Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Bottom Line

Week 13

Skins vs Ravens
As our season rapidly draws to a close most fans are either hoping for another miracle, ala 2007, or mailing in their cheers from empty hearts.
It's been said that the higher you climb the further you fall. And fall is what we've done.
A lot of people blame Jason Campbell and his inability to throw with any accuracy, the deep ball.
Some people blame the once anointed Jim Zorn for being less than creative with play calling.
Some people blame the injuries that have accumulated as the season has progressed.
Some people blame management, front office personnel and the team owner for our less than stellar performances of late.
I say it's a combo of all those things and more.
Kinda like the Big Mac Combo with fries, a drink and then you add a salad, an apple pie, and a sundae just for fun.
Let's look at each one just so I'll have some sort of a resemblance to a "pro" blog.
  • Jason Campbell --

I will admit that I like Jason and that he impressed me in the 1st half of the season. I will also admit that I was disappointed in his level of play last season but he seemed to have left that in 2007 after watching our first 8 games. But I've seen flashes of that Jason Campbell over the past few weeks. The game against the Ravens, in my opinion, was by far his worst performance in terms of throws. He seemed to be throwing the ball at the feet of players. As far as I know receivers can't catch the ball with their feet. A great deal of his poor performances have been attributed to the ineptitude of the aging and injured O-line. Which brings us to the O-line.

  • O-line --

The average age of these guys is 32.(This number was reached by using Jansen, Kendall, Rabach, Thomas and Samuels). While 32y/o for you and I is not really old, for an athlete it's on the down side of things. Especially with the kind of punishment often dealt to the pro football players. Now with injuries sustained recently, we will be losing 2 of those guys, 1 is definitely out for the rest of the way. Portis got it right. It's hard to complete a pass while lying flat on your back on the ground. The degeneration of the O-lines level of play is obvious to most. Why it's not obvious to the "higher ups" within the organization is real cause for concern. The Redskins rank somewhere around the bottom feeders of sacks allowed this season. (They're #16 btw). That translates into less passing yardage and less passing completions due to being hurried in the pocket. Ina ll fairness to the decrepit O-line, earlier in this season, Jason Campbell was making adjustments and finding ways to make something out of nothing. Not sure why that has all but gone by the wayside.

  • Jim Zorn --

Rookie head coach who came out of the gates on fire! The flames have since been extinguished. How good is a rookie head coach supposed or expected to be? Is that expectation fair just because the team was playing exceptionally well in the front half of the season? Most folks I know prior to the season didn't even expect us to finish with a winning record much less a playoff berth. Yet here we sit, our destiny in the hands of someone else (again). There are several 1st time head coaches around the league. How do their records stack up?

  1. Jim Zorn 7-6
  2. John Harbaugh 9-4
  3. Mike Smith 8-5
  4. Tony Sparano 8-5

Hmmmm. Notice anything? I think our expectations are just that. OURS! I don't think it's fair to Jim Zorn to heap our high expectations onto him and then nail him to the cross when the team fails to deliver what we wanted or envisioned. There is some type of learning curve in the NFL. If we finish with a winning record, I will consider his rookie season successful. I have seen his style of play calling change. More conservative, less risque'. Did he scale it back to fit the players better? That doesn't make sense because he has the same bodies now as he did in September with a few exceptions. If they can pull it off in September what changes for December? I suppose a lot of things are taken into consideration when you're drawing up a game plan. Shouldn't we NOT fix what isn't broken?

  • Injuries

This is where everything you pre plan for goes up in flames in an instant. Injured typically mount as the season progresses. However, we had a few injuries before the season even got underway.

  1. Phillip Daniels -- Veteran defensive lineman with a knee injury. Out for the season. Hurt during training camp.
  2. Malcolm Kelly -- Rookie who came to camp with knee problems. Has played very little.

We've had the usual dings ad nicks that every team accumulates through your average season. Betts, Springs, Jason Taylor, Jansen, Heyer, Fletcher and Portis have all suffered with some type of injury though out this season. Some missed games. Some didn't. Our rookie receivers, you know the ones we spent draft picks on and didn't really need, have either been hurt(see above)or haven't been willing or able to learn this offensive system thereby leaving them on the outside looking in. Does this justify the deterioration we've seen in this team's ability to win? I think on some level it does. However, when you look around the league and see other teams handling their business, it makes you start to wonder. Admittedly, I don't know enough about other teams' rosters to know the impact of losing any 1 player to injury would have on their level of play. I do know that when Dallas' QB, Tony Romo, was out with a broken finger, that team lost several games. So is it the player, the position that person plays and how good they are at their position that dictates the impact on the team? I say a resounding YES! For example, if Portis is lost in game 3, we will feel that much more as opposed to Betts being out. So I know injuries play a role but I'm not so sure it's the end all that some make it out to be. While backups are backups for a reason, they should be able to do an adequate job if the need arises. The injuries to the O-line will factor in to the upcoming games.

  • Management, Front Office personnel, Owner

"If the head rots, the body will soon follow." A quote I've heard many times over my years. The trickle down effect is in full affect here. If you can't spot talent, you can't possibly be good at drafting talent. If you're not good at drafting talent your team will have little talent. If you don't address the problems and just treat the symptoms, the problem will recur. If you don't address the needs then the needs will eventually address you.

Football teams I've often read and heard, are built from the lines outward. It's the begat syndrome. Poor line play begats poor QB play, begats poor RB play(although some will get theirs regardless...Portis is sometimes that back), begats poor receiver play, etc. etc. Poor D line play begats poor back field play begats increased level of play by opponents. We've made bad QB look good at times.

So what have we learned? There is no 'I' in team(cliche' I know..couldn't resist). The plunging play of our beloved team is not single-fold. If we win as a team, we should lose in the same fashion. I've always thought that no one person is greater than a team but there are players who can put a team on their backs and literally carry them to glory. Those players are few and far between in this league. But they do exist.

Bottom Line: I overestimated this team in the beginning based on what my eyes were seeing at the moment. Thereby proving the famous line in a favorite song, "believe half of what you hear and none of what you see".

I've since scaled back my expectations therefore softening the blows that will undoubtedly come before this season is finished.

And like I do every season, I'll regroup and find a way to be positive about this season and I'll cheer the rest of the way and hope for the best possible outcome. But I fully expect December will end our season.

The critics will came and pick the bones. Not I. I love this team unconditionally. And when the draft rolls around next year, training camp gears up and preseason kicks off, I'll once again put on these burgundy & gold glasses and watch the chips fall as they will.

Hail to you and Hail To The Redskins!