Monday, December 13, 2004

Hail to the Deadskins!

Sigh.... last night the Redskins played probably about as well as they can. They got a spirited, physical performance from their defense- and an undoubtedly competent game from Ramsey. The Eagles were alternately disinterested and unfocused on offense- although I was heartened to see the defense continue to play competently against the run. It probably says a lot about the merits of these two football teams that the Redskins really only had one chance to win the game- despite playing with effort for once.

Significantly, the Eagles gave the ‘skins a pair of turnovers- and the opening kick return was a sort of ipso de facto turnover (a big field position flip and free points)- and this artificial +3 turnover margin for most of the game, at home, was enough to keep Washington in it. Washington continues to be sort of easy to play defense against; they frankly lack weapons to hurt you and they also don't really try to hurt you either. Seventeen points seems to be their ceiling- so after the first gift touchdown, the skins’ offense promptly sild into fifty minutes of the boring things Gibbs so loves: many aimless rushing attempts with zero follow on play-action, turning Cole into a possession receiver, getting Thrash and other bad players the ball in lieu of Portis, punting, and more punting.

Happily for Philadelphia, the ‘skins also bring two intangibles to the field each Sunday. First, Washington is an incredibly dumb team- and once again committed endless stupid fouls. Most were of the ever popular mindless-type too: selfish unsportsman-like conduct, off-sides, languid pass interference, etc. Second, it is hard to argue that Gibbs has done an absolutely terrible job this year. No team is getting less with more- and he’d run high in any honest vote for “Worst Coach of the Year”.

For example, Ramsey absolutely plays his heart out last night. He took ferocious hits- and hung in there to throw 45 balls without a turnover. Ramsey rallied the troops- and the whole offense busted its guts to get back in the game after falling down by two scores late. They are in a position to win the game late. Courageously, Gibbs promptly rewards them by putting the team in a position to lose late.

You know Joe, just because Theisman and pals are bleating on television about the necessity of taking shots down field doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. Particularly in the red zone? With the game-tieing FG attempt in the bag? Against the Eagles highly competent secondary? To some tight end I’ve never heard of? Obviously, the deep shot did not fool the Eagles, in that the TE was double-covered! It was not an aggressive play, it was a highly stupid one.

May I suggest Gibbs might take a lesson that I used to beat into my Little Leaguers heads concerning throwing the ball around the field trying to chase base runners? I used to tell them:

Look, in order to make play in the infield, five things have to happen. You have to field the ball cleanly, you have to make a good throw, the throw has to be to the right base, the other player has to catch it and then has to make the tag. None of these five things are probable individually, let alone collectively. So just run the ball in to the pitcher, okay?
Could Gibbs take a lesson from me here? He sends a play into Ramsey that, can we agree, requires his team to do four things that are a near collective impossibility for this bunch: protect Ramsey, ask Ramsey to make a mature downfield throw into tight red-zone coverage (something he categorically cannot do yet), ask someone named Cooley to make a big play, and have two Eagle Pro-Bowlers in the secondary make a dumb play/read? And it is Ramsey's fault the play is a disaster?

Don’t pass the buck here. This play, a deviation from the ball-control passing attack Ramsey has now executed fairly well twice against the Eagles, required the head coach’s approval. Ramsey ought not to have thrown it, but Gibb’s hubristic approach toward this play spills into everything bad or poor in DC: quarterback selection (I alone can fix Brunell), Portis (we’ll emphasize the run even though no one else does it), etc. Gibbs is a huge part of his team’s poor play.

Now, I am becoming a crazy fan of Josh Parry. I gave him a shout out here a few weeks ago, but I want to point a unique wrinkle he gives the Eagles offense. For years teams, with a certain impunity, have shadowed the mobile McNabb. Parry has given them a distinctive angle on countering it.

Obviously, the Eagles have been playing Parry much more recently- mainly to help the back-up guards protect the franchise quarterback. But since the Pittsburgh game, they have also taken to occasionally rolling Parry out of the backfield to the numbers of the field- a typical safety valve sort of thing. However, if McNabb now rolls that way, dragging his “shadow” with him, Parry disdains his receiver role, moves across the grain and tries to blindside the safety/linebacker chasing McNabb. The shadow normally is locked in on McNabb- and if he does not see Parry coming….

Well, after Parry whiffed on two guys against the Packers, Springs found out what happens, didn’t he? Although I wanted their hot rookie safety, it was extremely gratifying to see Springs was clearly out before he hit the ground. There were reports on the internet this morning that when the Redskin’s trainers got to him, he was mewling like a cat. Isn’t that great? Springs thought he was a pretty little kitty.

Obviously, a wide receiver or tailback cannot deliver that kind of blow- but playing a fullback regularly gives the team a guy who runs well enough that you can send him into the defensive backfield. Also, I loved that Parry went after him high. You block a guy low if you want to get him on the ground- a tactical block. Hitting a guy high is a strategic block- a kill shot- a message. The Eagles have left a calling card for all defensive backs in the NFL. You can play a guy “assignment-free” against McNabb, but he better have his head on a swivel, or have the cart warmed up and ready. I loved it. It is clean, physical, nasty offense- and you can never have enough nastiness.