You pray for a great nickname in sports because it can make the difference between a good team and a legendary one. Teams coalesce around image. Consider the powerful, indelible images certain nicknames conjure: the Big Red Machine; the Monsters Of The Midway; the Steel Curtain. Bigger than life, giants on the earth.

Through the years, various Redskins units have had intriguing nicknames: the Hogs, the Fun Bunch, the Posse. But these have been specific, compartmentalized nicknames referring to parts of the whole -- not the Big Kahuna nickname to put up in lights.

Now, in his search for clues into his team's frustrating inconsistency over the past three seasons, Coach "Joe" Gibbs may have inadvertently come up with a slogan the Redskins can rally 'round:

No More Elmers!

(Or, in French, Pas d' Elmer!)

Let me explain. After Sunday's grilling of Mahi-Miami, Gibbs was ruminating on what he might expect from his boys this coming Sunday versus the Bears -- a top effort or a mediocre one -- and confessed he didn't know. "Will we be a good football team," he mused, "or Elmer and the Boys?"

Elmer and the Boys.

Perish the thought. Is this what we've come to just three seasons after the Super Bowl -- Elmer and the Boys?

Meaning no disrespect to all you Elmers out there, but when the rest of us think Elmer, we think two things: glue and Fudd.

Consider what Elmer and the Boys might look like: I'm thinking "Deliverance." I'm thinking you don't want to be caught on a boating trip with these guys. I'm thinking the moment you hear banjo music, you ought to be running to daylight. I'm thinking drunk, dumb, clumsy, and perpetually scratching their privates. I'm thinking Elmer and the Boys hold their reunions at Snuffy Smith's house.

Is this what we want in a football team?

I certainly hope not.

When the Bears come into RFK on Sunday, loyal, true fans should be carrying signs and banners, huge bedsheets to drape over the railings, emblazoned with a picture of an Elmer -- you all know what an Elmer looks like, sort of like "Hey, Vern" with green teeth -- inside a circle, with a diagonal line through his face.

Let it go forth like a primal scream.

No More Elmers!

We want to see Redskins football out there, not Elmer's football. (Though a little bit of Elmer's Glue-All for the receivers wouldn't hurt.) We want to see fire and brimstone. We want to see what Mark Rypien saw just before the game on Sunday, something that convinced him the Redskins were going to kabob the Fish. Rypien observed -- and I swear to you I'm not making this up -- "I knew the guys were fired up for the game. I could see {a generic biological term} coming out of their noses. That's good to see." Thanks for sharing that with us, Mark, and do you mind if I cancel our lunch date?

Here's an example of the subtle distinctions between Redskin football and Elmer football. Against Miami (the top-rated defense, yeah, sure, who was doing the rating, Iben Browning?), when Gibbs needed a play sent down, he might have had this conversation with his assistants in the booth:

Gibbs: "Whaddya got?"

Upstairs: "Miami floods the weak side, and overcommits to rotation on a post route."

Gibbs: "Check."

Upstairs: "We can exploit our strength by decoying with trips. Then they're vulnerable to the counter-jumbo package."

Gibbs: "Check."

Upstairs: "Let's go with 'Red Right, 40 slide, Wanda gap.' "

And Earnest Byner would gain 13 yards off tackle.

On the other hand, with Elmer football -- the kind the Redskins played against Dallas -- the exchange would go like this:

Gibbs: "Third and eight, gentlemen."

Upstairs: "You do five-day weather forecasts too, or just down and distance?"

Gibbs: "Do you read me?"

Upstairs: "Yeah, yeah, give us a minute. . . . Is Ed going? You sure? Tell him to get me the three-piece dinner, extra crispy. . . . What's it this time, Joe?"

Gibbs: "Third and eight; game clock's running down."

Upstairs: "On the radio Sonny said we should pass. Oh, and tell Monk to pull his socks up. . . . Joe, look, as long as we've got you on the line, can you settle an argument for us? Were Junior Samples and Minnie Pearl on 'Hee-Haw' from the start?"

Gibbs: "A play please!"

Upstairs: "Uh, for this down? This one now?. . . . Guys, Joe needs a play. . . . Geez, you wanna go deep? We have those three fast guys, what do they call themselves, the Deputies?"

So there'd be a delay of game, and on the next play an interception.

Thanks, Elmer.

The Redskins have four games left: Chicago and Buffalo at RFK, Indianapolis and New England on the road. Elmer is good enough to beat the piti-Pats, but he won't feed the monkey against the others. As strong as the Redskins have played at home this season -- losing only to, sigh, Simms -- the roughest game may be at Indy. Buffalo is beatable; everyone in the AFC Least is beatable. (In general, the AFC ought to be fed from a dish on the floor. Those of you who worried about the Broncos blowing another Super Bowl can relax; there's a bowl they belong in, it's a common household item. And can you believe the Browns? They lose every single game, and every single game you see Art Modell leaving his box in that gorgeous camel's hair coat looking like he's going to the proctologist. You're never happy these days, Artie. Boy, if I owned a sweet coat like that, I'd be happy.) The Bears lost here last year, 38-14. That's right, 38-14. They're better, but are they 25 points better? Some early fainters in the NFC, like the Vikings and Rams, are hard-charging now, but the Redskins would seem neatly tucked for a wild card, provided Elmer and the Boys do their Christmas shopping elsewhere.