Not that this is a Bandwagon column, mind you, because it most emphatically is not. Not after the Redskins lost to the geriatric Cowboys early Tuesday morning, at an hour when Vinny Testaverde and Eddie George, having long finished their applesauce and Lorna Doones, are usually fast asleep. I mean, really. One week the Redskins make Kurt Warner, who can't even hold onto the football, look like a Pro Bowler. The next week they make the 90-year-old Testaverde, who was diagnosed with rust spots, look like a Pro Bowler. Who are they gonna pretty up next, Sid Luckman?
How are you going to write a Bandwagon column when the Redskins are 0-2 in the division, and they haven't played the really good NFC East team yet? No, you can't even mention The Bandwagon. At this rate, by the seventh week of the season, The Bandwagon will be replaced by one of those hybrid cars that runs on electricity and has about the same horsepower as a leaf blower -- by the ninth week, a Vespa.
So this definitely isn't a Bandwagon column. But if it was, I'd start with Bill Parcells, who must look to Joe Gibbs like the eighth inning against the Yankees looks to Pedro Martinez. It's 12 out of 18 now that Parcells has beaten Gibbs. Why not just have Gibbs tip his hat to The Big Fat Tuna and call him Daddy?
The three greatest NFL coaches of the last 25 years are Parcells, Gibbs and Bill Walsh. And to me they are rock, paper and scissors in the sense that you can make a case that any one of them can win out over the other two. In Walsh's case there is his artistry and his offensive innovations, and the thorough dominance his 49ers held over the rest of the NFL. In Parcells's case there is his taking two different franchises to the Super Bowl (so far) and his ability to walk into a losing situation and turn it into a winner overnight. In Gibbs's case there is this jawdropping achievement: winning three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks -- none of whom is going to the Hall of Fame. But Gibbs's Achilles' heel is his 6-12 record against Parcells, including losing the last seven in a row. What's going to happen first, Gibbs beating Parcells, or Conan O'Brien taking over "The Tonight Show"?
How ironic was it that the Cowboys would win the game with a trick play, a gadget play -- a play that Parcells had so notoriously referred to last year with an ethnic and racial slur? And how disheartening to see the Redskins unable to respond to the halfback option pass? Parcells, who is beginning to look like Gary Busey, has been using that for so long even Gibbs should have recognized it. Nearly 20 years ago Parcells used it with Joe Morris and Dave Meggett against Gibbs, for heaven's sake.
Among all the nostalgia of the Gibbs-Parcells reunion, I wonder how many people felt as I did, that there was something disconcerting about Parcells wearing blue and silver instead of blue and red. I had no problem with Parcells moving to the Patriots, and then to the Jets, and now to the Cowboys, where he subscribes to the credo, "If I have only one life, let me live it as a blonde." But if he's going to coach against Joe Gibbs, if those echoes are to be awakened, then Parcells should be coaching the Giants, right? Parcells may be with the Cowboys, but he isn't of the Cowboys. He's of the Giants. Wisely, nobody tried to make this game about the Cowboys and Redskins; it was about Parcells and Gibbs. And in a strange way it felt less like losing to the Cowboys and more like losing to Phil Simms and L.T.
It seems too late to carp on that terrible pass interference call that enabled Dallas to go ahead, 7-0. (If it was any farther than one yard out, Eddie George could not possibly have scored; by the end of the season he'll make Jerome Bettis look like a scatback.) But it doesn't seem too late to address this guy the Redskins have hired to help them determine which plays to challenge with instant replay. What game was this guy watching? More to the point, what game was his dog watching? Why would you drop a timeout down the toilet challenging the touchdown catch by Terry Glenn? Glenn's feet were inbounds from every angle known to mankind. This morning in Bhutan people are asking why you would challenge that call, and leave yourself unable to call a timeout to set up a game-tying field goal attempt after Rod Gardner couldn't get out of bounds with six seconds left. Well, it turns out we can't blame the guy in the booth. Gibbs says he dropped the red flag on his own! So I ask you: What game is Gibbs's dog watching?
And speaking of second-guesses, how many more game opportunities will Mark Brunell have to get hot in the fourth quarter? At what point does he begin to watch the fourth quarter from the bench because of what he didn't do in the first, second and third quarters?
So the question does not become where is The Bandwagon, but is the season over already? Are the Redskins now Kansas City East? It's foolish to write off a Joe Gibbs team at 1-2. His first Washington team started 0-5, and the next year won the Super Bowl. But it might not be a stretch to use the word "critical" in connection with Sunday's game at Cleveland. Cleveland stinks. If you think the Redskins don't score much, take a whiff of the Browns. They managed 22 points in consecutive losses to Dallas and the Giants. (Sound familiar?) At least the Redskins got 32.
Cleveland may well be in the proverbial ship-be-sinking situation. Top draft pick Kellen Winslow Jr. is out. Many of their better defensive players are hurt. Fans would happily toss Butch Davis off the top of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland seems like a soft place for the Redskins to land. But Houston looked like a soft place for the Chiefs to land last Sunday, and the next thing you know Dick Vermeil is going through a case of Kleenex.
My position is it's too early to know anything definitive. A lot of teams around here going back to Richie Petitbon have won their first game of the season, and then disappeared into the ether. That's why I'm not writing Bandwagon columns. And that's why I'm offering this deal: If you won't mention The Bandwagon, I won't mention Steve Spurrier.