Coffee's For Closers

Say what you want about whether Haynesworth has earned his paycheck so far this season, but, there’s a guy yesterday that will definitely need rear view mirrors to pick up his paycheck this week. The sad part is he never set foot on the field in St. Louis.  He was on the sidelines, monitoring the debacle. I’m hard pressed to believe that Mike Shanahan is not accountable for how the B and G played against St. Louis. When a team is dispirited and loses energy, particularly to a team, they were superior over, it reflects poorly on the person charged with their preparation.
As can happen, Washington started poorly, but from the outset I could see St. Louis was waiting for that moment of “here we go again”.  And, it happened right before the half with Washington blocking a field goal after St. Louis held the ball for seven minutes. So, how did Washington allow the Rams to overcome them in the second half without the Ram’s best player on the field? Washington was not properly prepared to play, and that job falls on the head guy.
I watched Coach Shanahan’s press conference immediately following the game; he seemed delusional. He referenced how his team fought back to take control of the game. No, St. Louis was a lame duck team waiting for its opponent to set the pecking order, instead the Rams dictated to Washington. He did not want to acknowledge the fact that his team played with no energy, when it counted, or that they lost focus in the crucial moments of the second half. Washington players seemed fatigued, both mentally and physically.
I don’t think the saga of Albert Haynesworth is all on Shanahan; I think there are external forces at work that Shanahan is powerless to control. But, this lingering malady has to have some affect on this team’s ability to prepare, if only in its collective subconscious. Shanahan should know better, and after this monumental loss now is the time to embrace Haynesworth or send him on his way.
The scary part of this is Shanahan appeared after the game to be someone that had had an omen, and this vision did not please him. It’s as if his last year in Denver was revisiting him, when the team collapsed and lost the last three games to finish 8-8. He seemed to be a man reconciling the truth that only he knew. That, as a coach, he might have lost it. 
They are only three games into the season, and in a weak division this year, but as this team corrects the mistakes of yesterday and looks forward to the Eagles, it’s not just the players that have to reenergize themselves. Now is when a coach earns his keep. Coach Shanahan has a vast field of opportunity in front of him. But, Coach; you know the rules, the Glengarry leads are only for closers.


"Yo Braylon, Been There; Done That"

It wasn’t so much the poor judgement Braylon Edwards demonstrated this week, when D’Brickishaw Ferguson, V. Gholston and he apparently  decided to drive under the influence of alcohol that made me wince. It was the reckless vanity. When I read the account of how his arrest went down, I was fixated with what most people would probably say was an insignificant fact, and that is above his Michigan license plate in two-inch chrome letters were his name and number.
That ‘look at me’ license plate is perplexing. Is he trying to make sure everyone on the road knows who’s inside, even law enforcement? And if they do, is he untouchable? Unfortunately it’s probably a trait that affects many more in professional sports than just Edwards. It feels pretentious. But maybe I’m jealous and projecting what’s really lurking deep inside me. I hope not. 
I was taught early in my career the power and burden of public awareness. In 1973 I grew the Mohawk haircut which could be construed as putting my name and number above my license plate. The truth was, I was rebelling against a perceived lifetime of restraint of self-expression, i.e. conformity.  But after a couple of back page photos of me in the New York Post and Daily News I was stupefied by the sudden rise in my recognizability. I had grown up in a town of 500 people or so, and not surprisingly everyone knew my name there. But, now I was in New York City, population 14 million, and it seemed many knew my name just like the people of Centralia, Kansas. 
This was a sobering moment for me (I appreciate the play on words here by the way), that made me realize notoriety wasn’t necessarily my friend.  Fame, like alcohol, intoxicates. And, again like alcohol is best, when used in moderate ways and for social purposes.
If Edwards has found contrition, we’ll see it immediately, by the way he comports himself  on and off the field. I know from my indiscretions, I felt intensely stupid and small, because we all think we’re better than that, and it stings when we find out we’re not. The same thing can be said for his two accomplices, because from my vantage point they are as guilty as he is, when it comes to poor judgement.  Even though Edwards was the wheel man, his teammates showed the same disregard for the public’s and their own safety and should share in the accountability.
It has occurred to me, drinking can be a team sport, as it may or may not have been in New York City early this past Tuesday morning. But at the very least, his teammates owed it to Edwards and themselves to not let him drive, and find another way home.
We’re all responsible for each other, when it comes to the insidious nature of driving under the influence, and we should start thinking of it that way.   Bar owners and bartenders are being held responsible, why shouldn’t passengers? It’s time to raise the ante.  To paraphrase a Willie Nelson lyric, “Braylon needs your prayers it’s true, but save a few for D’Brick and Vernon too, they only did what they had to do.” 


"Round and round and round they road ... Oh, what an episode!"

I’ll spotlight the Washington/ Houston game in just a second, but before I get to that let’s get an arial view of some other teams in the NFL. The season is still in it’s infancy, but there are teams that may be sinking and teams that may be rising, and if I may steal a lyric from the late Waylon Jennings, “I don’t think Hank done it that way”.
Minnesota, ah yes, Minnesota, now here’s where the jack-knifed semi is sprawled across all lanes on I-35 cutting the Twin Cities off from the rest of the NFL. And, of course the driver of that Viking’s semi was none other than Brett Favre aka Kid Shelleen, (the old fart gunslinger in the movie Cat Ballou). As he was being interrogated, he had blood shot eyes, and there was the strong odor of narcissism on his breath. They towed the truck to Chilly’s chop shop (the only place, where Chilly’s in charge), and he’s got all hands on deck, but it’s too early to tell how quick a turn around they can do.
Down in Dallas a lesson was learned the old fashioned way. Chicago came to play, and Dallas came to lay --- down on the job --- an egg ---- or out. They are disorganized at this juncture of the season, and they now have to go to Houston next week. Houston knows the same thing the Cowboys know: Houston is the better team. Dallas will need luck to win this game and if they don’t get it they will be 0-3 and in free-fall with a bye- week ahead. If I’m Wade Phillips as far as my office goes, I’d be getting all my personal items located.
Houston is a legitimate team; they were on the cusp last year, and were a legitimate turn-key team when this season started two weeks ago. Washington just does not have the ponies to play with the Texans; Houston has too much talent and fire power. Same can be said about Green Bay.  We all know Aaron Rodgers can play, but that defense looked dominate yesterday, albeit against the Bills. Got to mention the Jets. I thought they were a lovable bunch of blowhards with a Cowardly Lion for a quarterback --- not this week!
Alright let’s take a look at what happened yesterday at the Warehouse in Landover. I thought going into this game Houston would stomp a mud hole in the Burgundy and Gold’s derriere. Washington was on the Texans as a cat jumps a mouse, but they must have known early on; they were not engaged with a defenseless rodent.
The first half Washington played close to a flawless game, sans a running game. McNabb was getting the ball to receivers, that many times were running with no defenders close to them. He was getting no good protection and they were not making mistakes.
The defense sacked Schaub 5 times with numerous hits, but in the end they did not have any dominate defensive linemen. They are going to have trouble stopping the run and unless Hasslett continues to confuse the offenses with ingenuity, the pass rush will be spotty. The reason Houston did not run the ball more was not the dominance of Washington, but the circumstances of the game.
The Washington defense has some dominate players; the problem is they have few. Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry, and London Fletcher are those players, and these guys are as good as anybody in the league at their respective positions. After that, Rocky McIntosh gets an honorable mention and then poof, it’s the end of the line. On offense it’s even more tenuous, who are the playmakers? Moss, Cooley, and McNabb are those guys, but in all fairness they are not among the league elite. 
The players did not choose this roster --- that distinction lies with Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan. Regardless of who’s on the roster or who’s not on the roster, it appears to me, Shanahan and his other mad scientists are working overtime in the laboratory to give Igor life.


Coachin' 'em Up -- Don't Horse 'em and Don't Force 'em

Game two in the NFL is upon us already, not to mention the Maryland deer bow season. As quickly as the everything seems to be moving, I think I’ll head to the garage and grab my snow shovel, by the time I get there and get outside; there’ll be something waiting for me. 
I haven’t checked the weather report, but I’ve got a hunch it’s going to be a fair weekend weather-wise. Therefore, I’ll have to figure out, what I will do tomorrow. As of now there are two options, take Badger (my Cesky Foucek dog) fishing on the Potomac (he doesn’t fish, but sure enjoys chasing the fish away for me) or take Badger out to a  local farm and let him hunt. Now he doesn’t know it, but I’d be surprised if we bumped into any upland or forest birds that would make the hair stand up on the back of his neck. 
I’d be so grateful if he pointed a covey of quail, locked up on a lone grouse or woodcock. Of course the season isn’t in and I couldn’t shoot anything, but he needs to get on with his hunting training after all that is what he was bred to do. Which, now that I think of it, makes me the coach. And unfortunately, this is not a kind happenstance for Badger, because he instinctively knows more about what we are trying to do than his coach.
But, as his coach, even though I may not be an expert, when it comes to training a bird dog, I shall always keep two things in mind. First, to make sure it’s what he wants to do, and, having been bred for hunting since the 13th century, I feel pretty confident; it’s what he wants to do. When he sees me put my boots on, he is almost uncontrollable, because he knows we’re heading into the timber. Second, I don’t ever want the sport to not be fun. If he’s had enough, it’s time to pack it up.
When we project our aspirations and dreams onto someone else, we rob that person of their life and their ability to choose for themselves the pursuits that interest them. And also, when we force anyone, who is learning something for the first time, to continue on task after they have lost interest or are exhausted, a negative experience will be what is gained.
There will be a lot of us doing some coaching this fall, so let’s all keep a couple things in mind, when our “rookies” struggle, let’s cut them some slack, and leave the fire and brimstone for the Baptist preachers. Yo, Badger “Tally Ho the fox”!


Post Game Diesel Fuel: Beware of the "Mad Men"

I think we’re all suckers for the pitchman; I know I can be, and last night was a fine example of what I’m referencing. Instead of looking at what the boys in Vegas were saying (Dallas -3), I had to use a long-tom on the out come, because we were talking about Dallas. Dallas, the team that has the new stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played. Dallas, the team that has all that talent. Dallas, the team that has those powder blue uniforms and the helmet with the star.
Yep, I bought into they’re a top 3 or 4 team in the NFL. They may become that, but right now, as a lot of races go, everybody is bunched in the pack. And, it should be pointed out Washington is right there with them, along with the Giants, and even the Eagles. 
Dallas has problems with their offensive line right now; can they patch it before they fall flat? Washington has problems with their offense period; where are the playmakers? The Giants have problems with consistency; will it be another year like last year for them? And, lastly the Eagles have numerous problems, the most salient being; what are they going to do about their quarterback.
So I’m going to do as Ulysses did in the Illiad, in dealing with the Sirens.  l’m either going to seal my ears with wax, or have my crew lash me to the mast, so that my ship of predictions won’t be driven into the the rocks. By the way, who makes the preferred wax and bindings? Hmm, I’m looking over this advertisement and it says............