Monday, December 6, 2010 4:05 PM
By Rich Tandler
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Have the Redskins hit rock bottom? On Sunday, for the second time in 21 days, the Washington Redskins found themselves hopelessly out of a game against a division opponent by the time the first quarter had ended. To be sure, the New York Giants led only 14-0 at the end of the first quarter in New Meadowlands Stadium while the Philadelphia Eagles had hung up five touchdowns for a 35-0 lead after 15 minutes of play on Oct. 15. As anyone who watched yesterday knows, however, the Redskins had almost zero chance of rallying from two touchdowns behind against the Giants, no more than they had of making up 35 points on the Eagles in the three remaining quarters of play. After the Eagles game, the players were apologetic. They truly felt bad that they had laid such an ugly egg on national TV and in front of a large crowd at FedEx Field that was looking for a reason to be enthusiastic. And while they didnt necessarily think that the beatdown was a fluke, they didnt think that is was much of anything to be worried about in the long term. The team had the memory of having beaten the Eagles in Philadelphia earlier in the season and the strong temptation was to think that it was just an off night, that they got punched early and often and couldnt recover. In their minds, it wasnt that there was a great talent disparity between the two teams; it was just an off night. Then they gutted out a win in Tennessee despite a mind-boggling run of injuries being suffered both before and during the game. A week later the Vikings won after a Brandon Banks punt return for a touchdown was called back by a penalty for an illegal block that didnt have any effect on the play. That gave them a crutch. It was a game that the could have one, maybe even on that they should have won. There were no such illusions after the Giants game. Mike Shanahan can only work with what hes got, and right now, were trying to work with what we got, said DeAngelo Hall. Eventually, well get the kind of guys we need in here to help us win a whole lot of football games. Clearly, the implication is that Hall doesnt think that the kind of guys hes talking about are on the roster right now. The talk of this being a talented team that just cant quite seem to get it together is gone, at least for now. Players are very careful about accusing others of quitting or giving up. Santana Moss was veiled in his remarks but his message could not have been clearer. Guys who want to check out . . . will not be here next year, the veteran receiver, who will be a free agent next year, said. Prior to the game, Shanahan said almost exactly the same thing to Comcast SportsNets Kelli Johnson. If they dont play hard down the stretch, they wont be with you next year. Brian Orakpo used the T word when talking about the team. "Im tired of it. I know a lot of people are tired of it, he said. I know you guys are tired of it, covering a terrible team like this." London Fletcher expanded on what Orakpo said, defining terrible more precisely. Were just not a sound fundamental football team, he said. Poor tackling, probably the worst-tackling team Ive been around. We dont do the fundamental things well: dont catch footballs, dont hold onto the ball, dont tackle well. Those are things that you need to on every level in order to in football games. They say that you have to hit rock bottom before you start on the road back up. Thats only partially true. Not only do you have to hit the low point, you have to realize that youre there and that you deserve to be there. You have to stop thinking that youre just down on your luck and that with a few breaks here and there youll be right back on top. The delusions seem to be fading if theyre not gone altogether. The realization that they have a long way to go to catch up with their division foes appears to be sinking in. Players generally eschew talking about the negative since they are taught always to be positive. But at times the negativity just gets overwhelming. We will see if the negative feelings turn into a positive force. Phillip Daniels and the Albert mess I dont quite know how to react when people blame Mike Shanahan for the Albert Haynesworth mess. Since when is establishing rules, norms, and procedures, the kind that any organization needs to be effective, being on a power trip or being a control freak? Not that Shanahan has handled things flawlessly. But blaming him for the fact that Haynesworths relationship with the organization is now irreversibly in shambles would be like blaming the cop for a burglary because he arrested the guy who broke into the house. I trust I dont have to rehash the whole fiasco here. But remember that it was Haynesworth who decided to skip the entire offseason program and pass on an opportunity to learn the Redskins new defense along with the rest of his teammates. It was Haynesworth who decided to cash the 21 million bonus check rather than accept an opportunity to be released and strike a new deal with a new team. It was Haynesworth who didnt bother to find out if there would be a conditioning test when he reported to camp. It was Haynesworth who decided that he needed to explode to the media after playing well into the second half of a preseason game, something he might have been able avoid had he been available to learn the defense. Now hes late to practice (one minute is his characterization, may have been longer) and then decides that hes too sick to go. He gets benched and the power trip segment starts it up again, bashing Shanahan for enforcing the rules. Someone else was sick last week. After the Vikings game, we interviewed Phillip Daniels as he was sitting in a chair in front of his locker, having played with a chest and head congestion that had kept him awake the night before. His problems lingered all week because he refused to miss practice. After the game in Sunday he tweeted, Tired, frustrated and still feeling sick. He said some more today when he spoke with reporters on Monday (transcription thanks to John Keim, go here to read Daniels full remarks). If you aint all in, you dont need to be here, an emotional Daniels said when asked about the Haynesworth situation. Im tired of going through season after season where we lose games we should win, guys not doing the right thing, guys not putting the effort in. Im tired of that. The Redskins, we deserve better as a team and as fans.
After saying that he likes Haynesworth as a person, Daniels said, He just needs to think about what hes doing for the football part of things and know that people are counting on you. Not the coaches, not the organization, but your teammates are counting on you. Thats what I play for every day, my teammates. Thats the part of the game that slipped by Haynesworth. So, is Albert self centered. Is this something new? Is there any chance of him changing at this stage of his career? He was in his seventh year when he got here, Daniels said. I heard that from other guys that played with him, Randall Godfrey, Joe Salavea. I talked to all those guys. They all said the same thing. I dont know how much guys change. Your DNA follows you in a lot of ways. I saw things yesterday that I was disappointed in and I truly dont want to sound like Im bashing a guy or anything like that. So did Shanahan not put the team first by benching a player who could have helped the defense against the Giants? I think its the other way around. I think he puts the team first because he wont let one guy come in here and destroy what we have, Daniels said. You put the team first when you think about the future and the things we have to do. If you dont practice, you dont play and thats putting the team first and giving us the best chance to go out and be successful. Daniels continued on about what Shanahan is trying to accomplish. He knew what we were missing last year. He knew we missed a lot of practices, he said. The first thing they looked at when they came here, I bet, was how many practices everyone missed. Youve got to change something. You cant just sit there and keep letting it happen. And there is what is called the money quote. You have to do something. An organizations ability to fine players is very limited and nothing that they could do financially would do much to ding Alberts financial status. The only thing that they can do that has any meaning is to take away playing time. Does Daniels speak for the whole team here? Maybe, maybe not. But it is likely that he is speaking for the players who, unlike those that Moss and Shanahan alluded to above, are playing hard down the stretch and who will be with the team in 2011. As in, those who are unlike Albert Haynesworth.
You can reach Rich by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Join Rich Tandler for an in-game chat live from the press box at FedEx Field during the Redskins-Bucs game on Sunday. Things will get underway on www.CSNwashington.com shortly before kickoff at 12:45 Eastern and continue all game long.