"Please Don't Keep Me Wonderin' No Longer"

No one knows why the Burgundy and Gold continue to play this maddening type of football, and I’m tired of pretending I do.  I would contend, the facts indicate they have not improved as much as most of the teams they have played so far this season. From what I’ve seen so far, they will not become a playoff team this year.
Seven clubs, Dallas, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Detroit have gotten better over the course of this season. Houston, Tennessee, and Minnesota are on par with Washington, and only if they were to play Tennessee again would I feel comfortable predicting a victory. How has Shanahan perfected the unusual ability to appear to be in a lot of these games, yet end up losing, or perhaps more frustrating, winning on the last play to make everybody believe they have finally put it all together? Are they on the cusp of the long awaited resurgence, or is this the same  irritating charade? 
There is no palpable offense, and although the defense has played well at times, when it positively, absolutely has to get there, they falter. The special teams are the only unit of this team that plays reasonably well. If it weren’t for Brandon Banks, what would their record be? After looking at Bank’s 77 yard punt return in slow motion, it was apparent Byron Westbrook had a hold that would have affected Banks return; it obviously was not called.
The attitude and energy they have  played with seems to be adequate most of the time. I do believe the coaches are putting in the effort, as well. What it comes down to is Shanahan. He’s in a new environment after a year layoff. He has imported his son’s offense, as well as changing the defensive front to a thirty four. He also brought in a lot of aging players, and then we hear how long it takes to perfect his brand of football on both sides of the ball. By the time they get it, won’t they be too old to contribute at the level that’s needed in the NFL?
We’re seeing more of an infusion of youth. That is good. But isn’t the only reason we’re seeing them because the older players have either been injured or just not able to play at an acceptable pace? 
Shanahan, like all of us, is not beyond self doubt; the longer his offense stays mired in ineptitude; eventually he will begin to ask himself, “Can I still coach at this level?”  His team’s play cannot be what he imagined it would be at this point of the season. There are so many questions to be asked, and we’re not the only ones with inquiring minds. Right now, he too, only has questions. It is reminiscent of Steve Spurrier after his  5-11 season, ”Not too good.”


You've Got to Feel It

Washington showed up yesterday and won a game off Tennessee that was not necessarily a step in the right direction, but more importantly a step. After last week’s demoralizing loss to Philadelphia, nobody was sure they would be able to get out of bed, and nobody would have been surprised, if they had kept swirling in the maelstrom created by the Eagles.
For the time being, it seems they are still willing to play for Shanahan. Thanks in large part yesterday to the ineptitude of the Titans, the determination of the offensive line, and perhaps the season changing strip for a fumble six plays into the game by Lorenzo Alexander.
Defensively, they had a good plan and executed it very well. They did not allow Chris Johnson to get behind them and they frustrated Vince Young the entire afternoon. However, this was not a well played game by Washington’s offense; they played their usual underwhelming game. As well as the line played, they could not get McNabb to step up to their level of play, and this is going to be problematic into the foreseeable future. 
As this game went down to the wire and eventually into overtime, McNabb’s comportment never rose above the Alfred E. Newman, “What me worry”, and it’s not that he needs to worry as much as he has to be in the immediacy of the moment. If he does not possess this simple but elemental quarterbacking characteristic by now, do you really think Santa’s going to bring it this year for Christmas?
After ten games he is, who, I thought, he would be, sporadic and under involved with the offense. His growth as an NFL quarterback has been stunted, and he is inchoate. One could opine he is an unwitting Trojan Horse, sent to Washington with malice and prejudice by the Eagles organization. I did say opine.
Of course everybody is going to resurrect all the platitudes, when talking about Donavon McNabb. Is it possible three weeks ago in Detroit, Shanahan knew after eight weeks what it took Andy Reid eleven years to admit; McNabb isn’t as edgy a quarterback as a lot of people would like to think. 
I shouldn’t be too critical though, as it doesn’t look like the “Gunslinger” will be back in the Twin Cities next year, and considering the way they like to promote and market in Ashburn; I’m feelin’ a whole lot better about Number 5’s extention. In fact I take back everything I just said. Kinda!


ISO: Men with the Hearts of Vikings

There are a lot of prize fights that are stopped by the referee, because one fighter is “out on his feet” as the saying goes. This isn’t the fight game and the match cannot be stopped, but this fighter (the Burgundy and Gold) is “out on it’s feet”. Are they ready for the coup de grace? Sunday will tell the tale. This team has been on the edge of mediocrity  all season, and I have to believe it has not unfolded the way Mike Shanahan had hoped. 
They were flirting with disaster early on, and then came Detroit, where Shanahan could not wait for catastrophe to find him; he beckoned with the benching of McNabb. Did he unwittingly undermine his command in the locker room with this decision? It’s difficult to tell, but if Monday night was any indication, you have to allow it’s possible.
This is why Sunday’s game is so important. Everyone who’s been following this team, must realize by now; they are not a playoff team, but this does not mean they have to capitulate the rest of the season. Philadelphia’s internet efficiency highlighted the shortcomings of a struggling football team. But the big question, after two pitiful performances, is how will they respond in Tennessee?
Another big question, why is Albert Haynesworth still on this team? As an ex-player, what he did on Monday night is hard to overlook. It would be difficult to have him in the locker room and pretend that he wasn’t the only one that didn’t get the job done on that particular play. Jim Hasslett and Mike Shanahan know the difference between flagrant loafing and ineptitude, and Big Al is not a first time offender when it comes to quitting. What message is being sent to the other players and fans by allowing him free rein. There is something unseemly about his presence on this team after all the apparent heartburn he has caused and his latest escapade Monday night.
There is no place for Shanahan and his team to find shelter; they have been exposed for the last two games, but luckily in sports you are only one game away from relief. The Titan’s game is an opportunity for redemption -- for themselves and their fans. This is another uncertain hour for the Burgundy and Gold; McNabb has been anointed the leader, again here is another opportunity to brand yourself as ‘that guy.’ Now is the time, as Robert Service said in a poem for “men with the hearts of Vikings, and the simple faith of a child” to come to the fore.


Upon Further Review

Going into tonight’s NFL game between Washington and Philadelphia, the league is showing that this is the year of sporadic performances. There are no teams or units, including the officiating that are consistently getting it done week in and week out. How can New England be beaten so soundly last week by Cleveland, and then be so dominate on the road in Pittsburg last night? What about the Giants? At home against the Cowboys they allowed themselves to be treated very rudely after five straight compelling wins.
It occurs to me, perhaps we shouldn’t even care. After all, in the big scheme, having a couple of Goliaths in the NFL isn’t going to solve unemployment or heat up our economy. But a lot of us don’t see the big picture all the time and we want to identify with a powerful and dynamic force, because maybe we don’t feel like we’re getting it done week in and week out.
I would ask if a team such as the Cowboys, who have two wins and seven losses, were to make it to the playoffs, and then manage to win the Super Bowl, would they be considered a worthy team? In reality if that were to happen, we would first have to  sweep up all our mental shavings and filings from having our gears sheared. Then after numerous sessions with the therapist of our choice, we’d all have to agree it was quite an accomplishment. 
Let’s not forget the perfect season handed in by New England several years ago. As dominating as they were throughout the regular season and playoffs; they suffered the ignominy of a second place finish in the Big Game. And were forever cast into Super Bowl Loser Hell with all of us formless, featureless souls that will always be trying to score that winning touchdown.
You know the more I think about parity; the more I’m inclined to like it. Without delving into Dante’s Inferno, isn’t the measure of a team, basically the measure of a man or woman. Don’t all the above share the same characteristics, with all having their particular virtues and imperfections. And in the end don’t they all strive for some kind of redemption. Ahh! Enlightenment! This calls for a celebration!
Oh, by the way, I’m itching to see what kind of effort and performance these two teams hand in tonight. Philly is riding high with Vick and would appear to be too much for a team, that appears to be fractured and irresolute. This could be the turning point for the team’s season as well as the careers of a couple of main men. Shanahan and McNabb, how did they become joined at the hip and why did Shanny treat his Siamese brother so harshly? Some of those answers will be unveiled tonight.


Smiling Faces

Shanny Ball, oh that Shanny, is he a rascal? Who knew McNabb was on such thin ice? How do we contemplate the depth and breadth of the Decision. Forget Labron, this was the blockbuster.  It’s almost comical Shanny thinks Rex gives him any chance to win anything at anytime, anywhere, on any day. That Rex’s first play turned into a game, set, match should have come as a surprise to no one. There are all kinds of possibilities as to why the Decision was made, but “Rex gave us a better chance to win the game” was not one of  them. This will play out behind closed doors and we’ll not be privy to the real reason. However.........
If this was Shanny’s rookie head coaching year, what would everybody be thinking right now? Even with Shanny’s two Lombardis, if you think about the Decision long enough, it doesn’t take much to get queazy. The Decision makes Shanny’s body of work so far at Ashburn murky; it had that feel of desperation and panic. Is he as overwound as he appears to be at times?
Everyone has wanted to believe in the changes. They’ve wanted to believe in the new leadership. It appears with one fell swoop, Shanny has cast a cloud of doubt over the entire operation. It’s abundantly clear he’s in charge, but his presence -- is it one of a figurative “sound mind”? What is his real agenda? Most importantly, how has the Decision impacted the team and McNabb? He was the player with the leadership that was so desperately needed on offense. In the big moment of the game and the season yesterday; it was ignored and had zero gravitas.
The outlying question, of course is, can the Decision be shaped into something positive? It’s probably a good thing there are two weeks before the next game, time does indeed heal wounds. I’d hate to have to put money on the side of the bet that says everything is going to be okay, and that it will be better than before. From the time we take our first breath our lives are built on trust. It will take some very special people to overcome yesterday’s breach. Shanny cooly told the world, when he made the Decision, “I don’t trust Donavan McNabb in the big spot.” It seems only human nature for McNabb to have difficulty trusting Shanny from this point going forward. If I recall from a couple of years ago in Philly with Andy at the helm, hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned. When Philly shows up in two weeks at The Warehouse, Donovan won’t know which way to turn. He’ll be playing that song in his mind, “Smiling faces, smiling faces, sometimes they don’t tell the truth, smiling faces, smiling faces......”