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Saying Goodbye To The Washington Times Beat Guys

Posted by Matt Terl on December 31, 2009 – 5:02 pm

In a fit of what I can only describe as monumental stupidity, the Washington Times has elected to eliminate the Sports section from their newspaper, choosing instead to focus more on politics and who knows what else. Which means that as of today, veteran beat reporters David Elfin and Ryan O’Halloran will be — for all intents and purposes — off the Redskins beat, and DC is a one-broadsheet sports town. (A fate that Dan Steinberg has already lamented.)

The two were given a farewell party from the Redskins PR staff and their media peers today, with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, general manager Bruce Allen, and chief operating officer Dave Donovan dropping in to say their goodbyes as well. There was cake, and sandwiches, and the presentation of customized jerseys to each of them, numbered to commemorate their years on the beat.

They’re two different kinds of guys — Elfin, who grew up a Redskins fan until he shelved his fandom to begin covering the team in 1989 (and who was instrumental in getting Art Monk finally elected to the Hall of Fame); the younger O’Halloran a Minnesota fan but also objective in the classic sports reporter mold — but on the occasion of their departure I thought it would be worth checking in to get some of their memories of their time — as ESPN980’s Frank Hanrahan puts it — on the Redskins beat. Read more »

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Thursday, December 31: Wale's Halftime Performance

Posted by Matt Terl on December 31, 2009 – 10:27 am

There are a few versions of Wale’s halftime performance from Sunday night’s game already online; here’s another. This one has the advantage of soundboard audio, so you can actually (mostly) hear the vocals and understand the lyrics. The beats and instruments, not quite so much, but still. Read more »

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Reed Doughty Goes To IR Somewhat Satisfied

Posted by Matt Terl on December 30, 2009 – 3:53 pm

The Redskins moved Reed Doughty to injured reserve today with a high ankle sprain, ending his season with one game left to play. This may seem like only a small step up from last season, when he went on injured reserve with a back injury with ten games left to play, but Doughty doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m thankful I got to play as long as I did [this season],” he said. “I’m healthy and an ankle injury is NOT my back, so I’m thankful for that.”

Here’s the other thing Doughty can be thankful for: he’s quietly had a very good year.
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Wednesday, December 30: Your London Fletcher Snubhub [UPDATED]

Posted by Matt Terl on December 30, 2009 – 9:45 am

So congratulations again to Brian Orakpo for making the Pro Bowl. It’s a well-deserved honor, and hopefully only the first of a long career. But, seriously, this London Fletcher snub thing is getting ridiculous. Orakpo handled it with class and grace last night — both in conversation and again on a conference call with reporters — but he shouldn’t have had to do that at all.

The good news is that, finally, the national media agrees, and Fletcher’s snubbing isn’t just a dirty little secret anymore. Here, then, is a collection of reactions to the news that London Fletcher once again was left off the Pro Bowl roster.

Clark Judge,

London Fletcher was right. He is the Susan Lucci of the NFL. The Washington Redskins linebacker should have been chosen to his first Pro Bowl this season, and I thought he was a dead-bolt cinch. Then I forgot: It’s Fletcher. There’s a better chance of it snowing in Phoenix than Fletcher making the Pro Bowl, and don’t ask me why.

(Judge’s whole article is devoted entirely to Fletcher, and it’s well worth reading.)

Jim Trotter,

Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher: It’s time for fans, coaches and players to hang their heads in shame that Fletcher has never appeared in a Pro Bowl. He is as consistent as the sun rising in the East. Every year he leads his team in tackles and ranks among the league leaders in that category. His intensity is matched only by his leadership. You have to wonder if this pro’s pro will ever receive his just recognition.

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Brian Orakpo Named To The Pro Bowl, Only Redskins Representative

Posted by Matt Terl on December 29, 2009 – 7:15 pm

Linebacker/defensive end Brian Orakpo has been named to the Pro Bowl, the only Redskin scheduled to make the trip this year and the first Redskins defensive rookie EVER to be named to the Pro Bowl.

Orakpo was at home, watching a movie and eating cookies — “Renaldo Wynn’s cookies that his wife gave us for Christmas,” he said — when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder called to tell him the news and congratulate him on the honor.

As you’d expect, Orakpo was excited by the Pro Bowl nod — and surprised as well. “You know, first year, you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “All you’re trying to do is make a name for yourself, just so people have respect for you, the way you play, and you’re just tryin’ to do the best you can. Obviously our season has not been that great, and that was more important to me than individual stuff, but at the end of the season you can reflect back and see that you did have a great season, and that’s what the Pro Bowl really meant: that I did some good things throughout the season and people noticed them.”

Maybe now Dick Stockton will manage to get his name right for an entire game.

Orakpo was the only Redskins player to be named to the game (although the alternates aren’t officially announced until and unless they’re needed, so we can keep our fingers crossed for that, at least), which means that London Fletcher was overlooked again. That disappointing fact wasn’t lost on Orakpo. Read more »

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Tuesday, December 29: Vote For The Worst Loss (Or Win) From 2009

Posted by Matt Terl on December 29, 2009 – 2:39 pm

Sure, the 2009 Redskins season still has one game left, this Sunday’s contest at San Diego. But that contest is pretty much meaningless to both teams; the Chargers have locked up their division title and a first-round playoff bye, while the Redskins … well, you know the deal with the Redskins by this point. Also, that game will actually take place in 2010 (the year we make contact!), which lets me exclude it from this post for being chronologically challenged.

It seemed like I heard almost every loss this season described as the worst in Redskins history. A few escaped the accusation — the opener against the Giants, maybe one of the Eagles games — but not many. And to balance those couple of non-horrible losses out, there was at least one WIN this year that people completely hated.

So here they are: the losses (plus the Rams win), along with a couple of key reasons they were terrible, some of what I wrote about them at the time, and a few thoughts in hindsight. Once you’ve finished reliving this depressing three-and-a-half months, you get your chance to vote for which of them really holds up the best (worst?) in the awfulness sweepstakes. And remember: whichever one of these wins the vote probably becomes the de facto worst loss in Redskins history, just because.

So here we go:

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That Fourth Quarter Punt: Still Frustrating

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 2:47 pm

As you might have surmised from my fourth quarter thoughts last night, I went down to the locker room more than just a little perplexed by the team’s decision to punt the ball away with 6:00 minutes left in the game while trailing by three scores.

A brief summary of my complaints, refined after a few hours sleep:

  • I don’t like punting there because it feels too much like giving up. Even given that the defense was playing well, expecting them to get the ball back with enough time to score not once, not twice, but THREE times … that seems like a stretch. And, to be honest, if you believe the defense can stop the Cowboys that quickly, that’s all the MORE reason not to punt: if you don’t convert the first down, trust the defense to hold the Cowboys to a field goal and it’s STILL a three score game. So to me, punting seemed like giving up.
  • As a result, my dislike was doubled when the team started using defensive timeouts trying to get the ball back.
  • And it tripled when — after GETTING the ball back, against all odds — they didn’t seem to be pressing downfield.

So all of that was in my head during last night’s locker room session, which is probably why I found myself asking Hunter Smith about it.

This was largely nonsensical; Smith doesn’t ELECT to punt, he just punts when the punt team is in. Asking him about this decision was roughly analogous to interrogating a gun for information about a stick-up. Nevertheless, it’s what I found myself doing.

“I understand the frustration,” Smith said, “but at the same time it wasn’t like it was fourth-and-inches. We had a substantial amount — fourth and long — and at that point if you don’t get it, then you don’t live to play another day.”

Smith did tell me that there wasn’t much delay in calling for the punt. “That’s a real gray area they’re in there,” he said, “statistically, I mean. They have a piece of paper that tells them when you’re down by this with this much left and this many timeouts. It’s just a gray area, ’cause on that part of the field, you’re thinking maybe we can pin ’em deep, force the punt and get the ball in good field position.”

In the end, Smith said the only thing he could say: “Coach Zorn is the coach, and he makes those calls; when he makes that call I go in and punt.”

Well, during his press conference today, Coach Zorn was asked about exactly that.
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Revisiting That Positive Sequence With Chris Wilson

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 12:10 pm

After the second quarter of last night’s debaclicious game, I described a three play sequence that represented — to me — the most consistent stretch of positive Redskins performance of the entire evening:

  1. Chris Wilson sniffs out and shuts down a Cowboys reverse for a 13-yard loss.
  2. Reed Doughty intercepts a tipped Tony Romo pass.
  3. The Redskins overturn an apparent Jason Campbell fumble via a successful replay challenge.

After the game, I was able to get a little bit of follow-up to two of these. (There really wasn’t much to say about the replay challenge, and the fact that I’m listing it as a positive play grows more and more depressing by the minute.)

Anyhow, Doughty hobbled into the postgame locker room wearing a walking boot on his sprained ankle — an injury that looked much, much worse when it occurred — and shook his head. “Well, this has been a great season,” he said, grimacing. “Finally get my first career interception and wind up writhing in pain on the field.”

If you’re scoring at home, one of my positive moments was a replay challenge; the other was described sarcastically by the main guy involved.

Fortunately, Chris Wilson’s play was legitimately positive, and he was willing to describe it in more detail.
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Monday, December 28: A Milder Albert Haynesworth

Posted by Matt Terl on December 28, 2009 – 1:19 am

Albert Haynesworth‘s locker was mobbed after the game this evening. Between his comments to the Washington Post earlier this week criticizing defensive coordinator Greg Blache and his history of holding forth at length after grim primetime losses, it didn’t make sense to be anywhere else in the locker room.

But this wasn’t the disappointed, miserable Haynesworth from the post-Eagles loss; nor was it the more fiery, frustrated Haynesworth from last Monday night’s game. Instead this was a milder, more amiable Haynesworth, one who couched his messages of frustration in some gentle, self-deprecating humor and tried to clarify his earlier statements in plain-spoken language.

Clarification: the leadership issue.

AFTER THE GIANTS GAME: “I just think we’re all goin’ different directions and we need somebody to lead us in the right direction.”

THIS EVENING: “A contract don’t make you, as far as leadership. I don’t like to … I’ve never been a guy that wants to talk, get in front of the team and say whatever. It’s not me. I just like to go play the game and, y’know, do that. I’m not a guy that’s gonna try to, like, hype up people and all that stuff. I don’t even wanna be a captain and go out there in the middle of the coin toss, because I consider the other team an enemy, and I don’t wanna shake hands until after the game.”

Clarification: his relationship with Greg Blache.

THIS PAST WEEK: Haynesworth basically accused Blache of not using him effectively in his defensive schemes. It was not a friendly-sounding article.

THIS EVENING: “I talked to Blache and we’re all great and everything’s fine. I mean, we’re grown men. You can disagree and that’s fine. We don’t hate each other; there’s no hate, no love lost or anything between us, and we’re still the same. [We’ve talked] in different ways, a little bit, like in his office and stuff, but what I said Monday night … I mean, it’s frustration. I’m sick of losing. I’m not a loser; this team’s not losers. We’re a good team, we’ve got a lot of talent, we just need to put it together.”

Clarification: the quality of his teammates.
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Redskins vs. Cowboys – Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Matt Terl on December 27, 2009 – 11:30 pm

In an awful game full of frustrating things, the punt was — for me — the worst. Yes, it was fourth-and-11. But with 5:55 left in the game, trailing by 17 points, here’s what you are doing by punting: you are ending the game. It’s roughly equivalent to taking a knee on offense while losing. I don’t see how it could signify anything other than complete and utter surrender, although I look forward to the postgame interviews to hear how I might be wrong.

But wait, it gets better:

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