Last week I called a meeting of all the sportswriters who cover the Redskins for The Post.
The meetings was for writers only--no editors.
We had a frank and open discussion of where we stood as a group with only a few weeks left in the year: We need to focus on achieving our goals as a team. We still have a chance to win the Pulitzer prize. It depends on how badly we want it. This is gut-check time. (But, please, don't use "gut-check" in the paper. Or "step up." Deliver me from "We need to step up.")
We talked about how we had a great start this year. We were first on Matt Turk's finger, and first on the cash lots being moved to USAir Arena. But now we need to finish strong. It's December, and the great newspapers excel in December.
When it was my turn to speak, I told my fellow scribes: "It's up to us now. Each one of us in this room. I'm not much on making speeches, but I say to you: Don't do it for the editors. Don't do it for the readers. Don't even do it for the Grahams. I've been in this game a long time, and I've never won a Pulitzer. Do it for me. Thank you. Thank you very much."
Well, you saw the paper on Sunday, didn't you?
I mean, we kicked butt!
Welcome to Meetingville. (Population: 45. Elevation: Still first place, NFC East.)
The Redskins had so many meetings last week they renamed their field yet again--it's FedEx Conference Center.
First, The Danny had meetings with some players and no coaches.
Then all the players had a meeting without the coaches.
Then the coaches had a meeting with their real estate agents--just kidding.
Then the players' wives had a meeting. Then the grounds crew had a meeting. Then the Fox 5 chopper team had a meeting. Tomorrow, Wilbon and I are having a meeting.
Norval, sweetheart, have your people call my people. Oh, Muffy, see where we can fit Norv in. I think I have a 3 o'clock open on Thursday.
Except it worked, didn't it?
The Danny played the hole card, and it worked fabulously.
The Redskins mashed Arizona. They turned Jake the Snake into Jake the Shake. They made three interceptions, got five sacks, recovered one fumble and handed the ball off to Stephen Davis 37 times. I'm no Tim Green, but I believe if you check the record book you'll find that when one back has 37 carries for 189 yards, his team usually wins--if only because the other team doesn't get on the field.
I assume the people who refilled the chips and dips in all the meetings got game balls.
"We had the meeting to find out where each guy's mind-set was," Rod Milstead said about the players-only meeting on Saturday. "We'd had four turnovers in Detroit, and inconsistent play. It was time for players to start checking players. Guys stood up and said, 'Hey, I'm calling on you to get my back.' We need to put everything else aside for 60 minutes and stay focused. If you're not willing to lay it all out on Sunday, stay on the locker room."
The Redskins have been a confounding team all year, hovering in first place despite rarely synchronizing offense and defense in the same game. Their loss last week in Detroit was especially discouraging because the Redskins fell apart in the second half. "You get too big for your britches," Tre Johnson said. "You get too happy over things you were doing. You win a game and you say, 'See, I knew we was bad.' Like it's automatically coming, like it's owed to us, like Santa Claus is going to bring it."
Obviously, now the Redskins know what to do: Hold a meeting and let a waiter bring it.
Norv's spin on the players-only meeting was: "It's a great sign." (He's no dope. They won, 28-3. This meeting thing went over so well, Norv's ready to fire the special teams coach and replace him with a concierge.) Norv's cheery outlook was: "As a coach you talk about urgency and commitment every week. The players are tired of hearing me say it. But now they're saying it to each other. Hearing it from the guy you line up next to makes it meaningful."
Who is this guy, Deepak Chopra?
Sunday was quite a good day for the Redskins. Not only did they win, but Minnesota and Green Bay--teams in the mix with the Redskins for a wild-card playoff spot--both lost. The Vikings and Packers are both 7-6. Since they play each other next Monday, one of them will be 7-7. That's good news for Washington. So is the fact that New Orleans lost again, dropping to 2-11. The Saints could get the No. 1 pick in the draft, and it belongs to the Redskins thanks to the Ricky Williams deal.
This was all good in The Danny's box. They were living la vida loca up there. I overheard the following actual conversation between two rich guys who will remain nameless in the hope that I can extort money from them:
"Can I borrow your helicopter to get my wife to the airport quickly?"
"It's right outside. If you need it, take it."
I swear that conversation took place. I was hoping the guy with the helicopter would have said to the borrower: "And this time fill it up, okay?"
The Redskins even got good news regarding their next opponent, the streaking Indianapolis Colts. (The streaking Indianapolis Colts! Somebody shoot me.) The Colts won, and their two nearest pursuers in the AFC East, Miami and Buffalo, lost. The Colts are three games ahead of both with three to play. Indianapolis will have next to nothing to play for on Sunday at home against the Redskins. If there is ever a game the Colts will take lightly, it's this one. I'd be an idiot to say the Redskins will win (okay, I set myself up for that)--but they will have more of an opportunity than the racing form might indicate.
The Redskins are past their crisis over getting Stephen Davis into the game plan. They are past Michael Westbrook's Zebragate. They're through with their NFC East games, where they won the last three in a row. And they are into December, their month of reckoning.
"All year long we've been getting by," Rod Milstead said. "You can't get by in December."
This was about 40 minutes after the Arizona game ended, and Milstead was standing by his locker getting dressed. He took a large ring out of a small pouch and put it on his finger.
"The teams that prosper in December," Milstead said, "get to wear one of these."
It was a 1994 Super Bowl ring from his time on the 49ers.
How many meetings you think they had?