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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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