(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Between the first and second parts of this piece the Redskins losing streak has grown from four, to five, and now sits at a pitiable six games in a row. The longest losing streak for this Washington team since 1998. And, as I said in Part 1, it's going to get worse before it ever thinks about getting better. Count on it.)


All of these offensive woes don't exist simply because we have inferior athletes, however. Oh no. Even journeyman players can produce, and sometimes even thrive, in systems that are well-crafted and geared toward the available talent's skillset. Which brings me to:



Offensive Coordinator: I know what our Head Coach Mike Shanahan has done. I still firmly believe he has the drive and the philosophies to do so again. His son Kyle, on the other hand...take away 2008, when he produced mediocre results with the Texans, and the following year, 2009, when he directed a top 10 NFL offense, and he hasn't done anything close to enough to justify his being hired as the youngest coordinator in the NFL by a Shanahan protege, Gary Kubiak. Heck, he hasn't done enough to justify being named a position coach since then.


I watch our games of late and I see similarities between this unit and the hapless, punchless, predictable Zorn offenses of '08-'09. I get the sinking feeling opposing DC's don't start scheming in earnest until the Thursday before a game with Washington, if not later. We can't fool anyone, we don't scare anyone, and until we start getting either better coaching, a better scheme or better athletes, or some combination of all three, we won't ever have an attack that creates all kinds of matchup problems for opponents. An offense that explodes every once in a while, all over even the most formidable defenses, helping their team coast to a relatively easy win.


The infrequent wins we've gotten for far too long are these gut-wrenching nail-biters, these tepid grinding retardations of all that is current and cutting-edge in NFL offenses, courtesy of the usual kind of stuttering, stammering, lukewarm squads that not only can't be expected to overwhelm their opposite numbers, they frequently cannot even be asked to NOT give the game away before the defense can get it's bearings and set it's feet. Speaking of which -.


This year's D, a solid, unassuming, mildly successful group of ageless wonders mixed in with a couple of neophyte stars in the making, sprinkled with a liberal dash of middle of the road journeymen who could and would probably be backups on most other teams, can't be asked to carry the load week in and week out, yielding fewer points than it itself scores more games than not.


We're not the Ravens. Not even close.


But we're actually not that bad as a unit. We rank around the middle in yards against, and ToP, but we're 6th best in scoring average against, and we've allowed our opponents' offense to convert on 3rd down a stingy 33 % of the time. All this while racking up more penalty yards than all but two other teams, and sitting at a -8 in turnover ratio as a team. If you ask me they've performed admirably and courageously considering what they've been handicapped with and/or handcuffed by since Week 3 or 4 on. The strain of keeping their team in games with little or no offensive help is starting to take its toll though; cracks are starting to undermine this group's foundation despite the continuing excellence of it's seemingly ageless captain, London Fletcher.


I hate to sound like a broken record here, but back in the day we assembled defenses built primarily out of blue-collar, hard working guys who may not have been the most athletic but were always among the toughest mentally. They played with what at times seemed like a collective mind, flying to the ball like men whose hair was on fire, and they never ever ever stopped playing like that down was their absolute last. No matter what the score, they competed until the very end. Their opponents resigned themselves to a 60 minute war, a knock-down drag-out affair every time the Burgundy & Gold showed up on their schedules. That's just the way it was.


This current crop of defenders, with 4 or 5 exceptions, wouldn't know a never-say-die attitude from a hole in the ground, which not coincidentally is where they often find themselves. Their inconsistency from game to game, sometimes even from play to play, is maddening. Sometimes they pin their ears back, snarl and seem ready to literally die before giving up a TD. Other times they display a lassitude that is incomprehensible. I was and still am a guy who would have traded away many valuable things to possess the physical tools required to play on Sundays. I like to believe I would never have taken those abilities for granted - which is what some of these "competitors" too often seem to be doing. Those hard-working, high-motor players like Kerrigan and Orakpo can't make up for their teammates who play two downs on, one down off, and they know it. Right now it's not an issue, but sooner or later they are going to get fed up with teammates who aren't putting out like they are (and who could blame them?). Resentment and frustration will begin to build, and it will go rapidly downhill from there.


These are unfortunately not the only problems this team must deal with right now; they are the most obvious ones that I can see. I don't know how to begin to address even the simplest of them. I just know they must be adressed, and soon, or this latest rebuild, this Shana-plan, will end up like all the rest these last two decades: over-hyped, absurdly whitewashed and ultimately crushed under the enormous weight of it's own bloated, unrealistic expectations I hope, of course, that this time is different. That this coach is the one. That this long slump may finally be ending.


But then I've hoped these things before. More than once...


I know this reads like an extremely long puff-piece from a holdover of the glory days, when Joe Gibbs was king and his teams were crown jewels. In many ways it is. But I am starting to miss those teams for a different reason than I ever did before, and here's why: it's more than wistfully recalling the fading memories of a nostalgic yesteryear. It's not because I took that era of the Gibbs dynasty for granted as a young man, even though there is no doubt that, young and foolish as I was, I assumed that those 10 or 11 years of consistent greatness, when we were serious contenders to win it all every single preseason, would continue forever (Ah, youth). It's not any of that. What it is is the mind-numbing confusion, the utter perplexity of a once-great team mired for the last 19 years in at best mediocrity, and at worst sheer incompetence. I don't understand why my team can't get out of this rut. I mean, in that time great teams have risen, fallen and then risen again.


Why can't we?


How many more fruitless years will I have to watch a good offense struggle to win games because it's paired with an atrocious defense, or vice versa? How much longer will the once proud Redskins be laughed at by teams that used to be in awe of them, and stomped by lesser organizations that used to be routinely smoked in years past? How many more seasons must I chant the tired mantra, "just give it a little more time - we're headed in the right direction." I don't know, but I hope it's not too much longer, because what I just described in the last few sentences is complete and utter bs. It's not the kind of thing any diehard, loyal fan should have to ever put up with - much less a Redskins fan. A fan whose team used to be one of the league's flagship enterprises. Used to be admired and envied by other teams. Used to set an excellent example on how a successful franchise needed to be run to build a dynasty. Used to be a powerhouse.


A lot of used to's there. Too many by far.


But for all that I shouldn't get too carried away, too melodramatic about it. You're sitting there saying "NOW you tell me," after this Tolstoy-length diatribe is almost at it's end. So sue me. I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that even now, and probably even (heaven forbid) after another 20 more years of hopeless seasons, I will still be a staunchly loyal, fiercely devoted Redskins fan-atic. I still hope for a win each and every Sunay in the fall. Doesn't matter who we're playing. I still hope for the break-through season each and every summer, no matter who's on our roster. I ignore today's harsh realities as much as possible, so I can continue hoping.


These days it seems like that's all I have left. It may be. And so I must at all costs hold onto it. It cannot be allowed to slip away like so many other things that were once the Redskins. In the absence of all else, when each new year brings fewer and fewer wins, my hope will have to suffice. I always hope we win...always.


I just wish I could get back to expecting the win. That sure would be something, wouldn't it?


Hail





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