December 18, 2002
Braves on the Morgue Slab
By Dave Sabo
Fail, did the Deadskins!
Braves on the morgue slab,
Died for ol’ DC!
-sung to the tune of the “Hail to the Redskins”
If you’ve ever visited our nation’s capital in autumn, more than likely, you’ve been assaulted by the Redskins fight song. If you’re an ex-pat NFL fan of any other team living in DC, you quickly learned the alternate lyrics above and you’ve belted them out after every ‘Skins loss (usually at The Greene Turtle and whilst being showered with stale beer and chicken wing bones). Over the past decade, you’ve belted them out a lot.
This Sunday, the Texans visit the “Trainwreck at Fed-Ex” and face a banged up team of overpaid underachievers that are coached by a slack-jawed yokel and overseen by a sawed-off, Napoleonic fan-boy. I’ve had this game circled for weeks. Not because I’ll get to see the good guys live and in person (I’ll actually be back home in Houston; brilliant planning, Dave), but because it gives me another chance to haul off and take another whack at the utter shambles that is the Washington Deadskins.
Last week, a local radio host asked, rhetorically, if the ‘Skins were really only a single game better than an expansion team. On the field, they may be, but as an entire organization, top to bottom, from the owner to towel boys, it’s not even close. The Texans are head and shoulders above the three-ring circus in DC. On Sunday, they’ll have a chance to prove it.
Let’s face it, the ‘Skins are BEGGING to be taken to the woodshed and humiliated by an expansion team. After rolling up I-95 last Sunday to be whored out by the Eagles, Washington has lost five of their last six (including losses to Texan victims, New York and dallas) and, apparently, have also lost what little, if any, self-respect they had. At one point last Sunday, 11 Deadskins stood around with their hands on their hips while Philly linebacker Carlos Emmons went to his knees, picked up a fumble, looked around, got up and jogged in for six.
The blame for such lackluster play falls squarely upon the shoulders of the coaching staff, specifically Ballcoach and defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis. In his debut season, Ballcoach has shown that, not only is he currently an inadequate NFL head coach, he might possibly be functionally illiterate. He speaks in sentence fragments and is still calling second year wideout Darnerien McCants, “Darkerien”. He insists on using cornerback, Champ Bailey, to return punts. How bad is Bailey? Think Avion Black’s first half last week only worse. Furthermore, he’s determined to convert Bailey to a wide receiver despite the fact that he’s well on his way to being a bona fide shutdown corner.
Ballcoach’s playbook fits on the front and back of a sheet of legal paper and he appears to be entirely incapable of making adjustments. He squandered his biggest, and most reliable weapon, Stephen Davis, and now that Davis is sidelined with a shoulder injury, he’ll platoon rookie Ladell Betts and second year man Kenny Watson in the backfield. Take the under on whether or not he’ll run it 20 times. Ballcoach is gonna throw early and often. Rookie Patrick Ramsey will get the start. He’s the guy Ballcoach almost traded to Chicago and said wouldn’t be ready until next season.
With Ballcoach’s one-dimensional offense sputtering, the defense has been asked to shoulder the load. And it’s failed miserably. Marvin Lewis has worked none of the magic in DC that made him the belle of the ball as D coordinator in Baltimore. Free agent acquisitions Jeremiah Trotter and Jesse Armstead are busts, their safeties are on par with Stevens and Brown and cornerback Fred Smoot is infinitely more adept at running his mouth than covering his man. If Lewis doesn’t land a head coaching gig (and, believe me, he will bolt ASAP, even for the Cryboys job), he’s going to be wishing he’d taken the Michigan State job.
Presiding over this whole debacle is Li’l Danny Snyder, who’s been in a real snit the past 6 months and has shunned the media. He’s gotten a little salty over his “portrayal.” For the life of him, he can’t understand why he’s made out to be a pompous, spoiled, money-grubbing, controlling dolt. After everything he’s done for this team and the fans. Sure, it’s the most expensive game in town, but they made the playoffs. Once.
If there’s one person in the Texans organization that would dearly love to see the ‘Skins take the beatdown this weekend, that would most assuredly be GM Charlie Casserly. Casserly, you may remember, lost a power struggle to uber-schnook, Norv Turner, and was fired by Li’l Danny. This was the first in a long line of bungled decisions that have put the ‘Skins in a position to be embarrassed at home by an expansion team and, believe me, Charlie hasn’t forgotten. I doubt he has or will gather the team for a pep talk, but I’m pretty sure they know how much he’d like this one.
The wisdom of his decisions as GM in Washington may be debated, but regardless of his stature as a GM in this town, it cannot be denied that he’s left behind a legion of people who hold him in the highest regard as a person. Beloved may be a bit overboard, but he is certainly well liked and respected up here. A week doesn’t go by where he isn’t a guest on a radio show or mentioned in the papers. Just last night, he was a guest on the Darrell Green show and his opening shot was to tell Darrell to have Li’l Danny give him a call and he’d get him a dallas game ball. Green and co-hosts, Steve Czaban and Andy Polin, broke out in gales of laughter. Their show is carried on the ‘Skins flagship station. Yeah, Charlie wants this one.
And the Texans have an excellent shot at getting it. The key will be beating them up early. Keep the running game in check, hope they’re dumb enough to let Bailey return punts and try to rattle the kid into making mistakes and Washington will phone it in. It’s theirs if they want it.
Dave Sabo would like to take a moment to thank the good folks at DirecTV and the NFL; for without the “NFL Sunday Ticket,” he’d be forced to watch tedious local broadcasts of Deadskins games as opposed to NFL football. Steve Spurrier Return to Houston Pro Football If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Dave Catch up on past installments of The Armchair Quarterback