photos from the sidelines: week 9

(photo by Brian Murphy)

I have no idea whether or not the Washington Redskins are the only professional football franchise who celebrates a homecoming game each year. But I can tell you this — I fully understand why being named Washington’s homecoming opponent could be perceived as a slight by the team on the other side of the field.

“I look on there and it says ‘homecoming.’ And I’m thinking to myself: This is the National Football League. Are you serious? Homecoming,” said Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams after last year’s homecoming game. “And it’s not like you tried to hide it — you blatantly put it on the front of the Game Day. And you’re talking about somebody fired up today? I was pissed.

“It was the whole team,” he continued. “That was definitely motivating. You don’t say you’re going to have a ‘homecoming’ in the National Football League. You do it in college. It’s one of those teams that’s just terrible. You don’t book, like, a good team for homecoming.”

That being said, I can also see why the Redskins would want to hold a homecoming — to honor those players of yesterday who helped make the burgundy and gold worth rooting for. After watching so many losses pile up during my eight seasons on the sideline, it was refreshing to see Doug Williams, Dexter Manley and many other players from Washington’s Super Bowl XXII winning squad honored at halftime.

And let’s not forget, there was also a game to be played on Sunday — one that saw Washington rack up 500 yards of offense, the defense make a possible season-saving goal-line stand and special teams … well … let’s keep things positive for this post.

So please take a moment to check out my favorite photos I was able to capture from the sidelines this week. There are some pretty solid action shots, as well as some photos of the homecoming festivities that should be enjoyable to anyone other than DeAngelo Williams.

redskins-chargers playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold

It wouldn’t have surprised me if fans of the Washington Redskins were less than enthusiastic about the team’s decision to hold their annual alumni homecoming game Week 9. After all, the Redskins came into the game against the San Diego Chargers winless in these nostalgic affairs — having lost 21-13 to Carolina last season and 19-11 to San Francisco back in ’11.

And yet, I can’t help but think that one of the primary reasons Washington was able to emerge victorious — defeating the Chargers 30-24 in overtime — had a little something to do with one of the old timers who was in the house Sunday.

Former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, who was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXII, and more than 30 of his teammates from that championship squad were honored during halftime. But before then, Williams had a chance to chat with local reporters about the burgundy and gold.

During a pre-game interview, Williams was asked what the Redskins need to do in order to salvage this season before it’s too late.

“You know, I think the guys that are here every day watching the Washington Redskins –- the coaches, the personnel guys –- they can probably answer that better than I can,” said Williams. “I can’t sit here watching them twice a year on TV and tell them what they need to do.”

And then, Williams was asked about quarterback Robert Griffin III. For a guy who just seconds earlier said he was too far removed from the situation to provide any real advice or feedback, he sure did manage to hit the nail on the head with this response.

“Last year, he came in and elevated his football team,” he said. “I think right now the football team needs to elevate Robert.”

As simple as it sounds, that’s what this team has lacked in 2013. With Griffin not quite playing up to his all-pro standard as he recovers from major knee surgery, it’s become painfully clear that he can’t do it all by himself these days.

If the the Redskins are going to be able to turn things around and be a more competitive football franchise in the second half of the season, it’ll be because players other than the franchise quarterback were able to help shoulder the load.

mike shanahan opens up, destroys albert haynesworth

(courtesy photo)

Without a doubt, the darkest period during my eight seasons covering the Washington Redskins was the Albert Haynesworth era.

Whether he was face down on the field after giving up on a play or failing a routine conditioning test, Haynesworth was undoubtedly the biggest embarrassment this franchise has had to deal with during my time on the sidelines.

The Redskins gave the defensive lineman a $100-million contract, and in return, they got a surly malcontent who made little effort to fit in with his teammates off the field or with his coaching staff’s preferred style of play on it. Basically, he was the worst free agent signing in the history of the NFL and the only possible bright spot to come out of the entire ordeal is that maybe now the franchise thinks twice before trying to “win the offseason.”

Either way, after two seasons, Haynesworth was sent packing and the Redskins moved on. The man made a great deal of money during his brief stint here and typically that’s where the story should end. Except Haynesworth, for whatever reason, decided to try and stir stuff up with his comments to Tennessee Sports Radio this week.

“He comes in and completely changes the defense to a 3-4, where I’m reading,” said Haynesworth. “I’m not doing things that I normally do — exploding and shooting the gaps and creating havoc — I’m staying on the line, going left and right. Not even going forward.”

Okay, so Haynesworth still isn’t pleased with the way he used utilized in Washington. Whatever. Life happens. And yet, Fat Albert wasn’t done ripping into Shanahan.

redskins made a mistake by not trading away kirk cousins

(photo by Brian Murphy)

I can’t help but think that the Washington Redskins missed a chance to improve their football team this week, when they failed to pull the trigger on a trade before the deadline.

No, I’m not talking about tight end Fred Davis, who – for reasons that remain unclear – has become a complete afterthought this season.

I’m talking about backup quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Sure, he’s a stand-up guy and a football franchise can never have enough depth at quarterback – especially when the starter is coming off of major knee surgery.

And yet, if I was the guy calling the shots at Redskins Park, I would have called the Cleveland Browns every day for the last few weeks until they agreed to a deal involving second-year receiver Josh Gordon coming to town in exchange for Cousins.

Because, for as much of a savior as some ‘Skins fans apparently think Cousins is, his actual body of work since Washington utilized a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft for him isn’t all that impressive.

Let’s review what he’s done up to this point:

redskins-bears playlist

(ExtremeSkins photo)

1. “Battle Born” by Five Finger Death Punch

The list of areas the Washington Redskins need to improve upon is still lengthier than the list of what’s going right for the franchise, but that’s beside the point for the moment.

That’s because the Redskins earned their second win of the season — in comeback fashion, no less — scoring a touchdown in the final minute of play to complete a thrilling 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears Sunday.

The 45-point performance was Washington’s most productive outing during the Mike Shanahan era and the team’s most points since scoring 52 points against San Francisco back on Oct. 23, 2005, a span of 128 regular season games.

Equally impressive stat to consider: the last time the Redskins posted at least 499 yards of offense in a game that didn’t go to overtime, was back on Nov. 10, 1991 against Atlanta.

“We had a feeling about this game,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III. “I know I did. I talked to the guys before the game about having a breakthrough. We have been through a lot of adversity –- offseason, and the beginning of the season not going the way we wanted it to. We needed that breakthrough. I told them they would be the ones to make the plays to make it happen. I think the guys believed it; they saw it and we went out there to make it happen.”

While it’s kind of Griffin to go out of his way to recognize his teammates, the main reason Washington was able to compete with one of the better teams in the NFC was because their franchise quarterback finally played like a franchise quarterback.

Against Chicago, Griffin completed 18 of 29 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and finished the day with a quarterback rating of 105.2. Griffin also picked up 84 yards on 11 carries (both numbers represented season highs).

“Well, I think everybody saw what we did today in order to run a little bit more and keep the defense fairly honest,” Shanahan said. “He made some good plays. He was able to run the ball. He competed in the running game, and made some good throws on the run. He led a great final drive to put us in the end zone.”

it’s officially time to change all NFL team names

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Because the government was shutdown and therefore decision makers in our nation’s capital had nothing else to do, the President of the United States felt compelled to share his opinion on the name of the Washington Redskins.

“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team –- even if it had a storied history -– that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Barack Obama said in a recent interview.

Normally, the leader of the free world is expected to dedicate his time and attention to more pressing matters, but this time around he deserves a pass. In fact, if anything, we the people should request — better yet, demand — accountability from the National Football League.

With that in mind, it’s time to storm the streets and ensure our voices are heard. We won’t stop until all 32 NFL franchises have caved in and change their team names.

Arizona Cardinals – Is it too much to ask that they spend a little more time focusing on some of the problems that plague the Catholic church and a little less time employing mediocre quarterbacks?

Atlanta Falcons – As in, the Millennium Falcon — the getaway ride of Han Solo, the shady bootlegger who fought in a rebellion to overthrow the government who, by the way, is most famously known for shooting first.

Baltimore Ravens – Edgar Allan Poe was a drunk.

photos from the sidelines: week 4

(photo by Brian Murphy)

As the first month of the season has quickly proven, wins are tough to come by in the National Football League.

The Washington Redskins might have been a playoff team one season ago, but that means nothing in 2013.

Through three games, the Redskins struggled in all three phases of the game and the natives were officially becoming restless. Enter the Oakland Raiders.

While the silver and black happily kicked off their pre-game festivities by showing highlights from their Super Bowl XVIII victory over the Redskins, that was 30 years ago. With just three trips to the playoffs since ’94, the Raiders are no longer one of the league’s dominant franchises.

After digging themselves an early 14-0 hole, the Redskins finally remembered that and easily dispatched Oakland. It wasn’t always pretty and it took longer to get going than they would have liked, but at the end of the day, Washington earned a hard-fought victory, thanks to huge individual efforts by players such as Barry Cofield, David Amerson and Pierre Garcon.

Sure, it’s only one win and it came against a team forced to play backups at quarterback, running back and fullback, but it counts just the same in the standings. That being said, this one win against a not-very-good Raiders squad doesn’t exactly mean it’s time to start booking flights for the Super Bowl either.

“I think what you do is you go back and you’re tough on yourself, especially when you win when you look at the film,” said head coach Mike Shanahan. “You talk about things you could have done to put the game away much earlier or what it takes to have a great day on both sides of the football. That’s what you’re constantly trying to do is look at the things you did poorly, try to improve on those. You always feel good when you win. That’s the objective. Our football team is pretty realistic. They know what type of effort we have to have to get to the next level, what type of play we have to do consistently to win the division.”

So enjoy the win ‘Skins fans, and please feel free to check out my favorite photos I was able to capture from the sidelines this week. After all, it’s going to be two weeks before the burgundy and gold take to the field again, so you might as well savor this one for a day or two longer.