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resist the urge

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Let us say up front – we love fantasy football. We started back in 1996 and have run multiple teams each season since. That being said, one can’t help but notice the effect fantasy football has had on football.

Not tracking? Keep up.

This is the time of year where every talking head and every person with access to the “interwebs” wants to tell you how to “fix” [insert name of favorite sports franchise here]. Every doofus who has ever played the franchise mode in Madden or come in sixth place in a fantasy league feels compelled to tell you the Redskins should acquire Tank Johnson. Or Darren Sproles. Or Shayne Graham. Wait … what?!?! Someone actually used valuable space on Al Gore’s internet to start a sign Shayne … excuse us … “Shane Grahm” conversation?

Take our advice, you’re probably better off avoiding any team websites (with one notable exception, of course) and messageboards until after the NFL draft because every mouth breather in America apparently has the answers and wants to share them with us.

If that’s not bad enough, even the “pros” are getting in on the act. Locally, we’ve got someone we consider a personal friend, Rick Snider of the D.C. Examiner, throwing out the idea of the Redskins bringing Michael Vick to town. Yes, that Michael Vick. On a national level, there’s Jeffri Chadiha of suggesting that Eagles safety Brian Dawkins will be collecting mail at Redskins Park next season.

Never say never, but these two ideas, from people who are paid to write about sports, are nothing more than a “there’s nothing going on, so maybe I can drum up some hits for the website” cry for attention. And the fact that we linked to both of them plays right into their hands. (Editor’s note: dammit.)

What we should have done is ignored them. Right about now, no one has any clue what their team, including our beloved Redskins in particular, are going to do next. The players and coaches are all taking time off to blow off steam and separate from this past season. Fans should too.

And if anyone is going to make wild suggestions, then it should be outlandish suggestions like “The Redskins should get younger on the offensive line” or “The Redskins should draft a defensive lineman with a first rounder for the first time since football was broadcast in color.”

If we’re talking crazy talk, then we could even suggest The Danny bring in a true football guru like Scott Pioli, the New England Patriots vice president of player personnel, to run things. But honestly, why waste the time and energy? We know damned well that, barring Marty Schottenheimer 2.0 in D.C., we’re getting another year of Vinny. Make your peace with it now.

Yes, this is the leanest time of the year, but do everyone a favor and take a break from the fantasy football talk. No one wants to hear your mock draft simulation for all seven rounds of the upcoming NFL draft. No one even pretends to care when you restructure the entire organization or petition to hand the starting job to the third-string quarterback. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – don’t be that guy.


redskins year in review

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Now that 2009 is upon us, it seems only fitting that we take a moment to reflect back on the 2008 season for the Washington Redskins. With a rookie head coach and a veteran team, the ‘Skins headed into this past season with more questions that most any other team in football. While many of those questions are still in need of answers, here are, in our humble opinion, the five biggest storylines of the 2008 season. Feel free to post a comment or email us to let us know if we got it right.

1. The Redskins draft well. Kind of.

Vinny Cerrato and the ‘Skins front office left the 2008 NFL draft with a mind-numbing 10 picks. After trading out of the first round, Washington had three second rounders, which the team opted to use on three pass catchers. Wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, along with tight end Fred Davis, justifiably earned the most attention, but it was the team’s final selection, a little-known safety out of UCLA by the name of Chris Horton, who had the biggest impact.

Horton, who earned the nickname “The Predator” because of his fierce play and dreadlocked looks, burst onto the scene for the Redskins in just the second week of his rookie season. With safety Reed Doughty sidelined due to illness, Horton was informed he would step into the starting lineup alongside LaRon Landry against the New Orleans Saints. While he admitted after the game that his nerves got the best of him the night before his first NFL start, it definitely didn’t show during the game as Horton recorded what defensive coordinator Greg Blache called a “hat trick,” or three turnovers. From there, Horton never looked back.

The jury is still out on Thomas, Kelly and Davis, as well as Cerrato’s abilities on draft day (anyone remember the name of that punter the ‘Skins wasted a draft pick on?), but Horton was a genuine steal with the 249th pick in the draft.

2. So you think you can dance?

For the Redskins, adversity hit on the very first day of training camp when defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending injury to his anterior cruciate knee ligament. Just hours later, the ‘Skins moved quickly to fill the void by acquiring six-time Pro Bowler Jason Taylor for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft and a sixth-rounder in 2010.

“We had to act after losing Phillip,” Cerrato said at the time.

What they thought they were acquiring was a game-changing defensive player. What they got was a big name, and not much else. All flash, not much substance. Taylor made a name for himself as a Miami Dolphin, earning 2006 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the 2007 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year awards. Unfortunately for the Redskins, he looked more like the Dancin’ with the Stars Jason Taylor than an award-winning defensive lineman.

Taylor was kicked in the calf in the second quarter of a meaningless preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and had to be rushed to the hospital after team doctors noticed unusual swelling. He was later diagnosed with compartmental syndrome, which explained the mass of blood near his ankle.

Though there was initial concern that it could be career threatening, Taylor was able to bounce back and work his way into the regular defensive rotation. But that didn’t translate into production. A year after collecting 11 sacks, Taylor had just 3.5, his lowest total this decade.

Had the team done nothing after the Daniels injury, they would have been in better shape than trading away multiple draft picks and paying more than $8 million this season for 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. But the front office panicked and did what they felt was best for the team at the time.

And not all of the blame falls on Taylor. He’s at his best when his team has the lead and he’s set free to cause havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. With the Redskins rarely ever having a lead and the defensive staff seemingly confused over the best way to utilize Taylor, it’s tough to lay all of the blame on the defensive end. That being said, Taylor needs to bring much more to the table than his good looks and witty personality if he’s brought back next season.

3. For Pete’s sake.

Pete Kendall has played in 190 games over an impressive 13-year career. As an interior lineman, he’s consistently done an above average job of protecting the quarterback and anchoring talented offensive lines. Coaches can trust the veteran with loads of responsibilities and never have to second guess the decision. But there’s one thing Kendall isn’t – a running back.

Kendall proved such during an October matchup against the previously winless St. Louis Rams when a Jason Campbell pass that was deflected at the line landed in the arms of Kendall. Instead of moving out of the way and letting the ball fall harmlessly to the ground, the 35-year-old, for reasons unknown, decided to catch the ball and make a dash for the endzone. What happened next was one of the two biggest (and unfortunate) in-game moments of the 2008 season.

Pisa Tinoisamoa of the Rams jarred the ball loose from Kendall and Oshiomogho Atogwe swooped in to recover the fumble. Seventy five yards later, Atogwe scored a touchdown that gave the previously lifeless Rams a 10-7 halftime lead. And the rest was history.

“My instinct was – believe it or not – to knock it down and why I didn’t?” Kendall said after the game. “It will bother me for a long time.”

4. Hall of a catch.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall started the season by signing a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. After just eight games (in which he earned a cool $8 million), Hall was let go by owner Al Davis and friends because the team wanted to go in a different direction.

The Redskins then somehow beat out teams like the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys for the services of the former Virginia Tech standout, signing Hall for the remainder of the season for just $492,000. Hall arrived in town with some baggage, namely questions about how a “Me-first” player with potential character issues would fit into a tight-knit Redskins locker room. But fortunately for the maroon and black, Hall was on his best behavior off the field and one of their best defenders on it.

Although he played in just eight games for Washington, Hall finished second on the team in interceptions and gave a top-ranked defense an identity. Before Hall came to town, the Redskins defense had little to no pass rush and an inability to create turnovers. After he arrived, there was still little to no pass rush, but now, suddenly, there was a player in the secondary who was actually capable of picking off a pass from time to time.

Now Hall is a free agent who will certainly command more than the veteran’s minimum to keep in town. If management is smart, and that’s never a guarantee, they’ll make re-signing Hall their top offseason priority – even if that means letting go of someone else in the secondary (see: Rogers, Carlos).

5. A fitting end.

No play summarizes the Redskins’ season more than this one.

Trailing 17-10 against a sorry Cincinnati Bengals team, the ‘Skins faced a third-and-goal situation just nine inches from the endzone. Having failed to score a touchdown on the previous play, a handoff to fullback Mike Sellers, the Redskins decided to run that play again.

Unfortunately, the Redskins suffered the same fate as the previous Sellers carry, as the Bengals again stuffed the bruising back short of the goal line. Adding insult to injury, Sellers actually fumbled the ball when he fully extended in hopes of scoring the tying touchdown. Instead of a 17-17 game or closing the Bengals lead to 17-13, the ‘Skins suffered a stomach punch that they never recovered from.

At that exact moment Redskins fans knew the season was over. Sure, there were two more games to play, but if you can’t beat the bottom-feeding Bengals or the downtrodden Rams, then you don’t deserve to play in the postseason.

Honorable mention: Redskins hire Zorn as offensive coordinator, Redskins hire Zorn as head coach, Blache recommends folks fall in love with strippers, Portis dreams of better offensive line, Portis has words for Brian Mitchell, Portis has words for “genius” coach, Cooley blogs, Cooley blogs in the buff, Campbell grows as franchise QB, Campbell regresses as franchise QB, Wanted: dependable second receiver


slap fight!

Washington Capitals wing Alexander Semin is not happy. Don’t believe me? Watch him show Marc Staal of the New York Rangers just how unhappy he is. Trust me, it’s highly enjoyable. The guy has one of the best shots in the entire NHL, but he doesn’t bring much to the table when it’s time to throw down. Donald Brashear, please stay healthy. Your presence in the lineup is sorely missed.

In related news, the Caps won over the Rangers 2-1 and are now 26-11-3 for the season, which gives them the best record at the 40-game mark in franchise history.


stop it. just stop it

(photo by Brian Murphy)

The big news of the day is that Vinny Cerrato, the executive vice president for football operations for the Washington Redskins, held a 15-minute press conference today.

Since folks don’t hear much from Cerrato unless he’s on his own radio show, some ‘Skins fans had high hopes in regards to possible topics. But as most rational fans could have guessed, Cerrato had nothing of substance to say just days after the Redskins season ended. Truth be told, only one question and answer from the entire press conference is noteworthy at all.

When asked if Jason Campbell was the Redskins’ quarterback of the future, Cerrato replied: “I think that Jason’ll be back … you know, he’s the starting quarterback. And I think what you do is you just go year to year and you have to evaluate everything.”

That’s it. Of course, since that’s the only memorable quote from the entire dog and pony show, the fanatical types will surely take it 10 steps too far and say, “OMG!!!!! VINNY DISSED CAMPBELL!!!!!!” and go on blathering about nothing. But let us, the sensible types, take a step back and think about it for a moment.

What exactly would the front office have to gain by endorsing Jason Campbell as the Redskins’ long-term solution at quarterback?

The answer? Nothing.

In fact, making that statement, one could argue, would actually hurt the franchise. Why? Because Campbell is set to become a free agent after the 2009 season.

Standing in front of the media and stating unequivocally that Campbell is the man and will be the cornerstone of the franchise for the next decade only drives up the price for the free agent-to-be.

Cerrato is simply playing things safe and not giving Campbell’s agent any unnecessary leverage when it’s time to sit down and negotiate a new deal. Anyone that says different is a moron. Do us all a favor and don’t be that guy.


don’t cross the line

(photo by Brian Murphy)

This has been a banner year for the Washington Redskins’ most popular player, tight end Chris Cooley.

In addition to marrying his lovely wife Christy, Cooley also earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl, set a team record for most receptions by a tight end and, oh by the way, started the most popular blog by an athlete ever.

One might think that with everything going his way, there’s no stopping Cooley. Well, that person would be slightly mistaken.

We heard rumblings earlier in the season that, although the Redskins as an organization have given little guidance, Cooley does have one rule he’s required to follow – do not talk about the offensive line. No, the front office hasn’t laid down the law. But the offensive line has, which is why, when Cooley mentions “air humping” a fallen lineman Happy Gilmore style, no names are actually used. He has to keep things generic and keep their names off of his website.

We have it on good authority that a certain tight end/blogger is banned from mentioning the offensive line on his website. What say you?

“No names,” said offensive tackle Jon Jansen. “I won’t use any names, but we like to think that what happens in here, in team surroundings, stays with the team and not on the internet.”

Have you ever checked out Cooley’s blog?

“No, no I don’t,” Jansen said.

Obviously someone has, seeing as you guys have brought the issue up with Chris, right?

“Well, whether you see your name or not, you have family, friends or fans who will let you know what’s been on there. But honestly, I’m all for it. It’s something that he enjoys doing and the fans love it and I’m all for it, as long as there’s good taste involved.”

And he keeps his pants on

“There’s always going to be mistakes along the way and you just hope they’re small ones,” Jansen said. “And that was a small one.”

With that, we sought out the blogger himself for answers.

We’ve been told that you’ve been banned from using the names of offensive linemen on your blog. Is that true?

(Laughs). “Yeah, but they like to be on the blog secretly,” Cooley said. “They just like to give me a hard time.”

But they keep track of what you’re posting, right?

“Yeah, they all find out,” he said. “They act like I’m one of the media. Like I’d sell them out or something. They’re fun. It’s always something interesting.”

So there you have it, Cooley can blog as often as he’d like, as long as no names of offensive linemen are used. And for the record, we know which lineman got “air humped.” We’d share with the class, but we’re not about to cross The Dirtbags. If they’re willing to come after one of their best teammates, then think of what they’d do to us.


a fresh perspective

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Long after most everyone else had cleared out of the locker room following the Washington Redskins season-ending 27-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, we found ourselves sitting side-by-side with linebacker Marcus Washington.

In the interest of full disclosure, Washington happens to be one of our favorite players currently sporting the burgundy and gold. He’s always been very engaging and highly entertaining whenever we’ve had the chance to chat with him.

After catching him up on the results from the previous night’s UFC pay-per-view, we asked Washington if he’d heard the rumblings that major changes could be happening at Redskins Park this offseason and if/when he anticipates hearing from the organization regarding his future with the team.

“To be honest, I don’t really get into that stuff,” Washington said. “I try not to mess with it much. I have an agent and I pay him to deal with that stuff. Obviously I want to be here and we’ll see what happens.”

As we continued to chat, we asked Marcus about the importance of continuity and told him about our previous conversation with cornerback Fred Smoot, who said that it was the main reason teams like New England and Pittsburgh are routinely among the best in the NFL. That’s when Washington gave quite possibly the best metaphor ever, in a way that only Marcus could.

“I look at it like a typing class,” Washington started. “The first time you take a typing class you always have to look down at the keys and you can’t type very fast. But as time goes on and you get more familiar, things become easier and you can begin to type things without even looking down or whatever. Now imagine if every so often someone came in and changed where the keys were. Now you’ve got the space bar up here and you’re looking around saying, ‘Where the fuck is the semi-colon?’ That’s what it’s like on a defense when you’re constantly changing it up.”

It sounds so simple, but Washington’s perspective on constantly changing personnel forces casual fans to see things a bit differently. If a player has to constantly look over his shoulder to see who is lining up next to him and wonder if that person is going to be where they’re supposed to when the game is on the line, it’s a huge distraction.

Its common sense – teams with the same coaches, players and schemes week after week have a greater chance for success as opposed to teams who have a new defensive coordinator every other year or teams that bring in half a dozen new players into the rotation every season.

So here’s our message, once again, to the front office – resist the urge to make radical changes. If you must get rid of a Shawn Springs or a Jason Taylor, so be it. But try to keep stability on the defensive side of the ball as much as possible. This is a fourth-ranked defense that at times showed flashes of dominance. Just image what can happen once they truly get comfortable and find that fucking semi-colon.


49ers playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Deja vu” by Beyonce

Well, wasn’t that a perfectly fitting ending for the 2008 Washington Redskins?

The regular season finale against the San Francisco 49ers represented everything that was good and bad with the Redskins this season. The team got off to a fast start and looked ready to cruise to an easy win, but a muddling offense and a bad turnover on a Clinton Portis fumble in the second half gave away any momentum the ‘Skins had built and next thing you know ‘Skins fans are scratching their heads and searching for answers after a 27-24 loss.

2. “Déjà vu” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Sound familiar? It should. A 6-2 start had the talking heads and beat writers listing the Redskins in the league’s elite, with nearly everyone placing them in the top five of the NFL. But we’ve now just seen a 2-6 finish that’s got everyone involved frustrated, humbled and wondering what comes next.

When the Redskins rolled out 17-straight points in the second quarter, it looked like the burgundy and gold would match last year’s 9-7 record and go into the offseason feeling better about how the season went. And then the second half happened. That’s when we were treated to heavy doses of the same mental mistakes that have haunted the ‘Skins all season long. Dropped balls by receivers? Check. A defense that simply can’t make a stop when the game is on the line? Yep. Vanilla/predictable playcalling on offense? Absolutely. Add in the fact that the offensive line failed to get any push whatsoever to get the running game going (Portis’ longest carry of the day was just seven yards and he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry) and Zorn and friends are lucky the game was as close as it was.

3. “Make Me Better” by Fabolous

Really, from where we were standing on the sidelines, it looked like things would have been even worse had Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell not converted a few key third down plays (specifically the last play of the third quarter, a pass to tight end Chris Cooley, comes to mind) while also running for his life when no one was open and the pocket collapsed around him. Campbell rushed four times for 39 yards, including the fourth down play that tied the game with just over a minute to play in the game. There are a lot of people down on Campbell, and admittedly he needs to make something happen with this stagnant passing attack, but Jason showed a lot on Sunday.

Same goes for Chris Cooley, who continues to go all out every single play. We asked him after the game if it bothered him that he only had one touchdown catch this season (after averaging seven touchdowns a year his first four seasons in the league). Cooley said the team as a whole has had trouble in the red zone, so he just needs to work harder to get back on track. While other NFC East players whine and cry about not getting enough passes thrown their way, Cooley is more worried about what he can do to make his team better.

And the guy who absolutely deserves to be recognized for his hard work all season long is kick returner Rock Cartwright. The offense, the defense and every other aspect of special teams has taken turns driving Redskins fans crazy this year, but Cartwright’s returns have been the one constant positive. The guy returns every kick as if it’s his last and has more heart than players twice his size. The front office has a lot of decisions to make this offseason, but finding a dependable kick returner isn’t one of them.

4. “The Way I Are” by Timbaland

For the 49ers, running back Frank Gore finished his third-straight season with more than 1,000 yards rushing, which is a new team record. Right before halftime, we happened to be standing next to Portis, who is very good friends with Gore. We couldn’t pass up the chance to have a little fun, so we leaned over and asked “Whose better, you or Gore?”

Clinton started laughing and said, “A protégé can never be better than his mentor, and I taught him everything he knows.” Like I said, he was laughing and was in no way being serious, but it was an enjoyable comment all the same.

The other line of the day came from Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington when 49ers safety Michael Lewis was injured trying to bring down Jason Campbell.

“Don’t they know he’s been eating his collard greens his whole life? They can’t bring him down like that,” Washington said to no one in particular.

This team might be going through a rough spot, but they’re still highly entertaining.

5. “Changes” by 2Pac

For those folks, like Homer McFanboy, who are fans of Chris “The Predator” Horton, we got to talk to him in the locker room after the game. He told us he definitely “got his bell rung” and that it wasn’t the first concussion of his football career. He said he should be alright, and as soon as we finished chatting a team doctor pulled him aside to go over a few things (avoid loud noises, etc.) to recover from a concussion.

Horton’s injury aside, one couldn’t help but notice that the Redskins are finally getting healthy, now that there are no more games to play. We asked Bubba Tyer if it’s frustrating spending the entire season battling injuries, only to get healthy the last week or two of the regular season.

“Nah, I just take it week by week,” Tyer said.

Maybe that’s what ‘Skins fans need to do this offseason. Just take it easy and deal with whatever cards we’re dealt. Why stress over stuff that’s beyond our control? Why scream until we’re blue in the face because management decided to do something we didn’t like? Change is inevitable. There are clearly flaws with this incarnation of the Washington Redskins. Let’s all take a deep breath and see where our favorite football team takes us next.

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