Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Answers from the ATL

The parallels are eerie.
  • The Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Falcons have identical 65-77 records in the 21st century (Ever wonder how far down the sports totem pole we've fallen ? -- Atlanta has never in their team history had back-to-back winning seasons).
  • Both teams had owners accused of being too involved in the day-to-day operations of the franchise, with Arthur Blank palling around with players down on the sidelines and Dan Snyder's well-documented foray into team management.
  • Both faced GM and coaching searches last year, the Falcons after their disastarous 2007 season that featured a dysfunctional organization with a quitter for a coach (Petrino) and sniping players who took public shots at the direction of the team.
  • Here the parallels end.
  • The Skins hire the owner/Vinny as GM and Zorn as coach.
  • The Falcons hire GM Thomas Dimitroff from the personnel department of the Patriots and Mike Smith, Jacksonville defensive coordinator as coach. Blank distances himself from the day-to-day operations of the team.
  • Coming off a 9-7 season Skins flounder after a fast start, winding up 8-7 with one game left.
  • Coming off a 4-12 season, the Falcons rise to 10-5 with one game left.
  • Dimitroff is touted as NFL executive of the year.
  • Vinny/Danny are not.
  • Mike Smith is discussed as a possible coach of the year.
  • Zorn is not.
What did the Falcons do?
  1. The owner becomes detached from day-to-day operations. Hard to take dad seriously if mom is always open for complaints. An owner getting too chummy with players encourages the coach to do the same to curry their favor. Jim Mora was canned by the Falcons for doing too much of this, the same Jim Mora who the Seahawks will likely give the keys to the kingdom to after Mike Holmgren leaves instead of in-house QB coach Jim Zorn.
  2. Hire an unglamorous, football saavy GM, giving him the power and independence. He hires a similar coach.
  3. Make football moves that benefit the team, regardless of sentiment or star power: The mercurial bad apple DeAngelo Hall -- gone. All-star tight end Alge Crumpler -- gone. Warrick Dunn, great character guy but done --gone. All ties cut with Vick. The result was a team with less talent but more character. Portis? Campbell?
  4. Build through the draft. Of course it helps to draft perhaps the best rookie QB ever in Matt Ryan. But all the rookies for the Falcons have contributed. The Skins draft was crap, full of guys who either shouldn't've been drafted, or have claimed they have had trouble adjusting to living on their own.
Gotta tear it down before you really build a contender. Hire Cowher and Colbert. And Danny should back the hell off.
A reminder of Cowher's resume:
15 years.
11 winning seasons.
10 trips to the playoffs.

Monday, December 15, 2008


No other word for it. The Redskins are as bad as the economy. They are the Lehman Bros. of football; the stock market of sports teams. Cash out! Cash out!
It's sad, really. And we should blame ourselves for getting too excited at 6-2. I watched Sunday's game like a rubber necker on the highjway, just pure schendenfreude (yes, I speak bad German).
Not enough fingers to point at all the problems. Vinny? Danny? Zorny? etc. I just keep thinking one more season, one more season. But reality is we are far away from becoming an elite playoff team.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

As the Burgundy and Gold Turns...

So while Clinton Portis acts like a petulant 3-year-old, here's Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch wearing his big boy pants:
Lynch taking blame for Bills' struggles: Most teams drown in a sea of finger-pointing when their seasons spiral toward oblivion. But an unusual thing happened in the Bills' locker room Wednesday. With Buffalo still mathematically in the playoff race, running back Marshawn Lynch threw out a life preserver to his teammates and beleaguered head coach. "You're looking for the right person to blame it on, I'm right here," said Lynch, who had just 31 yards on 13 carries in the Bills' loss to Miami on Sunday. "I'm the feature back here, and I don't feel, as the feature back, I've played like it." Lynch said that when he watches film of himself, he sees opportunities he has missed to make better plays, noting in particular that if he were just a little more patient at times, he could have broken open for big runs. Of course, there's another theory floating around Buffalo these days -- that Lynch simply isn't getting the ball enough. It's one of the many complaints being directed toward Dick Jauron, but Lynch is defending his coach. "Thirteen is more carries than zero, so therefore, I had the opportunity," he said. "I just have to capitalize on it." -- Rachel Nichols from
The Skins have stayed relevant these past 15 years by being a soap opera, not a contending football team. The drama starts at the top, where the boy-owner insists on running the show, leading to all kinds of dysfunction over who's in control. Remember this?
"This is Marty Schottenheimer's organization from the standpoint of the final word," said Snyder, who introduced Schottenheimer at a news conference at Redskins Park. ". . . We needed a proven leader. We needed a proven winner."
The soap opera got a minor reprieve by jumping the shark with the return of Joe Gibbs.
But, like grains of sand through the hourglass, that euphoria was quickly pulled down into the mediocrity that is the modern-day Skins. Does this soap opera remind you of any other franchise?
In a recent interview with Daniel Snyder....

WSJ: Are there owners you admire?

Mr. Snyder: I admire Pat Bowlen [of the Denver Broncos]. He has a tremendous desire to win. And in the offseason, I get along great with Jerry Jones [of the Dallas Cowboys]. We have a lot of fun times together with our wives. We vacation together. But during the season, we are definitely enemies.
Here's the heart of the problem.
The owner of the Skins emulates the meddling, hands-on, fantasy football ownership style of the hated Cowboys. Ever since we poached the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, neck gaggle and all, we've gone downhill. Every soap opera needs its queen bee, the offensive diva that thinks everything should revolve around them. Dallas has theirs, and we've got ours.
So the Skins are emulating an organization that hasn't won a playoff game in
That is in the middle of its latest December swoon.
Whose old-school savior couldn't save (Parcells) them much like Gibbs couldn't save us.
Let's go to the videotape:
Cowboys record since 2000 -- 70-67
Redskins record since 2000 -- 65-77
Cowboys playoff wins since 2000 - 0
Redskins playoff wins since 2000 - 1
Cowboys division championships since 2000 - 1
Redskins division championships since 2000 - 0
Cowboys coaches since 2000: 3
Redskins coaches since 2000: 5
Jerry Jones so wants to prove he can assemble and manage a championship team. 13 years later, he still hasn't done it.
And here we have the model for Dan Snyder. It's not working in either place. When the ownership has a too-close relationship with players and day-to-day operations, it creates a dysfunctional organization. Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones get away with destructive behavior because they know the coaches are too weak to stand up to them when the owner, the guy who acquired them in the first place, has their backs. Same with Portis, who bragged about his close relationship with Snyder.
Nothing will change with the Skins until Daniel Snyder steps away from day-to-day operations and lets them be handled by strong, independent football people who are given the space and power to run a functional organization imbued with accountability and measured, informed decision-making. That means a front office that won't try to buy up its media coverage in order to be able to project a party line that everything is copacetic when it's the organization that needs to change. That won't duck call-in shows after the season takes a turn for the worst.
A functional organization doesn't need a Ministry of Truth spinning its ownership's 65-77 record.
The Cowboys have always been the Skins opposite numbers. Both teams often spoil excellent seasons the other is having. But now we are emulating our nemesis, with predictable results.
If the Cowboys represent the problem, what's the solution?
The Atlanta Falcons.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Build around Nick Young, Crittenton, Butler, JaVale, Blatche, McGee. See what Arenas can bring when he gets back.
Hollinger's analysis of Javaris Crittenton on
2007-08 season: Crittenton was only 19 and didn't really know what he was doing yet, so despite the low PER I took a lot of encouragement from his rookie season. For starters, Crittenton showed NBA athleticism in a few different areas. He ranked sixth among shooting guards in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt and eighth in rebound rate, and he showed he can create offense -- he actually had the second-highest usage rate on the Grizzlies behind Rudy Gay. Additionally, Crittenton's biggest negative is really a positive. His turnover ratio was positively awful, ranking 60th out of 63 shooting guards, but young players with high turnover rates tend to progress much further in future seasons than those who do not. Note that I said "among shooting guards" above. Most of Crittenton's minutes came last year at the 2, and despite his being labeled a point guard coming out of college I think this is almost certainly where his long-term future is. Even as a 2, Crittenton ranked third-worst in pure point rating, and at 6-5 he'll probably have to play the wing for defensive purposes anyway. Scouting report: A quick guard who handles the ball very well for his size, Crittenton only played one year of college ball and thus has to do quite a bit of on-the-job training in the NBA. He still doesn't always know where to be or where to go and he seriously needs to improve as a shooter -- he was 14-of-51 on long 2s, 10-of-37 on 3s and only 69.2 percent from the free-throw line. Crittenton is also thin for his size, which might change as his body fills out but could be a liability if, as I suspect, he ends playing most of his career minutes on the wing. 2008-09 outlook: I don't think Memphis necessarily has to trade one of its three point guards, because Crittenton seems to be more of a 2 to me and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up being O.J. Mayo's primary backup at that position this season. He has the ability to become a very good player, but whether he will or won't depends heavily on how much progress he makes as a shooter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

We lost

I almost made an early exit from the game last night ... then two turnovers ... then two scores ... then ... we lost again. I don't want to be too down on the team, but I guess after feeling excited by the first half of the season, it's harder to face reality. It was also hard to watch the Steelers beat the Cowboys and Philly beat Giants. I mean, I cheered on both winners of those games, but watching the teams move the ball, actually score more than one touchdown, and fight with heart, I realized how far the Redskins need to go.
May be next year? May be a year after that?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sandy, Baby's New Mancrush

Allow me to steal Minor Thread's thunder and start up this blog's next mancrush.

Rey Mauluga:

The first 2 minutes of the above video is from the Rose Bowl last year, where he almost single-handedly destroyed Illinois. He had three sacks, including my personal favorite where the running back picks him up on the blitz and he still knocks over Juice "Not the One doing 6-18" Williams. With one arm. While being blocked. And Williams weighs 235 pounds.

He had those three sacks and an interception, and a helluva lot of of tackles. IN THE FIRST HALF.

So yeah, he's pretty beastly.