The only thing the Washington Redskins have done this season, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, is beat the tomato cans, the cream puffs. Now, they can't even be counted on to do that. Sunday's loss confirmed what some of us were starting to suspect in recent weeks: These are pretty much the same old tired Redskins we've seen for the last six years. Oh sure, they score some points on offense, but the bottom line is the same as it's been: This team is nothing special.
When the offense is working, the defense isn't. The special teams unit is never working. And on the once-in-a-blue-moon occasion when the defense does work, the offense takes a nap. They're not inspired, they're not resourceful, they're not tough. It's just a team, ordinary and headed quickly toward underachieving.
Let's get something straight about the Philadelphia Eagles right off the bat: They stink. They've got nothing in the way of talent. They started a rookie quarterback Sunday who had never started a game in the NFL, and he completed barely one-third of his throws. The Eagles dropped passes, fumbled a punt, used their timeouts unwisely, committed dumb penalties, called inept plays. All they've got is a running back, special teams and guts. But that was enough to beat the Redskins here at The Vet. Obviously, it doesn't take much.
Can Dan Snyder fire an entire team? If I paid $800 million for this outfit, I'd fire somebody just to feel better, just to scare whoever's still around. Players, coaches, it doesn't matter. Is this about coaching? Absolutely and to a great degree. It's about the inability of Norv Turner and several of his assistants to get an entire team ready to play. They weren't ready three weeks ago in Dallas. They weren't ready to play at home last week against Buffalo. And they couldn't have been ready to play against the Eagles, given the number of lackadaisical turnovers and mindless penalties they committed Sunday.
Have you ever seen worse special teams? They can't cover onside kicks, they can't cover kick returns, they can't even figure out who to put in the game in an obvious two-point conversion situation. Or is that something else the defensive coaches can't figure out?
If the Eagles were the least bit competent on offense, they would have won by 20. I heard a half-dozen Redskins, including Turner, talk about how well the defense played Sunday; either the standard for defense is incredibly low or they didn't notice that Philly rushed for 198 yards, an average of 4.7 yards a carry. The last four rushes of Philly's game-winning touchdown drive went for 13, 12, 7 and 11 yards. Yeah, we know Duce Staley is a good back. But backup Eric Bieniemy also averaged 5.4 yards a carry. Worse yet, the Eagles ran wild with no threat of a passing game. Where I come from, that isn't great defense. Who's calling the shots on defense, the coordinator Mike Nolan or the consultant Bill Arnsparger? I guess bringing Arnsparger in isn't the answer, is it?
I'll grant you the defense was on the field a lot, and I'll grant you the defense played much better than it usually does. But we're still talking about some serious grading on the curve. It's just that this week, they weren't entirely to blame.
They were on the field so much because Brad Johnson was awful. It's not like Johnson isn't allowed to have a bad day; he carried the team to its 5-2 start by being almost letter-perfect. One bad game doesn't mean we should turn the heat up under Johnson. But here's where I find fault with him.
This team needs a leader, desperately. The quarterback is an obvious choice. It's in his job description. On a day when the quarterback throws three interceptions and fumbles twice, he ought to step to the microphone after the game and say, "Blame this one on me. I'm the one who put us in the hole. My bad." That's what the great leaders do. That's what John Elway and Phil Simms used to do. That's what Steve Young and Brett Favre have done for years after a day of playing less than their best. And their teammates always rallied around them.
Johnson was given every chance in his postgame session to take the heat off of a lot of people, teammates and coaches. Instead, he talked about "our turnovers," and "we put ourselves in a bind" and "we really hurt ourselves today."
What "we?" The Redskins coughed it up six times, Johnson was responsible for five. Let's not spread the blame; it's Johnson almost single-handedly who kept giving the ball to the Eagles. But that's what these Redskins do; they spin it, dish it off, state and then restate the obvious. Turner said, "We did some good things; it's just the turnovers."
It took the Redskins 92 seconds to grab the lead, but less time than that for Michael Westbrook, who had a fabulous game, to start pointing and posing. Stephen Davis danced in the end zone after 7-0; I guess the Redskins thought they had done something. But we've seen over and over and over again how fragile this team is. It's a great front-running team. If they get you down, they'll pose and ham it up like they did against the Bears a couple of weeks ago. But if you hang in there and make them fight, they'll fall apart.
Down 14-3, the Eagles needed something really out of the ordinary to stop Washington's momentum and help them gather themselves. Allen Rossum, the kick returner, gave it to them by taking a kick 89 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-10.
Philly is one of those cities where lots of former NFL players show up at the stadium on game days. Some are former all-pros; some are ex-journeymen. But they were unanimous in their praise of the Redskins' talent. The Redskins kept going back in front; the Eagles just hung in there and did what they could with what they have. That's become the book on the Redskins around the league: Hang close for a while, they'll find a way to lose, even with all that talent. The Eagles did that with a field goal here, a fumble recovery there. And the Redskins left with their third loss in four weeks, with Indianapolis and Detroit and the Dolphins left on the schedule.
Late in his postgame news conference, Turner said something that cuts to the heart of the matter. Asked about the division race and other teams in the division, Turner said, "The issue is us." Isn't that the truth?