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Tuesday Redskins Links – 10/7

Posted by Matt Terl on October 7, 2008 – 12:03 pm

Just two links today, but they’re both long ones.

  • Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback spends as many words on the Redskins as I can remember – certainly the most that were this favorable. Sure, you have to sift through about eleven and a half million other words about the financial crisis and TV shows, and you have to translate his needlessly complicated nicknames (look for “Nanticokes”), but – as is usually the case with Easterbrook – the good bits are worth it.
  • A week before I started this gig, I read a long profile of Jim Zorn that was part of what made me so excited to see the new coach in action. (I didn’t notice at the time, but it turns out to have been a David Elfin piece in the Washington Times.) I hadn’t thought about it since then, but an emailer today made mention of it, and I reread it to respond to his question. I was pleased to find that it holds up really well, especially in light of the Jim Zorn we’ve seen through the first five weeks of the season. Since I didn’t have the platform to recommend it when I first read it, I do so now.

  • (Zorn photo from the excellent Becky’s Seattle Seahawks Website.)

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Clinton Portis Keeps Things So Medium They Become Medium Rare

Posted by Matt Terl on October 7, 2008 – 11:49 am

Photo by Mike Rudy

Clinton Portis was interviewed on the Dan Patrick Show today. No funny characters or anything like that, unless you consider The Most Humble Player on Earth to be a character. At least for the duration of this interview, Portis seems to have taken the message of “keeping it medium” completely to heart. The amusing results include describing the Redskins as “just scrapping to stay a part of the division” and naming Jason Campbell as the fourth best QB in the NFC East.

You can listen to the whole interview here, and I assure you that it’s worth it. For those of you without audio capability, here are a few choice selections.

Asked who the best team in the division is:
“Well, the Giants are the Super Bowl champs. They the team that everybody’s gunning for, and that’s the team who should have the spotlight. For us, we’re just guys trying to find a way to get to where they’ve been.”

Asked if you can say that Redskins have proven more this year:
“You can’t. Because the Giants won the Super Bowl. We didn’t. The Giants playing great, and you’ve gotta give them their credit. We really don’t even want that kinda pressure amongst us as a team, we don’t feel like we’re the team to beat in the NFL.”

Asked about the team being under the radar:
“Us as a team – we’re gonna go out and play like we under the radar, we’re not gonna give in to the headlines and ‘the Redskins the best team in the NFC East.’ At the end of the season if you call me back and you can say that, it’ll be a great conversation between us, but for right now, I don’t think we’ve done nothin’, we’ve taken it one game at a time, this season can easily turn around. So what we’ve gotta do is focus and find a way to continue to win.”

Asked for the best quarterback in the division:

“Gotta be Eli Manning, that’s the Super Bowl champ.”

Asked for the second best:

“Probably Tony Romo, he led his team to 13-3 last year.”

Third best:

“Well, I would think Donovan McNabb.”

And Jason Campbell?

“He the one flying under the radar.”

Plenty, plenty more in the interview.

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Tuesday, October 7: Randle El Hip Hip Hoorays

Posted by Matt Terl on October 7, 2008 – 8:47 am

It’s been up on Redskins.com for awhile, and it’s also been picked up around the blog-o-world, but if you haven’t seen Antwaan Randle El leading the “hip hip hooray” after the win over the Eagles, it’s an excellent way to start off the day.

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Monday Redskins Links – 10/6

Posted by Matt Terl on October 6, 2008 – 5:46 pm

A few links and a few last notes from the weekend.

  • DC Pro Sports Report collects some of the rave reviews the Redskins received around the internet, while Warren Montgomery over at DieHardRedskinsFan looks at the reaction of Philadelphia-area commenters. (Those commenters, incidentally, seem crazy to me; I can’t understand how you turn on McNabb, Reid, and the whole system after what they’ve accomplished there. Whatever.)
  • The last time the Redskins won two back-to-back NFC East road games was on October 19, 1987, long enough ago that babies born on that day will be able to legally drink in a couple of weeks. (Also, that was Black Monday, when the Dow Jones dropped by a then-whopping 500 points. Hope everyone stocked up on hairspray and acid-washed jeans for the big 1987 revival.)
  • Cornerback Sheldon Brown on the Eagles fans on Delaware Online: “It felt like we were on the road for some reason.” I had the same feeling about the Philly fans, and I’m glad to hear that wasn’t them at their legendary finest.
  • Redskins.com TV camera guy Marc Dress struck again. After sending me on a wild goose chase to the stadium in Carolina, he sent me a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call in Philly. You can imagine how amusing that was – and apparently I lucked out, because when I told them I hadn’t asked for the first guy to come up and knock, they canceled Dress’s 5:00 a.m. follow-up call also.
  • And for today’s Jim Zorn link, something a little less zany and a little more informative – appropriate, following his comments in his press conference. Barry Svrluga’s story on the developing relationship between Zorn and Jason Campbell fits that bill, and it’s a nice long read as well.

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Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El: Good Guys

Posted by Matt Terl on October 6, 2008 – 3:45 pm

A few people sent me the link to a story in the Frederick News-Post this weekend, about Chris Cooley driving up to Jefferson, MD, (west of Frederick) to visit with Ron Frazier. Frazier is a lifelong Redskins fan who was diagnosed with colon cancer, and a family friend contacted the team to see if they could, according to the article, “give Ron and Kathy one more joyful memory.”

The Redskins asked if it was possible for Ron to visit the team for a practice, but he is no longer able to travel. Instead, Cooley drove to Jefferson from Virginia on Friday after practice to meet the Fraziers. Two dozen friends, family members and neighbors were there. When the neighborhood children heard what was happening, they ran over, too.

Cooley posed for dozens of pictures and autographed everything in sight: footballs; posters; pennants; photos; hats – and, of course, a whole bunch of No. 47 jerseys. He stayed for nearly an hour, answering inside football questions, making small talk and discussing new coach Jim Zorn.

I read the article – it really is a terrific story – and set it aside to include in today’s Redskins links. As I watched the game, though, one particular part of the article came back to me: “Cooley promised to send Ron a keepsake football if he scored a touchdown Sunday.” So that was hanging in the balance, along with the score of the game, as Cooley’s touchdown catch was reviewed.

Then, today, I noticed this in the Washington Times:

Walking out of the Washington Redskins’ locker room after Sunday’s 23-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Chris Cooley clutched the football he caught for his first touchdown of the season, part of a career day for the tight end.

But the game ball wasn’t for him.

Cooley intended to sign the football and award it to receiver Antwaan Randle El, who threw the pass Cooley caught for an 18-yard score.

I found Cooley in Redskins Park today and asked him about it. “I kinda got mixed up, because I told El during the week that I’d give it to him,” he shook his head. “I’m gonna give it to [Frazier]. I’m sure El does not care.”

He also mentioned enjoying the experience as a whole. “It was cool,” he said. “They were saying they have thirteen or fourteen seats in the lower bowl, and they all wear 47 jerseys.”

I asked if he had told El about the mix-up yet; he hadn’t, but I was fortunate enough to be around when he did, and it took Randle El about an eighth of a second to show himself to be every bit as classy as Cooley expected.

“Let me sign it too,” he said, after hearing the story. “That’ll work. That’s real good, actually.”

My recording of the conversation is hard to hear, as I just clicked on my recorder while the two talked, with the microphone not particularly close to either of them, so Cooley’s response is somewhat muddled. “I’ll bring it in this week,” he says, meaning the game ball. Then something muffled about visiting the Fraziers, and then, “He’s a really good guy.” It’s not clear if he’s referring to Frazier or Randle El, and in this case it can probably be safely applied to both of them, and Cooley as well.

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Day After the Game: Coach Zorn's Post-Eagles Press Conference

Posted by Matt Terl on October 6, 2008 – 2:44 pm

No major injuries incurred, no disastrous plays, a four game winning streak … these things are all indisputably terrific, but they do somewhat reduce the interesting soundbites at the coach’s press conference.

  • There’s an interesting balance in Coach Zorn: he’s clearly proud of his accomplishments, he enjoys playcalling and coming up with clever options, but he never fails to put the bulk of the credit on his players and their execution. “We get good response because our guys are executing,” he said. “There’s a 50/50 chance I could be a goat as well.” And then on the other hand, when the Washington Post’s Jason Reid mentioned that he had to believe coaching was an element in the win streak, Zorn immediately said “Absolutely.” He paused to let that sink in, then continued, “In my assistant coaching career, I felt like we were about 30 percent of success on the field.” He did acknowledge that he hadn’t worked up percentages for head coaching, but it’s an impressive balance he strikes.
  • He also seems not to want to be pigeonholed as Wacky Guy or Maverick Coach. (Note: “maverick” here is used without any political connotations whatsoever; I mention this to forestall any side arguments in the comments.) “I hope it’s not borderline crazy,” he said of his aggressive playcalling. “I hope it’s sound. That’s what I want to be. I’ve also punted on fourth and inches when we could’ve gone for it.”
  • Probably the most interesting were his comments on rookie punter Durant Brooks. “Our punter has to improve his hangtime and distance,” he said plainly. “There’s not a whole lot we can say other than, ‘Yep, he’s gotta punt better.'” The optimistic view, Coach? “He was an OUTSTANDING punter a week ago…. I’m not gonna be in such a hurry to make sure that he’s gone.”
  • Zorn used the Devin Thomas incident, when he was reprimanded by his teammates after pulling down a penalty that negated a Santana Moss first down, as “an example of how our team is trying to play together” and how they’re buying into the team-over-individual concept. That’s a positive spin on a frustrating play by the rookie.
  • Add another to the “violent” count. “I looked at how violent our running backs play – those things impressed me,” he said, as part of a description of what he noticed watching film on his new team this offseason.
  • You might have heard mention that the Redskins have completed their divisional road schedule, and that their next three opponents are unlikely to even show up and can be safely ignored. “That’s probably the scariest thing out there for me,” Zorn said, adding, “I’m not gonna dance the jig” to celebrate the upcoming opponents.
  • Cornelius Griffin is scheduled to have an MRI on his shoulder today, even though he continued playing after the injury, and Malcolm Kelly’s knee is swollen after his limited action yesterday. (Which almost seems not to matter, as Zorn reiterated that Kelly has a lot of work to do on his routes before he’s ready to play.)

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More Offensive Players Making Playcalls, At Least Theoretically

Posted by Matt Terl on October 6, 2008 – 1:06 pm

So on the fourth down to ice the game, Clinton Portis called the play. Here’s Peter King’s summary:

Fourth-and-one at the Eagles’ 38, 2:48 left, Washington up 23-17, Philly out of timeouts. Tricky call here. If Washington gets stopped, the Eagles take over with about 2:40 left and 62 yards to travel for the winning score. If Washington makes it on a running play and stays inbounds and plays its time-strategy cards right, the ‘Skins should be able to run out the clock by kneeling three times and going home with a dramatic win.

Zorn had his thinking cap on, with Jason Campbell and Portis and a couple of the coaches on the sidelines. “I called the formation first,” he said, “and then he called the play.”

In his press conference a few minutes ago, Coach Zorn described thinking about three different plays for the situation. And then “Clinton rolls by me and says, ‘Gimme the draw.'” Thinking about it further, Zorn added, “It wasn’t necessarily there – he WILLED it…. We got the first down because Clinton willed his way to those two yards.”

I wrote at the time that it was “one of the single gutsiest calls I’ve seen in recent memory,” although my original draft described Coach Zorn as possessed of “guts of tungsten,” only I didn’t write “guts.” See the DC Sports Bog’s attempts to find a newspaper-friendly way to describe that playcall for much more in that vein; the point is, it was a heck of a call, and it turns out that Portis was the one who made it.

So I asked around a bit today to see what some other guys would’ve gone for.

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Monday, October 6: On the Road to a Win With Rock Cartwright

Posted by Matt Terl on October 6, 2008 – 9:35 am

A slightly frightening portion of my mail is made up of questions about traveling with the team. People want to see the team plane; when I explain that it’s not some sort of decadent private jet, but a chartered commercial aircraft – just picture the last plane you were on, only filled with Redskins players – they want to see that. People want to see the team train; I explain that, like the team plane, it’s a chartered Amtrak that looks more or less like any other train, and people still want to see it.

So I brought a camera myself, but my view of the team plane and train (and hotel) just looked like a plane or train (or hotel). What makes the travel interesting, I figured, would be a player’s eye view. So I gave the camera to Casey Rabach last week and let him do some filming. That hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped – I’m having technical problems with some of Casey’s video files, so all you’ve seen from that was the few seconds of the fans at Redskins Park. Hopefully, you’ll see more of his stuff as the week progresses.

For the trip to Philly, I gave the camera to Rock Cartwright, and those videos seem to have turned out fine. I’m still in the process of editing what he gave me into a manageable clip (or series of clips), but for now, here’s Rock’s view of the team in line for the escalator at Union Station, preparing to board the train to Philly.

(Click through the image to get to the video; proper embedding should be enabled soon.)

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Redskins @ Eagles – Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on October 5, 2008 – 4:35 pm

  • The second down goalline call – the complicated incomplete pass to Sellers – was met with some disapproval from the people next to me up here in the press box, some musing that maybe Zorn sometimes gets a little too clever in straightforward situations. The straightforward Clinton Portis run on the next play elicited immediate, sheepish apologies.
  • Chris Horton, again in the right place at the right time, makes a crucial stop on the kickoff. This stop combines with a penalty to start the Eagles seemingly where the Redskins want them. But it’s Horton’s first visibly negative play – the non-touch of Reggie Brown after his catch – that’s looming much larger in this drive.
  • Holding the Eagles to a field goal after second and one on the two is huge. Great stop by Khary Campbell, Andre Carter and just about everyone else on the field on that third down. Man, this team is fun to watch.
  • There was some debate in the press box about if they should’ve gone for two after that last Portis touchdown. At the time, I was opposed, but the math at this point (leading by six, where it would be seven if you made the two and five if you missed it) certainly seems compelling. I guess I need a refresher course in the two point conversion chart. Let’s hope it doesn’t come into play.
  • Something they really like in Philadelphia: Rocky. The Rocky clips on the video screens here start with the pregame, and continue right on through to crucial third down situations. I am already bored by them, but they certainly seem to make the fans here happy.
  • Going for a fourth down conversion there was one of the single gutsiest calls I’ve seen in recent memory. Faking the pass prior to the handoff just makes it moreso. That was completely impressive.
  • Less impressive? Eagles fans, quietly streaming out at the two minute warning. Yes, the game was over all but officially. Yes, their team blew a 14 point lead. Yes, I imagine this would be very demoralizing. But after everything I had heard, this was an incredibly anti-climactic display. I’m much more impressed with the die-hards who have stuck around down by the Redskins tunnel to boo the individual players as they run off. Maybe everyone else is outside throwing eggs at passing traffic.
  • That is an enormous win for the Redskins, and a bad loss for the Eagles. I realize I’m not breaking new ground with that insight, but it’s still true.

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Redskins @ Eagles – Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on October 5, 2008 – 3:34 pm

  • One other way this is similar to the Giants game: despite the feeling in the first quarter feeling that the Redskins were being dominated, they’re still very much in the game. Like the Giants game, the defense gave up one initial drive before strengthening, and the offensive started with a completely ineffective possesion.
  • For the halftime show, a local cover band performed as assortment of songs, including U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. Maybe it’s just me, but neither of those tunes really gets me fired up for the third quarter (and Sunday Bloody Sunday is, from a certain point of view, a potentially grim choice).
  • Down on the field for the first half of the third quarter, my head on a swivel as advised, although no one seemed particularly agressive toward me, or even toward the brave individual Redskins fans in the stands. In fact, the noise and energy level down on the field was notably less overwhelming than it was at FedExField a couple weeks ago. Some noises do stand out, though: Carlos Rogers’s arrival the same time as the ball on a third down Donovan McNabb pass sounds like a fastball hitting a catcher’s mitt, for example. And the sound of a good play (for the visiting team) on the sidelines is actually the clack-clack-clack of the photographers’ motor drives as they all try to get the perfect shot.
  • I was standing just about at the line of scrimmage on that Randle El touchdown pass to Cooley, and … I’ll be honest, I wasn’t at ALL sure that he was behind the line. Glad that the video disagreed with me.
  • Well, the offense certainly seems to be clicking now. At some point, their ability third-down conversions swung dramatically. Despite my initial comments, this no longer looks quite so much like the Giants game, but in a good way.

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