What is the matter with the Washington Redskins?

It's just past the halfway point of the National Football League season and everything is falling apart for the Skins. They are 3-6, that's three wins and six losses. All of the preseason excitement about the return of Super Bowl coach Joe Gibbs is gone. And any thought of making the NFL playoffs is a faraway dream.

So what happened?

Well, for one thing, the Redskins offense can't score. Washington has scored 125 points through nine games. Only Miami, maybe the worst team in the NFL, has scored fewer points. And some of the Skins' points were created by the defense or special teams. The big problem is that the Skins don't have a decent quarterback. Before the season, Washington paid big bucks to get quarterback Mark Brunell. But all that money did not make Brunell a better player, only richer. He is still an aging quarterback with a weak arm.

Paying big money to a mediocre player is like paying $5 for a Hershey bar: Just because you paid more doesn't make the candy taste better. Whether you paid $5 or 50 cents, it's still a Hershey bar.

Will playing Patrick Ramsey at quarterback make the offense better? I'm not sure. Ramsey throws better passes than Brunell does. The problem is that too many of those passes go to the other team.

Ramsey won't make a difference if the Redskins keep making dumb mistakes. In last Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a Skins lineman messed up a big pass play to Clinton Portis because he was caught holding a defender 20 yards away from the play. When the Skins were way behind late in the game, Redskins receivers wasted precious time celebrating catches instead of getting back into formation.

So the Skins sure aren't playing like champions. And with tough games against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1), Pittsburgh Steelers (8-1) and New York Giants (5-4) ahead, I'm afraid that things will get a lot worse before they get better.

One good thing that may come of this bad season is that the Redskins will finally stop making excuses. It seemed that last year the Skins were eager to say that coach Steve Spurrier and his goofy "Fun and Gun" offense were why the team wasn't winning. Well, now the Redskins have a Hall of Fame coach. It's hard to say that Gibbs, a guy who won three Super Bowls, is the problem.

Making excuses and blaming someone else is easy. Too many people do it, from kids to the pros. Making excuses doesn't make a team better. If the Skins want to get better, they should start working harder, playing smarter and making some plays on offense.

No excuses.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Redskins hope Patrick Ramsey, left, will be an improvement over Mark Brunell, above.