Sunday, September 27, 2009

Initial reactions to a very tough loss

A very,very tough day. I honestly can’t remember a game that was quite as much of an emotional rollercoaster as this one. There were times in the 3rd quarter where I really thought the Redskins were going to pull it out. Obviously I haven’t had time to go through the game yet, but here’s some quick thoughts, in no particular order, now that I’ve had a few hours to process things (and calm down a little). All of these are subject to revision once I go through play by play, but I’m just showing you where my head's at tonight.

- The defensive line has a lot of explaining to do. I am at a loss as to how the Lions were able to run up the middle on us so effectively.

- Jason Campbell was extremely unimpressive. Outside of the first drive he was just extremely erratic. The passing game was clicking so well on that first drive, and then everything just went to pieces.

- Much of the heat Zorn is taking today is due to the decision to go for it on 4th down, but he made the right call. It was reasonable of him to expect that a defense that is supposed to be very good would not allow the Lions a 99 yard touchdown drive. I am just baffled by what happened to the defense today…

- I don’t care what Michael Strahan thinks. The execution was terrible today, but I saw no evidence that the Redskins quit. In fact, they fought their butts off throughout the game. They did so ineffectively, but that’s an entirely different matter than calling them quitters.

- So it turns out getting Santana into the game isn’t the only key to the offense.

- To all those who said Albert Haynesworth would give no effort once he got paid, I hope they saw him limp back out on the field to try to play through a painful hip injury in a game that was critical for his team.

- There’s no way to claim that this isn’t a terribly disappointing loss, but all along the odds were we would lose at least one of these allegedly easy games in this part of the schedule, because that’s the nature of the NFL. But this happened to come at the worst possible time, and to an opponent who, by virtue of coming off the first winless season since the late 70s, manages to make this into a national news story. There are some dark days ahead.

- All that said, there are 13 games left. The season is going poorly, but is far from over.

- If things don’t improve dramatically through the course of the season, Zorn and Campbell are both certainly gone - and probably should be. But there is absolutely nothing to be gained by firing Zorn midseason. What would really change – Stump Mitchell would call plays? There are relatively few individual play calls that I can find objectionable. If the problem is the offensive system itself, that can’t change midseason because one of his subordinates, probably Stump Mitchell, would take over. And we have to get much deeper into the season before we talk about benching Campbell. Obviously Todd Collins isn’t the future… So again – what do we gain by not allowing this pair a full season to show they can produce?


  1. I agree with your comments. During the 6-2 start last season, the running game was very much intact. I can see the improvement of the passing game, but I see a huge drop off in the running game. That doesn't make sense to me. Against weaker teams (Lions, Rams, etc.) running should not be a problem.

  2. Understand that the rest of this comment comes from someone who's not convinced Zorn should be fired...

    That having been said, I firmly reject the argument that you shouldn't fire Zorn mid-season because he's too integral to calling plays, etc. It would be much worse to leave him in as an obvious lame duck. Undermining to fan loyalty (ie: $$$), player morale, and you lose a lot of potential work-in time for the replacement HC.

    Instead, if (and let me stress IF) you're Dan Snyder and you make the decision that Zorn isn't going to be your 2010/11 HC, you make a move as soon as you have a credible mid-year replacement, either an interim solution or preferably a permanent hire who will use the rest of the season to start the learning and re-do process.

    In the end, I think Cerrato has to take much more of the blame than Zorn. I'm not convinced yet that Zorn is ready to be a head coach in the NFL, but it's not like he's totally incompetent. He's made a few bonehead moves, but the real problem is that the Redskins don't have a good O-line. O-line dictates how good your running game is going to be, and how much time your QB has to execute. A good o-line makes really bad coaches look lucky. A bad o-line makes mediocre coaches look stupid. So no surprise right now Zorn is looking pretty dumb. But what's really dumb is that we've known for the past few years that o-line was a real weakness on this team, yet we drafted 3 receivers last year. Ridiculous. Cerrato's been terrible for a while now, and one hopes that if a new high-profile head coach is brought in, they'll demand general manager rights as well, just so Cerrato is finally forced out.

    The one thing that makes me think about replacing Zorn mid-stream is how much great coaching talent is out of work right now. A few great coaches available who are proven winners and could immediately inject some credibility back into this team. And if (as they should) they were to solicit from Snyder a multi-year commitment, might as well get that process going early on. Someone can be found to call plays. Someone can be found to coach Campbell. Those aren't reasons to have a lame duck in place, if Snyder's made such a decision.

    Maybe if we bring in Holmgren, Zorn would be okay stepping back down to offensive coordinator?? Heh.

    Great work on this site!

  3. I had really looked forward to this weekend. Not only were all three of my favorite teams playing, but they were all favorites. Then Penn State was upset, the Redskins were upset, and the Super Bowl Champion Steelers were upset; like the Redskins, the Steelers are now 1-2. So I guess Paterno, Zorn and Tomlin are on the way out; we should ignore last year: how Zorn started last year when he was being touted for Coach of the Year, and Campbell's name was being mentioned as a potential NFL MVP.

    As you can see, I'm depressed at how so many fans, bloggers and commentators react. The fan reaction is more depressing to me than the team's loss. Is it possible that the fan negativity had something to do with the loss? Certainly I can't imagine doing my own job in such an atmosphere. Consider: a victory produces a firestorm of media criticism, followed by one of the worst performances I've seen from the Redskins, especially by the defense. In one video clip, I heard an O-lineman comment that 'it's as though the fans want us to lose.'

    Your blog is a ray of light for me: reasoned and close to the facts. Keep it up. I like the comments I've seen written here thus far, too: thoughtful!

  4. Colorado - that's confused me as well. The first half last year the line wasn't just holding up, it was absolutely physically dominating people. It's decline coincided with the loss of Chris Samuels, but maybe there were other factors at work as well.

    Mass - Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think an NFL head coach has ever been fired midseason and replaced by someone outside the organization. Remember, they've been working since May in the same system, terminology, etc. The only realistic option for an in-season change would probably be to make Blache the interim head coach (which I'm not sure he would accept) and make Stump offensive coordinator not only in name but also in practice. And that's exactly why an in-season change would be pointless.

    Steve - I totally agree. I am generally hesitant to play psychologist to men I've never even met (which is why I get incensed when people say they weren't trying - not trying and failing are two different things), but it sure seems like they started playing tight as soon as they failed on the goal line 4th down play and then gave up the long drive. It's like they could hear the manic radio callers and see the newspaper headlines already. I know elite athletes by nature do well under pressure, and it's part of their job to block those things out, but this was at a new level. I've dealt with cynical fans in a long time, but I have in all honesty never experienced anything like what has happened among the media and fanbase over the last week or so. It would get to anyone. And that O-lineman was right - I've hear alot of people who call themselves Redskins fans expressing joy at this situation, because it supposedly makes Snyder look bad or something.

  5. "Skins fan in Mass.", I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of bringing in Holmgren. The way I see it, the problem with the offense is not the system but the playcalling and-to a lesser degree-the execution.
    Holmgren is a proven offensive GENIUS, who's worked with Zorn before, and bringing him in would solve the palycalling issues as well as keep us from waititng another two ro three years to stockpile players for a new system.
    If, and I say IF, Zorn isn't HC in '10-'11, I hope he's still around as OC.