[Each and almost every week, I will metaphysically testify upon the positive and negative influences on my beloved Washington Redskins team, who I've known since childhood and always felt in my heart, as seen in their on-field (via televisions) performance. As the year goes on, we shall have a metascientifical tabulation of who is the most valuable or biggest detriment to the future of this franchise, because I am a scientist.]
Took a while to get around to testifying upon this game, partially because my life is such a clusterfuck, but partially because the ol' lady was presenting all weekend so I was home alone with the 7-year-old and 3-year-old and they had a birthday party to go to on Sunday afternoon, in town in the park, where the kid's parents had set up a quidditch field, but I was gonna miss the second half of the game. I stuck it out as long as I could, figuring they'd start late, which they did (still decorating when we got there), and then ran an errand or two to listen to the end of the game on the AM radios like my grandpa would've done. Yeah, motherfucker.
Before we get specifically to the game, let me just speak in a general sense on the Redskins season thus far, as I'm a big fan of that "Four Quarters of the Season" philosophy, where the season is broken into one huge game split into four quarters, with the goal of making it to the postseason, which is soul overtime (and highly unlikely usually for these Redskins it seems). We are 3-1, which means we have jumped out the gate to a good start for this season, except I read elsewhere that apparently this has happened 5 times in the past decade. Yeah, I was shocked too, but apparently it's true. And let's be real here - the Redskins have no real post-season memories from the past ten years that I can think of off the top of my head, so obviously 3-1 doesn't mean shit.
But nonetheless, that's where we've started, and I am happy with that. If you had told me going into the bye week we'd be 3-1 during preseason, I would've been like, "Shut up dumbass." But we are. So is this team a new team, one that has corrected the mistakes of the past and turned over a new leaf under the wise tutelage of one Michael J. Shanahan, he of the famous zone blocking schemes and anus-shaped mouth hole?
Well, that brings us to the specifics of this game, because for one, the Rams have had a rabbit's foot over the Redskins in recent years, and that had me and many of my Redskins fans compadres in real life sweating this game, expecting the worst. And secondly, this had all the trimmings for a classic Snyder-era Redskins Failure Demon parade, perfectly set up as the type of game we lose. And as bad as the Rams played and as dominant as the Redskins looked for about 51 minutes of this game, those Failure Demons certainly reared their ugly heads. And the Redskins did almost choke it away in the end. Almost.
Which brings me to my ultimate conclusion about this team after the past two weeks - they are just barely better than last year, which means they are just barely better than a team that went 6-10. That makes sense. This is still very much a team that plays up or down to its opponent, which means we might beat the eventual Super Bowl Champions one week, and then lose to the guys who draft Andrew Luck the next week. That is what this team is. The first week of the season they showed some uncharacteristic kill factor by putting away the Giants before the game had gotten to 0:00 on the clock, but since then, it's been that same ol' nailbiter bullshit - and not nailbiter like, "Oh shit, we're gonna pull this off, this is awesome," but more like the dreaded, "Fuck, here we go again." It is their trademark under Dan Snyder.
My hope is that they go into this bye week not thinking we are a good team that has turned a corner towards being competitive, and get caught up in the media attention for sitting atop the NFC East. They should be thinking to themselves, "Wow, we are a pretty shitty team in a lot of ways, and very lucky to be 3-1. If we can fix our bullshit, we might actually be good!" and be excited about that. Over the past couple of years, whenever this team would piss away games like this Rams game, you'd hear players talk about how they were better than this, how we let this one slip away or we should have beaten this team, never taking responsibility for sucking in critical ways during critical moments. And until I hear somebody come with that type of accountability, I ain't thinking this team has changed, especially if they've gone 3-1 half the time the past decade. Because I can remember pretty well that in the long run - the full four quarters of the season - they ain't done shit the past decade. So fuck this 3-1 if it means the same ol' 3-1.
Anyways, here are my positive/negative influences upon what it is to be the Washington Redskins from Sunday's game against them Rams...
SIXTH DEGREE POSITIVE: RB RYAN TORAIN - "Rugged" Ryan Torain made his triumphant return to the line-up this week, after riding the bench behind Tim Hightower and rookie Roy Helu the first few weeks, and what a return it was. As a fan of football in general and the Redskins specifically, you cannot help but piss your pants in glee at the way Torain gets yards - it is reminiscent of our beloved #44 in how he just lowers a shoulder and blows through a LB here or DB there, and staggers always forward, never backwards. I know the guy is susceptible to injury (hand injury kept him out in preseason, which helped bury him on the depth chart), but goddamn he is a thing of beauty when he is in action, and full-speed. There are rumblings his performance wrested the #1 back spot away from Tim Hightower, which I have no problem with. I think mixing Hightower in as a 3rd down back (good hands on that dude on passing plays, plus a better blocker on pass protection), and throwing Helu "The Tongan Prince" in as a curveball from time to time is a nice backfield, better than we've had for many many years (no disrespect to C.P. - I will always love you C.P., and I hope somebody signs your crazy ass to play football again).
FIFTH DEGREE POSITIVE: OLB RYAN KERRIGAN - Kerrigan got NFL Rookie of the Month honors for September, and continues to be a disturbing factor each and every week. Very quietly he is having an almost-like Clay Matthews last year type of season. The funny thing is hearing the racial stereotypes play out in regards to Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, who is always seen as a beast, whereas Kerrigan is a guy with a never-ending motor. Being he is white, and from Indiana, he is apparently not blessed with great genetics that make him an athletic freak so much as he has a hard-nosed work ethic that just doesn't stop. I heard Tim Ryan say it like three times during the game on Sunday, and all I watched was the first half on TV. Can't we just say the dude is fucking awesome? He and Orakpo as a tandem is going to be a very ugly thing for opposing teams for years to come. Like seriously, as Redskins fans of recent lore, we tend to live in the past or in what ifs, the most famous of which is "What if Sean Taylor hadn't got murdered and he and Laron Landry were still playing together? Can you imagine how great that'd be?" Well, I think we have the early fermentation stages of a similarly awesome pairing in Kerrigan/Orakpo, so shut up dumbass.
FOURTH DEGREE POSITIVE: OLB BRIAN ORAKPO - They finally stopped holding Orakpo enough this week that he could grab a couple of sacks. The thing I love about Orakpo is there's never any "me" talk or individual stats with this guy; he is completely into the team concept, which is not exactly common behavior of a guy of his athletic presence. I know I always love upon London Fletcher, but just as much as it's great to have two young defensive monsters like Orakpo and Kerrigan on our team, it's so valuable to have Fletcher there to mentor these dudes. Shit, I don't even mention him on the positives/negatives this week, but Rocky McIntosh is having the best year he's ever had in a Redskins uniform this season as well, and one hand washes the other, but London Fletcher is the soap that makes it all so fresh and so clean clean. Of course, I am talking about Orakpo here, not Fletcher, and I am constantly impressed by #98, and if I were to waste $46 on a bootleg authentic NFL jersey from one of this Chinaman sites right this minute, I'd get me a camo Orakpo joint, and I'd wear that shit running through the woods on mushrooms during this upcoming bye week, behind my mom's house, where I built a Unabomber Shack like 15 years ago, and I'd sleep in the shack and tack up pictures from this full-color photographs of the NFL book I bought at an antique store a couple weeks back and scribble with paint pens ominous prophesies for all our Redskin enemies.
THIRD DEGREE POSITIVE: DC JIM HASLET - Haslet caught some crap for his blitz-happy ending to the Cowboys game because of DeAngelo Hall's post-game comments, which to Hall's credit, he said the next morning, "Yo, I was speaking out of anger, talked to coach, shit is quelled. My bad." But I really love Haslet's insane bent towards pressuring the QB, which seems odd to say as well as the defense has done, still hasn't fully clicked with the new pieces on the D-line yet. As the season progresses, and everything starts to flow together better, and you get Kerrigan and Orakpo mixed in with Landry coming in on the corner or McIntosh stunting like his daddy through the middle, this team could concuss some punk ass QBs. I like it.
SECOND DEGREE POSITIVE: P SAV ROCCA - Rocca got more hate than anybody after that botched hold last week in Dallas, so I wanted to give my boy some love, because he was straight booting the ball this week, and has been all season long. Plus, he's a crazy Australian Rules Football player and likes to get in on tackles on special teams and I imagine knows his way through a case of beer in an expedient manner, which is always a nice plus in a kicking specialist, because that type of drunken insanity makes your special teams that much more special, which is necessary as the palette cleanser between systematic offense and brutarian defense.
FIRST DEGREE POSITIVE: DE ADAM CARRIKER - I was about to talk up Barry Cofield as well, who had a great game, but Adam Carriker had one of his more memorable games, and both are sort of that grey area of modern football that's difficult for old school fans to navigate sometimes. Namely, even as I follow this team diligently every year, there's free agent dudes like Carriker or Cofield who I don't really know who the fuck they are, but they show up and are supposed to be awesome at this or that, though it's hard not to worry that they're other people's Reed Doughtys, and they take up space on the football team but they don't really seem like Washington Redskins. They aren't drafted here or developed here or really seem like somebody emotionally invested in this team beyond their paycheck getting signed by Snyder. Our defensive line is chock full of these dudes this year - and both Cofield and Carriker had a good presence this past Rams game, but being Carriker has apparently been here for more than just this year, I'll give him the daps. Try to show up for more than just your former team though, bro.
STAY MEDIUM DEGREE: RB TIM HIGHTOWER - Look, let's be honest here... Hightower has been no game-changer at RB, like we wanted to talk ourselves up towards when he signed on. When the ball is handed to him, he either runs towards the edges, usually unsuccessfully for a 2-yard gain but sometimes more, or he plows right through the middle, usually unsuccessfully for a 2-yard gain but sometimes more. He has been underwhelming, but he's such a nice guy that you can't really call him a disappointment, especially with how sour so many felt about Clinton Portis once he was gone. Hightower is a solid dude, and though he's been kinda shitty on the football field, he's such a solid dude I keep him in the stay medium degree of my mentality, because you have to give a good dude a good chance to prove himself. I won't talk down upon the dude at this point.
FIRST DEGREE NEGATIVE: COLOR COMMENTATOR SAM HUFF - I get Sirius satellite radio every fall just to hear all the home team radio coverages, and I do not say this strictly as a Redskins fan, but as a guy who has listened to most every team's coverage, but there is no more entertaining radio crew than the Redskins trio of Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff, and That Other Guy. And even last year, Huff's lack of presence was still amusing, because he could be kept semi-relevant by his partners in the booth. But this year, I don't maybe it's having gone through early onset dementia of my mother-in-law this past year, getting her evicted out of her house because it was like Hoarders in real life, but Huff just ain't entertaining any more. It's actually sad to listen to at times. And being this defense has gotten so much better, I'd like to hear somebody speak upon it with some sensibility and clarity, even if they are crazy. Too bad Doc Walker didn't play defense. Or can we start trying Lavar Arrington out on the sidelines as well, or has he pissed off the Snyder Regime too badly to get the gig? But I really feel like it's time for Huff to move on.
SECOND DEGREE NEGATIVE: QB REX GROSSMAN - I am really trying to maintain my love for Gunslinger Eyes, but man, he throws stupid interceptions and it makes me think of that old adage of the person who found the freezing copperhead in the middle of the road, so they tucked them in their shirt and carried them home and warmed up the copperhead and got them back to healthy and then the copperhead bites them and fucks them up, and the person is like, "Why did you bite me? I nursed you back to health?" And the copperhead goes, "You knew I was a snake." That's Grossman. No matter how well he does at stifling his own pattern of errors, it's going to flare up at some point. He's like genital warts in that you can treat him with a good offensive system and minimize how bad it looks, but there's going to be really glaring outbreaks of on-field QB warts at times. That's the Sex Cannon.
THIRD DEGREE NEGATIVE: T JAMMAL BROWN - Maybe I was watching him too hard after he made some stupid mistakes at the end of that Cowboys game, but he made a pretty good amount of stupid mistakes this week too. You want book end tackles, not one really fast athletic silverback beast of a tackle and the other guy who tends to fuck up but was the best thing available to us at the time because we never bothered to draft more than like three offensive linemen the past 12 years.
FOURTH DEGREE NEGATIVE: OC KYLE SHANAHAN - When you are winning a football game at any level, the best thing to do to wind down the clock is to run the ball. You see, when you run the ball, you tend to get tackled in-bounds more often than not, and what that means is the clock continues to run in between plays, whereas with passing plays, if the ball is not completed, the clock stops between plays. This means in four plays, if you end up not getting first downs like sometimes happens when you are commanding a less than impressive offense, statistically speaking, running the ball makes more time come off the clock than passing the ball. Also, an added benefit is that when you are quarterbacked by a guy who finds it hard to stifle the ragingly errant gunslinger that lives in his soul at times, there are going to be turnovers with passing plays, which go beyond the clock not running but actually gives the other team the ball back, even sooner, and usually in much better field position. I mean, I know I'm no offensive genius who guided the Houston Texans to their pinnacle of brilliance at 9-7 one time, but I understand the basics.
FIFTH DEGREE NEGATIVE: OWNER DAN SNYDER - Because I did not besmirch his name last week, I figured I'd better besmirch it this week. Oh shit, I wonder if that number my boy Mavpa Van Cleef gave me during the offseason still contacts his office?
Nope, disconnected. I was amazed at how many weeks it worked after that Deadspin article about the lawsuit against the City Paper came out. I was leaving rambling belligerent messages a couple of times a night, usually at like 3 in the morning because that was when I was recovering from a massive surgical infection/gut muscle abscess, so I was high as fuck on hydrocodone all the time, sitting on the couch watching The Wire with the sound off and Hawkwind playing. Oh man, I should've made youtubes of all those calls, because some of them were pretty wacky, yet I was always careful to never say anything that could have been construed as a threat. I'm sad the number's been changed. If anybody has the new Redskins Executive Office number, hit me up.
ACCUMULATED INFLUENCES UPON THIS FRANCHISE 2011, BEST TO WORST: OLB Brian Orakpo (+15), OLB Ryan Kerrigan (+14), TE Fred Davis (+13), MLB London Fletcher (+12), NT Chris Neild (+8), WR Santana Moss (+7), S Laron Landry (+6), RB Ryan Torain (+6), TE Chris Cooley (+5), RB Roy Helu (+5), LB Rocky McIntosh (+5), KR/PR Brandon Banks (+4), DC Jim Haslet (+3), P Sav Rocca (+3), WR Anthony Armstrong (+2), CB Josh Wilson (+1), DE Adam Carriker (+1), RB Tim Hightower (even), T Trent Williams (-1), color commentator Sam Huff (-1), QB Rex Grossman (-1), K Graham Gano (-2), S Reed Doughty (-2), CB DeAngelo Hall (-6), T Jammal Brown (-7), OC Kyle Shanahan (-7), and owner Dan Snyder (-11).