Jason La Canfora: Is that a legit site?

I remember seeing those "I'm Horny For Zorny" t-shirts on Steinberg's blog a few months ago and thinking when are the "I'm Blotto For Cerrato" t-shirts gonna hit the offical Washington Redskins team stores?


Ashburn, Va. (no really!): Jason,

Thanks for your work and for taking time to chat with us.

I agree almost entirely with what you have been writing about the front office, but in the interest of being fair I wanted to point out one thing that I think Vinny and the boys have done which is actually kind of responsible, if not downright smart --

The Skins were very reserved last year on the free agent market (as they were prior to the 2007 season) and, coupled with the trade back from the draft's first round in 2008 to multiple second-round picks, they have finally given themselves some flexibility under the salary cap. Those three second-round picks come a lot cheaper than one first-round pick in terms of guaranteed money. It seems like for the first time in three offseasons they will have some room to make (hopefully) one or two careful free agent acquisitions.

What do you think?

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you in terms of that, except that they doled out $30 million plus on exiting players with new bonuses, including several to older guys, and they also dealt away 3 more picks for old/hurt guys (Taylor/James) at a time when everyone else could see they still needed major rebuilding in the trenches, and at a time in which they had already traded their 2009 4th round pick for Kendall a year earlier.

That doesn't strike me as building through the draft - what Vinny was selling all summer long - or as being particularly shrewd or giving the impression there really is a plan there. Or at least one they could articulate (that is if they actually explained decisions and interacted with the fans or media).

Pixies - "River Euphrates"


Draft: Where do the Skins draft if they finish 7-9? 13? That's pretty good. Too bad they traded away all those picks -- could have done some restocking this year.

Jason La Canfora: Middle of the pack I presume at this point.

Bee Gees - "You Should Be Dancing"


Christmas Miracle???: Is Dan Snyder still a billionaire? He's lost a fortune on Six Flags -- that stock is trading at 30 cents a share and is in danger of being delisted. He bought it at $12 a share! He's lost hundreds of millions.

Does this mean -- does it even hint -- that he might have to sell the Skins? (It would be a Christmas miracle!!!)

Jason La Canfora: Hard for me to fathom he's a liquid as he was a few years ago. The stock of his partner, Scharr, has plummeted as well. The radio station is laying people off (even those making a modest hourly wage) and that's been a disaster, overpaying for the poor signals and all. And I'm gonna go out on a limb and say maybe Johnny Rockets isn't killing it either.

The Tom Cruise movie he bankrolled is finally coming out, and the early reviews and buzz I've seen hasn't been great. That'll be the next thing to watch. Maybe Larry Michael will come out on TV and tell you guys how every real Redskin fan will go out and subsidize more Hollywood tripe.


Reston, Va.: You're Redskins GM for a week and have full reign over personnel decisions. Name seven SPECIFIC moves you make to improve the Redskins.

Jason La Canfora: It can't be done in a week, bro. Not even close. That's the whole point.

It's a 2-3 year project at this point. That's where it stands.


Rockville, Md.: don't get me wrong, I love Cooley, but to get something, you have to give up something. If we're looking to the future for this team, what about trading Cooley (who just made the Pro Bowl again) for two draft picks which we can spend on OL or DL personnel. Chris Samuels just made the Pro Bowl. Can we get a second-rounder for him? Again, with the idea of using it on an OL or DL, regardless of Vinny's notion of not drafting for need.

Jason La Canfora: A) The owner loves him and he's not going anywhere.

B) He's one of the few young playmakers they have. He's not the problem. I wouldnt trade him.

c) After just getting a massive bonus, he's virtually uintradeable. You're talking like a $10-plus million cap hit; and no team is going to be dying to take on that salary right now, either. Same ol same ol with the Skins contracts.

Pixies - "The Happening"


Los Angeles: Isn't it ironic that all of the Pro Bowl selections are on offense? I don't get it.

Jason La Canfora: The world is ripe with irony, eh?

The Pro Bowl is a joke. The voting is flawed and it's a popularity contest. I wouldn't sweat it either way.

All Pro is the highest honor.


Woodbridge, VA: How long until the Cower rumors start? And any chance Vinny would take a Exec VP role to let a GM come in and shop for the groceries?

Jason La Canfora: Haven't they already started?


Aukland, Australia: Do you see Dan Synder going after free agency this year like he did when he first bought the team -- gassing up Redskin 1 -- or do you see them building through the draft?

Jason La Canfora: Well, he only has 4 picks this year so it's going to be a combination. But if he's going around to 28-34 year olds with cash falling all out of his pockets again, it's not going to work. It hasn't to this point and it won't.

If he looks at it as another one-year quick fix (just load up the limos to Mortons and Verizon Center like in 2006) without someone other than the current front office picking players then I'd brace for more of what you have already lived through the past 9 years.


Coral Springs, Fla.: I have been dissapointed with Zorn as a play caller. Yes, I knew it would take time to master a new offense but for a guy who was billed as a zany/innovator, his offense looks to me unimaginative with few trick plays or element of surprise. Do you agree? Also any chance you think Liverpool holds off Chelsea and wins the premier league?

Jason La Canfora: He certainly needs to improve. No doubt. I've been banging that drum for a while now.

But they are trying to put in a West Coast offense - something predicated on a diversity of options and at least 5-6 guys who physically fit the mold and actually know where to go and when to go there. He's got about half that.

Metallica - "Disposable Heroes"

(damn, the Ipod is enfuego today)


San Francisco: Hey, I too got the season ticket call this year. I actually signed up - have family in the area, and come to DC a lot, and I grew up going to RFK, so I'm willing to give it a shot. Said no thanks to the "premium seats" though.

But if he fires Zorn and/or cuts Campbell, I'm not so sure. I am with you 1000% - it's the O-Line and D-Line, Sellers and others fumbling, and too much yapping by certain individuals that are holding this team back. (Also a rookie mistake by Zorn to burn out CP before the end of the season, but he won't do that again.)

Jason La Canfora: Good points for sure.

Will you be at the San Fran game?


Reston, Va.: Has Ceratto made ANY moves that you support or are you blindly against anything he does on principle?

Jason La Canfora: Of course not. They don't everything wrong, but far too many moves that cost high draft picks and oodles of cap space blow up in their face, and the refusal to go with a longterm rebuild haunts them (I don't put that on Vinny, though. That's ownership to me).

As fror specifics -

The Moss trade worked out pretty evenly for both teams. Adding Fabini and Wade to give them a little depth on the line a few years was smart. Golston, Monty, Horton are very good picks. They've hit on first rounders. London Fletcher was a very sound signing (Gregg Williams was the point man there, though, without debate).

But far too much has gone awry in drafting and personnel in his 8 years here. Far too much.


First round pick for Campbell?: Campbell hasn't earned a long-term deal. Look at it this way -- would any other team trade a first round pick for him? If the answer is no, then you've got his value nailed. He's average. He's not worth a big-money long-term contract.

Jason La Canfora: I agree. At the midpoint of the season Campbell was on the kind of pace that would have had the Skins having to shell out big numbers. But with the offense falling apart and Jason stagnating, you have to play it out.


Washington, DC: So how much will we give Haynsworth this offseason?

Jason La Canfora: I wonder if the Titans find a way to keep him off the market?

Suggs, if he's out there, will be another guy who would fit the MO, and he's certainly young. But unless you are going to run the kind of defense that let's a guy like that flourish - freelance on gaps, pursue QB inside if you want, flop sides, search for matchups, gamble a fair amount - then it doesn't make sense.

We've seen that movie (LaVar, Jason Taylor to some degree). it's not a fit with how Blache uses the defensive line and calls games at this point. Symmetry between personnel and scheme is imperative and the Taylor move is another screaming example of how that's often not the case around here.

_______________________ Remembering Sammy Baugh chat, coming up at 1.

Jason La Canfora: Hey guys, just wanted to get this link out there for the Sammy Baugh chat. What an amazing career he put up, and, from the sound of it, what a full life he led.


U2 in '09: How did Big Mike handle his Big Fumble this week? I know he is always a good quote

Jason La Canfora: He takes losing as hard as anyone on the team and he was certainly down for sure.

BDP - "My Philosophy"


Jason La Canfora: Alright guys, my time is up here and the Skins will coming off the practice field soon (they switched up the practice schedule today).

Hope you guys enjoy the game and make the best of these last two weeks.



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