It has been written that youth will be served, but it's doubtful whether George Barrow, the man who penned those words, ever had to watch films of kickoffs being returned for 52 yards against his team.
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs has, and to his way of thinking, much of the drama in Sunday's 16-13 victory over the Houston Oilers could be directly attributed to the performance of his squad's special teams.
Houston averaged nearly 42 yards on three kickoff returns. In addition, Redskins punter Jeff Hayes averaged just 41 yards on his five kicks. The Oilers averaged 45 yards on their punts and allowed the Redskins only 24 yards per kickoff return.
The result, Gibbs said at Redskin Park, was a noticeable imbalance in field position.
"We let them start in really good shape because of our turnovers, their runbacks and our poor punts," he said. "Six of their drives started inside our 50, so what you had was our offense having to go a long way and them going a short way. We were lucky our defense was great and bailed us all out."
Houston got no points after a 52-yard runback by rookie Steve Tasker and a 44-yard field goal by Tony Zendejas after a 50-yard runback by Tasker. Despite this small production, the breakdown worried Gibbs.
"There are certain places that the players have to be," he said. "If you start on the left you have to finish on the left, and you don't cross the ball because if the return team shifts you won't be there to cover it."
The problems were not limited to the Houston game. In its two games this season, Washington has allowed 34.4 yards per kickoff return, uncharacteristic for a team that prides itself on its special teams.
And what is starting to concern Gibbs is the fact that many members of the kickoff team haven't been Redskins for very long, which might be a factor in the miscues.
"We put a special emphasis on our special teams this year," Gibbs said. "Some guys we kept, we kept for a particular reason. The Raphel Cherrys, the Barry Wiburns, the Dean Hamels -- we thought they would be great special team players.
"I don't know whether it's youth getting us in there, (if) several of those guys right now are making rookie mistakes or not -- we'll have to look at that."
Special teams coach Wayne Sevier said those three rookies in particular weren't the problem.
"All three improved this game," he said. "If you do your best physically and the other team does their best and you get whipped, that's one thing, but that wasn't the case here. We didn't get quality kicks and a couple of the other guys were fundamentally unsound. The same two guys made the same error."
Neither Sevier nor Gibbs named the guilty parties, saying the matter would be dealt with internally. "I wouldn't have to say another word," Sevier said. "There are five or six guys who make their living on special teams -- they'd make the point. I know they're not happy about it, not happy at all."
One of those, Otis Wonsley, isn't planning any action of his own, saying he'd rather "tell myself that I had to do the job. I'd take it upon myself to make the plays. That was something I had to do at one point last year."
The approach of linebacker and special teams regular Pete Cronan is slightly different. "Right now, making a big play isn't our main priority, making a play is," he said. "When we get enough of that, then things will start to click."
Cronan said he doubted that last Sunday's problems will extend to this week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It's already been taken care of," he said. "One of the great qualities we display here is being able to take responsiblity for things. Guys like Otis and myself, we're the subway coaching staff. We're expected to impart what Wayne tells us (to the others)."
Hamel, for one, doesn't want things to get that far. "Sevier gets his point across real quick -- he's not hesitant to yell at you in front of everyone," said the rookie from Tulsa. "But I'd rather hear it from him. I don't want to take the chance of getting it from the other guys on the team."
Running back George Rogers, admitted to Sibley Hospital Monday for treatment of a sprained lower back, was released from the facility yesterday afternoon.
According to trainer Bubba Tyer, Rogers was scheduled to report to the Redskins' practice this afternoon, but it wasn't certain whether he would participate in the session. Rogers said, "I feel okay. I'm going to show up tomorrow," but didn't say if he'd be working out.
NFL spokesman Jim Heffernan said the process of reviewing films from Sunday's Redskins-Oilers game would not be finished until Thursday. At that time, the league might have a comment on the controversial decision negating an apparent touchdown pass to Houston's Drew Hill.