Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cowboys Still Loved By Peter King, ESPN

It’s doubtless been a dark couple of days for the bandwagonning fans, media and otherwise, of America’s biggest bandwagon team. It was not supposed to be like this. ESPN was supposed to be gearing up for stories on the 4-0 Cowboys, who would be ¼ of the way to repeating the Patriots’ perfect season. Peter King was probably already drooling over pre-written pieces on the possibility of a Tony Romo vs. Brett Favre Super Bowl. The Redskins, that minor inconvenience of an 11-point underdog, were no match for Destiny’s Team.

The collective fawn-fest is put on hold, of course, at least for a week, until the Cowboys can rally themselves to slip by the Bengals at home. The story will have to go from 2007 Patriots to 1985 Bears, of course, but they’re talented professionals. They can improvise that much.

Still, there are those pesky weekly power rankings. There must be some sort of major repercussions for losing at home to a supposedly vastly inferior team, right? USC dropped eight spots in the polls after losing to Oregon State, on the road! How to balance this and still hold on to the pervasive Dallas bias?

Apparently King, Tony Romo’s biggest fan, or at least a fan of his enchanting smile, could not bring himself to rank the glamorous ‘Boys any lower than second in his Fine Fifteen. But what about the ‘Skins, the darling-killers who took down that vaunted destined-for-undefeated-Super-Bowl-glory team on their own field with that inane Rock-Cartwright-danced-upon blue star? Stuffed behind the Titans at #4, with no mention of their league-shocking upset, just some snark about the preseason liklihood that they would be the NFL’s worst team after Week 4.

He’s not the only one in denial about the collapse of the Cowboys’ undefeated season. ESPN holds on to hope that their favorite team will still rebound to fill their pseudo-sports-news programming with glitzy stories about America’s alleged team. They rank Dallas #3, which is bordering on heresy in the media world of Dallas-jocking. The regicide-prone Redskins are a Top 5 afterthought at #6, which is an improvement over the #15 land of mediocrity in which the dwelt last week.

So it’ still an uphill climb for the ‘Skins on their quest for recognition and a legitimate place in the NFC playoff discussion. A win in Philly should go a long way to establishing that recognition. It wouldn’t carry the same weight in the pundits’ eyes as a Dallas home win over Cincy, of course, but it’s a big step. Then it’s on to the cupcake portion of the schedule (something Dallas should be familiar with) where the real progress can be made.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hard Core Players

For Jim Zorn, Dan Snyder, residents of the Dead Tree portion of the FedEx Field parking lot, Jason Campbell, and most importantly, the most strident practicers of 'tism who may happen upon this blog, Sunday's convincing dubya against the 'boys, a team whose vauntedness remain(ed) unparalleled throughout the most one-sided broadcast since the Republican National Convention coverage on FoxNews, sweet vindication was in order. Not necessarily for the positively predicting folk, who just knew that this team had "special" imprinted all over its commemorative patches, but mainly for those who preach consistency, a concept that some were convinced was foreign to the braintrusting folks in the front office. Unlike the more hater-type of scribes, we here at the DC Optimist understood the manner and direction behind the team's makeup. Even when the old coach hung up his mesh curly R snap cap, we knew that this consistency concept was something the Redskins were in the throes of standing behind.

While certain columnist-types were badmouthing what they thought was the only constant in the flighty ownership's team-building philosophy being fluctuation, we saw how the Redskins sat back, utilized patience and locked in talented, hard-working players many would define as core. Guys who were rocks on successful, playoff-bound teams remained in the fold with contract extensions and restructures, and rewards were doled out to players who fit into the mold, not necessarily of some stalwart structure-er of offense, who thought his scheme would accommodate the most square of pegs into his rounded play holes (uhhh), but into the mold of possessing exceptional talent and a hard-working nature.

So when regimes sort of changed, and everyone began to freak out about whatever identity the Redskins were planning on forging with their 10 draft picks all fitting no foreseeable mold, we knew the skins would remain strong. They have had the same punishing ground attack that began back when Joe first signed on and obtained Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey's me-first attitude and a second rounder. What's lost in the constant gobs of analysis (something not seen on this seldom contributed-to blog) is the fact that, instead of genius coordinators, unprecedented talent discoverers, and slick-spending general managing, football games are oftentimes won and lost as a result of football players making successful plays. The Redskins have players.

While some Brian-Mitchell-types and Brian Mitchell continue to berate the colorfully obtuse running back for having the gall to be slightly interesting, oftentimes mistakenly taking this strive for genuine affability and character for a lack of desire, Portis is, quietly, in a strange manner, beginning to eclipse some of the records held by only the most esteemed Redskins. His 121 yard game yesterday tied C.P. with the immortal Riggo for the most 100+ yard games in Redskins history. Yep, in this case, C.P., most obviously stands for "Core Player."

What we saw in the offseason, and what is sprouting nicely into a nice little I-told-you-so is how this new coaching staff realizes how this team has players, and all they need is to find the best way to utilize them, not necessarily by forcing them into some rigid system, but by seeing what they do best, and then making sure that is planned to be done Sundays.

Zorn, along with Sherman Stewart, Stump Mitchell, and Chris Meidt, have taken this philosophy to impressive levels that become obvious with each more impressive offensive performance. Week one, the skins saw modest success when Jason Campbell went shotgun. As a result, Zorn, who had yet to fashion his variety of West Coast offense with the gun in mind, suddenly began implementing that scheme, as it fit Campbell's talents. In week three, Clinton Portis continued to be stifled at the line, charging into the teeth of the large defensive lines of the first few opponents. Does Zorn have such faith in his brilliance that he won't give Clinton the chance to take a different approach to his runs? No. That rad-ass running performance against the 'boys featured a newer wrinkle to the running game where Clinton would receive the ball, almost like a toss a few yards back of the line of scrimmage, so that Portis could visualize the holes, sprout through them and pick up close to six yards per carry.

The consistency and core of the Redskins has been forged through these mostly successful recent years. People may be surprised at these recent returns, but these guys with this talent, have been here. It's just nice to see someone at the helm that is innovative enough to let those talents shine outside of their genius box.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Vote For 'Tism

Chico Harlan, citing anecdotal evidence, has declared that Nationals fans, "with near unanimity", want the team to lose the rest of the month to secure the #1 draft pick. While this sort of nonsense may fly in areas prone to hating optimism (NY, Philly), it has no place here, particularly with the Master of Optimism, Manny Acta, manning the helm. Fortunately, the poll posted on the Nationals Journal currently shows anything but unanimous fan consent to intentional tanking (unlike, say, the Penguins in their last regular season game).

So vote for 'tism, and let's hope we're all spared a local media deluge of stories with the premise "look how bad the Nats are! haw haw haw!". I'm talking about you, Dick Heller.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

REPORT: Redskins' Season Not Over Yet

Despite some contrarial thoughts from the usual suspects (La Canfora, Jason; Jenkins, Sally), the Redskins season — despite losing one game on the road by nine points mainly from injuries and a freakish case of stone hands plaguing the secondary — is not over yet. Unfortunately for the O-haterz currently dancing in their Chad Hutchinson jerseys, eagerly anticipating the inevitable dalliance between Dan Snyder and Pete Carroll sometime after the Trojans romp on the Buckeyes, they have failed to notice that the Redskins have a grand total of fifteen more games to play before the Jim Zorn era can officially be called deader than the female gluteous maximus tissue that comprises Jerry Jones's eyelids.

That's right folks, even if the Redskins managed to be unsuccessful in the whole "game-winning" or "offensive" portion of Thursday night's pagentry-stuffed ode to the insufferably yappy Giants scourge, they still have close to 93.75% of the season remaining before Zorn is replaced with Tony D'Amato. But after the supposedly pathetic, disorganized, wimpy, hopeless, indicative-of-poor-management-decisions performance against the refs and mental cobwebs in the dead-grassed lands of Meadow, haven't the Redskins shown already that they don't belong in the cupcake crushing, reality show spawning NFC clever-word-that-rhymes-with-East? We here (and I say "we" despite this being the first post in like, an entire Nationals season, for a certain Transformers-monikered internetter) are more than confident that the events of last Thursday, which already seem further away than that time when people had questionable thoughts about Elijah Dukes, will not represent what will obviously be a successful 08-09 season. Take if from current DCO contributor/biter Tom Boswell, who in his latest call for collective 'tism, notes how maybe this thing could maybe somehow work, maybe.

Oh Boz, sure the column is rife with uneasiness over our often confused, playbook overloaded, heavily studying, somehow overcoming the memorization of eight-billion plays quarterback, but I couldn't help but return from my laziness-inflected hiatus after this poetic, business card-sloga worthy nod:
"So, Redskins fans should have patience. (Pause.) Okay, that didn't work. How
about optimism? Let's try that. "
Couldn't agree more Boz, although please, can we get a URL shoutout somewhere? I promise I will contribute a Wizards post or two if the DCO is mentioned somewhere between that Vice President chick's wardrobe choices in the Post. Why can't Boz direct his burgeoning readership to the blog with more dead links than Shawn Hill's elbow? Regardless of our fledgeling brushes with success and consistency, not since TruthAboutIt called us "sanguine," have I been so happy to have contributed to the internet back before Yahoo! began devouring bloggers like so many chicken fingers served without bitterness at Sideline (although I remain as unpaid as Todd Lowber when it comes to bliznogging). Shoutout to Boz for keeping the fanbase pointed in the positive direction.

It's refreshing to hear a take on the work-in-progress-ness that is the current skins. It's not like Boz was scraping the bottom of the metaphoric metaphor barrell as one Mike Wise did in his shopping at Taylor-mart coverage of the tragic selling-off of the late Sean Taylor's personal items, which so totally was a paralell between what everyone already is calling a dead season, and the subsequent selling off of Brandon Lloyd jerseys, or whatever. Nice literariness Wise-ass.

But back to the Redskins, and the fact that they aren't as done-zo as the usage of the word done-zo. First of all, the first-class running game, which couldn't be properly utilized as the skins somehow were both fighting off a double-digit deficit and the predilection for running those running plays directly into a defensive lineman, remains strong, and will remain the first-mentioned, first-run aspect of the team's success in subsequent weeks, first. Second, despite the overlaudiness of coverage regarding the Giants and their defensive line, the 'skins managed to give up, lets count 'em, one lone sack, on the first play of the game, after which, clever, picture painting with words columnists, we guess, changed the channel to Project Runway. So lets not count out that suddenly old decrepit offensive line yet. Many might even say that proper adjustments were made. And the defense, sure it was in bend-don't-break mode for about two whole quarters, and one might get the notion that running Brandon Jacobs over and over again would likely lead to the Giants not having to kick a bunch of field goals and whatnot, but the D also made proper adjustments, and even, gasp, got to the quarterback, and again gasp, made turnovers occur!

Solid run game, solid o-line play, solid D: the foundation of success that the Redskins have been riding on during a streak of decency that continues to be mistaken for mediocrity. The hallmarks of these past two playoff appearing teams are currently there. One rusty performance, where nine points were the difference between lauding successes and detailing mistakes, out of sixteen can be neglected. Anyone remember that Patriots team that opened the season to a 31-0 loss to the Bills only to, after a devastating loss to Steve Spurrier and the skins, go on to like never lose again? What was the difference with that team? How about optimism?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Falling Below 100

Tonight is a big night for the Nationals. There’s an issue at stake here, and it’s even bigger than the answer to the important question: Can the Nats continue to do to the Phillies what they did to the Mets last season?

The issue concerns the prospect of the 100-loss season. Before this little seven-game tear (one that has even professional piler-on Chico Harlan waxing somewhat optimistically), such a season seemed as foregone a conclusion as a Nick Johnson season-ending injury. However, with a win tonight, the Nats can shed the 100-loss pace that has haunted them for weeks (along with Harlan-esque statistics of questionable value, such as “the team has more losses than any team has wins”. huh???)

The job falls to Phillie-plunker extraordinaire John Lannan to get the job done on the mound. The newly energized Nats lineup should take care of the rest.