If you break it down on a broad, somewhat superficial level, there are seven areas in which a football team must perform. They are:
- Cover kicks
- Return kicks
- Convert Field goals
- Defend the run
- Defend the pass
The Redskins are around the middle of the NFL pack in the three special teams, not bad, not great. They are among the elite in the defensive categories, third against the run and fifth defending the pass. Their running game isn’t bad either, ranking 13th in rushing yardage.
Of course, it’s the passing game that is the drag on this team. As John McEnroe would say, it’s “the pits of the universe”. Way too often, Mark Brunell’s passes miss their target. All too often, when his passes are on the mark, the target drops the ball. Iither result assumes that Brunell has adequate time to throw and/or a receiver could get open.
It’s a mess that’s led to four sub-100-yard outputs this year. The bad news is that it’s not likely to get significantly better any time soon. Gibbs isn’t likely to bench Brunell and, even if that happens, there’s no guarantee that Patrick Ramsey will play any better. The offense will be tweaked and retooled, perhaps giving some more playing time to Darnerien McCants (you could say he’s been glued to the bench, but he hasn’t even been on the bench, having been inactive for six of the eight games), but such moves won’t improve the output dramatically.
It looks like something we’re going to have to get used to. If the Redskins are to win games, they will do so on the basis of their hard-charging defense, the legs of Clinton Portis, and the solid performance and occasional big play from the special teams. It’s not an impossible formula to win with; the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl with it in 2000.
This isn’t to say that the Redskins are Jacksonville bound. The point is that there are ways of winning football games that don’t necessarily involve going out there and pitchin’ it around, as an old ballcoach used to say.
Had a flag been thrown in the end zone against Dallas and had one not been thrown on the sideline against the Packers, the Skins would have very marginally better offensive passing numbers and they would be 5-3. We’d all celebrating “winning ugly”.
What happened happened, however, and the results are what they are. So instead of being the last piece of the puzzle, the passing game is the big drag on the team, Brunell is not being celebrated for his “control” in not making killer turnovers but being ravaged for lack of output.
You could go on with the “ifs” but the main one is that “if” the Redskins’ passing game was even as good as mediocre they wouldn’t have had to worry about flags and they’d be cruising. It’s about results.