Redskins' Effort a Troubling Sign
Monday night, in front of a national-TV audience, Washington simply went through the motions. Physical mistakes, lack of talent, bad breaks -- those are all forgivable. Half-hearted efforts aren't, especially when a team is playing for an embattled head coach. And the Redskins, now 2-5 on the season, are fooling themselves if they think they gave all they could against the Eagles.
"You can say but so much," said Albert Haynesworth, the team's $100 million offseason addition. "You've got to actually want to. So once we get to that point -- where we want to do something -- then we'll do something. But if we just keep going our separate ways, then we'll just keep getting slaughtered like we have."
As has often been the case in Washington this season, there was plenty of blame to go around Monday.
Quarterback Jason Campbell, despite some strong overall stats (29 of 43 for 283 yards and two touchdowns), struggled to get his team in the end zone until it was too late, and committed two bad turnovers that led to 10 Philadelphia points -- the eventual margin of victory, for the record.
The Redskins' banged-up offensive line was miserable again, leaving Campbell at Philadelphia's mercy all night. The Eagles recorded six sacks and held Washington to 62 yards rushing.
Even the Washington defense isn't immune to criticism, despite playing relatively solid. For the most part, the D slowed Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. But with Washington needing to get off to a good start, the Redskins also allowed a 67-yard DeSean Jackson touchdown on the game's fourth play. Then later, with Washington still within striking distance at 20-7, the defense allowed Jackson to get wide open on a 3rd-and-22 for a killer 57-yard touchdown.
All of that pales in comparison, however, to the overall picture Monday. By the time Washington's first possession was over, with the Eagles up 7-0, you got the sense that the game was over. There was no fire, no emotion from the Redskins' sideline. Even ESPN commentator Ron Jaworski noted, on multiple occasions, that Washington looked like a team with no sense of urgency.
And the blame for that level of lackadaisical involvement, fair or not, falls on head coach Jim Zorn. This script has played out time and time again in the sports world -- franchises stick with struggling coaches for as long as their teams are playing hard. As soon as that effort ceases, though ... well, that's often the end of the line.
"I have no idea, no idea," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said after the game, according to the Washington Post, when asked what Washington needed to change. "Different day, same results."
Those similar results include Washington's offensive output. Despite stripping Zorn of play-calling duties in favor of Sherm Lewis, the Redskins mustered just 17 points -- including a garbage-time touchdown by Fred Davis in the final two minutes of the game. Through seven games, Washington has yet to top that 17-point plateau.
"Well, the result was the same. We got 17 points," Zorn said. "It was difficult for me. It was difficult to stand and watch. The hard part is to keep your mouth shut."
It's not hard to see why Washington's adrift at the moment -- beyond being in last place in the competitive NFC East, they're dealing with several injuries (now including Chris Cooley's broken ankle) and trying to rally behind a head coach that has less power over game-day decisions than maybe any other coach in the league. The Redskins are a team without a direction at the moment, and the lack of leadership was front and center against Philadelphia.
"Guys got to understand the game plan," defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin told the Post. "Doesn't matter who calls the plays, doesn't matter what's called. You got to block somebody. You got to move somebody off the line of scrimmage -- on both sides of the ball."
Situations can change rapidly in the NFL, but the possibility certainly exists for Washington's outlook to become much, much gloomier before it gets brighter. After a Week 8 bye, the Redskins face Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans, in order. That's five playoff contenders and at least a pair of, so far, Super Bowl-caliber teams.
Could the Redskins turn their season around after the bye? Sure.
But there's no chance of that happening if they just mail it in like they did Monday night. And it's that absent effort, even more than the growing number of losses, that could eventually force Washington to turn the page.
"Urgency, heart, 'want-to,' whatever. I don't know," Haynesworth said. "We're lacking a lot of stuff right now."