Have Some Fruitcake

It turns out with the Burgundy and Gold’s season in the bag, they have become very difficult to follow. It’s not because Rex is the QB; they would have the same lack of sex appeal if Ole Number 5 were quarterbacking. All the new guys, who are playing as well as they can, aren’t really getting me revved up. The problem lies in the fact that with one game to play, no one knows where this team stands. They can’t travel; they have no I.D. and they appear to have no idea. This Rex Grossman nonsense is exactly that.
My suspicious mind is caused by what I saw last night in Atlanta. What a difference a QB makes. I’m not going to get all gooey, gooey like Gruden did when he referenced Drew Brees as  a “rare cowboy”, or Steve Young by saying he’s among maybe two other people in the world, who can do what he does. But those guys throwing passes last night are elite players, and their sublime play take their respective teams to their particular levels of excellence. 
Without Mr. Big Time QB, there is no system that turns sow’s ears into silk purses. Does Kyle know this? And, this in turn shows how far back the Burgundy and Gold really are in relationship to their competitors. Kyle Shanahan is the mastermind of an offense that has accomplished nothing in the big leagues, and yet his father sings the praises of his “system.”
I thought it’s the sorcerer, not the apprentice, that knows how to summon the magic. My gentle suggestion to Mike, “ Fire Kyle!” between the three of you, and this includes  Number 5.  This was botched so badly, two of you have to leave. We really don’t need the “soap opera” that comes with the father, son, head coach, offensive coordinator relationship. When I think of the machinations the two have cooked up this fall, I don’t feel particularly “Zestfully clean”.
I think Mike was let go in Denver partially because he forgot how to play defense. Didn’t he go through four or five defensive coordinators there, in the last five years or so?  If he starts right now, I’m not sure the fans will get their fruitcake by next Christmas.. 


Need Blasting Caps

A slight melancholy came over me after the defeat at Dallas. It was like both barrels discharging simultaneously, a real jolt! I came to the conclusion that it’s possible, Coach Shanahan had come to the conclusion he should have come to when he signed on -- that it was going to take time. When I took that in, I realized we’re all headed into a type of therapy --- the long and painful way back to recovery.
I recall him saying something like this back in January. But that was the last mention until recently. “When he stood that day with a hope that was dead in the glare of the truth at last. He had failed, he had failed; he’d just done things by half. The season had been a jolly good joke on him, and now was the time to laugh.” (paraphrasing of Robert Service, The Men Who Don’t Fit In)
Shanahan should have figured out early on this was a raze site not a fixer-upper. For reasons unknown, he called off the wrecking ball. Instead, he defied the sagging main timber in the foundation that would be Old Number 92, and then decided to make the whole construct top heavy by expanding with a superfluous addition that would be Old Number 5. Not typical know-how for someone in-the-know. 
Ironically, with the crash that was heard last week, when the facade was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, he has turned into a right jolly old elf.  As odd as it sounds, this is the first time Shanahan was probably ever okay with missing the playoffs, because the specter of having Old Number 5 take them there, would have caused catatonia.
If they actually do bring in the H.E.O’s (heavy equipment operators), and we’re looking to 2012 as the earliest for significant improvement, then I have to drink a stern toast to Shanahan and simply say ‘here, here.’ Like they say, all things must come to an end and be careful what you ask for. I’ve been pointing in this direction for so long, now that they may actually take it, seems to take my bully pulpit away. Kind of like that movie Kirk Douglas was in, “There Was A Crooked Man,” in the end after struggling to get back to where he’d left the loot, he opens the box only to have a rattlesnake bite him in the neck. Kirk’s last words, as only Kirk could say it , “Aahh, Sheet”!
So now, when the coach talks about it taking time, and building it the right way, what are we to believe the right way is? Do we believe he still knows how to build, based on what we’ve seen so far? Or the all encompassing question, CAN HE GET A PERMIT?


Go Young, Old Man

There’s not much left to say about the Burgundy and Gold’s season at this point; we all know the same thing. Mike Shanahan’s return to head coaching status in the NFL has not gone particularly well or as planned. What’s the saying? “Same old Jets”?

But at least the drama is gone, for now anyway. I’m not sure if the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become a loss that becomes an omen; the kind that sinks a team into a morass. They are "game" almost every week, and particularly after a monstrous outing. So there’s no reason to think they’re going to come unglued, but I haven't seen anything that makes me optimistic, based on the current "business model."

According to the product that Shanahan and Co. have put on the field, one could argue, they could have a worse record. And, one could argue, their record could have been better, but regardless, whether they won a few more close ones or lost them; they would not be a different team. They are a slow moving dinosaur that still has cunning and a will to survive, but one that has too few teeth to be taken seriously by it’s foes.

So, perhaps it’s better, even though more painful, this team lost this week. Because, with the quick-fix direction Shanahan and Allen have chosen, each win corroborates the misdirection that is their heading. In the new NFL, ineptitude and futility are the friends of the aged; Ashburn needs to get younger ASAP. I can only see the fortunes of Ashburn changing, when the methodology changes.

When you look at New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas, you realize pretty quickly, how far behind this franchise is to their divisional rivals. Vick, Manning, and Romo are quarterbacks that are entering their prime years, that fact alone keeps Washington in a precarious position. Unfortunately, for the Burgundy and Gold the mountain that Donavan McNabb must climb continues to grow. The question you have to ask; can McNabb get ahead of the tectonic movement? I’m not overly confident next year’s expedition that apparently will be led by McNabb will be able to get out of base camp.


Big Al, Everybody's Friend

In the end, we all do what’s best for us. Some of us have no problem cutting in line and taking our chunk straight off the top in plain view of the entire world, then sleep like a baby full of mother’s milk. Some of us take our sliver from an edge on the bottom, obscure to everyone and everything, but an electron microscope, and then suffer guilt for days. It’s pretty obvious Albert Haynesworth belongs in the first category, but usually,  the obvious, me-first type people are not particularly well liked by the folks their attitude affects the most --- their peers.
Big Al is an anomaly in this regard. I’ve yet to hear a person in his workplace disparage him. They all agree; he didn’t work hard enough, didn’t buy into his role, was inconsistent with his play etc. etc. But nary a player or coach has lashed out at him personally. In fact they all have gone out of their way to say they actually like him, and this includes Jim Hasslett, the defensive coordinator. Some have said they wish they could still be playing with him.
The fact Haynesworth can pull off this feat, defies human reasoning. If you put yourself on that team in general and the defense specifically, whether as a coach or a player; and consider Big Al’s contributions on the field and how they’ve been described in practice, wouldn’t you be frustrated and resentful of him? As a player, I would be resentful, because after last year and the perceived culture at Ashburn, his way of doing things would be a continuation of the angst and heartache. He would be preventing me from trying to gain some respectability and relevance by winning!
When a coach says, “We’ve got to do what’s best for the team,” he’s actually saying, ”We’ve got to do what’s best for me,” of which I have no problem.  But, to constantly segregate a player from his teammates as Shanahan did with Big Al, yet, force that player upon them, is counter-intuitive. It seems the very authority Shanahan tried to instill, he unwittingly undermined. By keeping Haynesworth in close proximity to his other players, could they have become victims to a reverse stockholm syndrome if you will, and started identifying with the captive?  In the end, the players were ultimately left unhinged and confused.  
To be this long into a coaching career and not know what’s best for you, and therefore the team, says a lot about how the future may unfold.


The Last Crusade

There has to be a sense of hopelessness in Ashburn right now. Shanahan must be reeling; he has coached up a poorly performing football team. With seven minutes to go in yesterday’s game the shot of him on the sidelines indicated a guy who had lost his will to resist, and I think he’s in trouble.  I also think the team knows he has no answers, just platitudes: “Keep on working......doesn’t happen overnight..... we will get there, it’s going to take some time, but we will get there.....I promise you that.”  It is Christmas, and in that spirit, let me toss out this wreath.  No one is outwardly insubordinate yet, save Old Unfaithful.
For Shanahan the offseason cannot come soon enough. His first year in Washington will go down as a boondoggle. Between Bruce Allen and himself they have delivered this franchise into yet a different level of incompetence. At this point, it’s hard for me to see the Burgundy and Gold as a better team than last year, or even as a better organization.
How much of this is Shanahan’s fault is debatable. He wanted the thirty four defense, and he did hire his son to become the offensive coordinator. I don’t think it’s any secret this offense is as bad as last year’s version, the only difference is they don’t have the obvious bungling and intrusion of ownership. But, because it’s not obvious does not mean it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately for the Shanster, just like in every law enforcement bust, they’re always wanting the next guy up the ladder. Until Bruce Allen or he decides to roll over on someone, Shanahan shall remain the fall guy.
I’m not sure if Shanahan knows the depth of his responsibility to the thousands and thousands of fans. If he does not deliver and the slide continues, his misguided stewardship will not only stain his legacy and his son’s advancement in this league, but it will reignite the rebellion that was doused with his hiring. These are tense times in Ashburn and regardless of how handicapped Shanahan might be with the albatross that hangs from his neck, it’s not unlike Indiana Jones in the movie “The Last Crusade”; he must choose wisely. He is definitely in an undesirable position.