Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Derek Anderson is not Dennis Green

Derek Anderson wants you to know that he wasn't laughing on the sidelines during last night's loss to the 49ers, even if he actually was. And then after he tells you that a few times, he won't answer more questions.

But even though it's impossible to doubt Anderson's anger and frustration, his outburst pales in comparison to Dennis Green's tirade from 2006.

Sorry, Derek, but not only did you come up short on the field yesterday, but your post-game blowup wasn't even the Cardinals' best in the last five years.

(And yes, I realize that this is neither D.C. sports nor Orioles related, but tirades and outbursts from players and coaches are always relevant here.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boswell thinks the Redskins are 'close'

I've already picked on Thomas Boswell once this month for a peculiar column, and it's not something that I'm going to make a habit of doing. But after watching yesterday's frustrating 17-13 loss against the Vikings, how can Boswell say that the Skins "are getting closer" to much of anything?

Granted, I'll give the team credit for playing hard. And at 5-6, they already have more wins than last season with a shot to get a couple more. But yesterday's game can be used as a precise example of why the Skins are not close.

Even though Donovan McNabb was not the reason the Redskins lost the game, he did not make enough plays to win it. Boswell is right when he blames the lack of a running game, the poor offensive line play, and a few dropped balls by the team's receivers -- and a huge block-in-the-back call on Perry Riley -- but those are also all problems that the team needs to address. They are huge team weaknesses, not just a single week's problems that can easily be corrected after just one offseason.

Keiland Williams has had a few decent games, but he's not really an explosive player and shouldn't really be viewed as NFL starting running back material. James Davis deserves some more carries to see what he can bring to the table, but he didn't do anything special yesterday either. And Ryan Torain has also had a few strong performances, but he can't stay on the field.

Then again, maybe the lack of a running game can be blamed on the offensive line, which not only failed to protect McNabb (four sacks), but didn't open up any holes in the running game either. Trent Williams, the team's most recent first-round pick, is undoubtedly the best offensive lineman on the team, but there's little else to get excited about in terms of blocking.

And yet, when the blocking gave McNabb enough time, he did make several accurate throws. For the game, he was 21-35 for 211 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. As Boswell mentions, the interception was not McNabb's fault; it was Santana Moss who dropped the pass and had the ball deflect into the air for an interception. But McNabb did finish the game with a 74.8 quarterback rating, which has been about his average this season. It would be nice to get McNabb a ton of weapons and a huge offensive line that blocks every defender in sight, but the Redskins traded for McNabb so he'd be able to win games like this. Unfortunately, he didn't get much help.

And then, Boswell writes this uplifting paragraph: "This game also underlined the area where the Redskins have made the most significant improvement: in the game-breaking speed of Banks, who had a 65-yard kickoff return, and Anthony Armstrong, who caught a 45-yard bomb and now has 545 yards receiving."

I'm not going to debate the worth or skill level of Brandon Banks, who has been phenomenal in the return game and has easily been the team's most exciting player. But Armstrong? Yes, he has caught some long passes, and he even did so in yesterday's game (two catches, 53 yards). But even though he's not an old guy, he's still 27 years old. Has he really shown enough to be relied upon week in and week out? And is he really a big part of the team's future? The Redskins also have two seemingly reliable tight end options in Chris Cooley (28) and Fred Davis (24), but Santana Moss (31) is a free agent after this season and may end up on another team next season. It sure seems like more help will be needed in the receiving game.

Also, how can Boswell use speed as a positive and fail to mention the team's lack of speed in the Eagles game just a few weeks ago? The Redskins looked like they were playing on a different level -- a much, much lower level -- while the Eagles were running up and down the field with ease.

Anyway, my point is that the Redskins have a ton of holes to fill and not enough draft picks to fill them all adequately. Free agency will likely be the team's go-to option when it comes to bringing in more talent, but the past several years have shown that that strategy is far from reliable and may only create more future headaches for Mike Shanahan and the team's coaching staff.

Right now, the Redskins don't look as bad as they did last season, but they aren't really that much better either. I'm just not sure that I understand all of the excitement.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 12 picks

Happy Thanksgiving! And here are my picks for Week 12.

Patriots (-7) over LIONS

This one has the chance to be a pretty high-scoring game, with the 22nd (Lions) and 23rd (Patriots) ranked defenses in terms of points allowed. But even though it's Thanksgiving and weird things can happen in games on this day, I'll side with Tom Brady and the Patriots to take care of business.

COWBOYS (+4.5) over Saints

The Saints have been laying low recently, and they quietly haven't lost since their Week 7 defeat against the Browns. This will be their first real test in a few weeks now that the Cowboys seem to be interested in actually showing up and playing harder. I understand that the Cowboys only have three wins, but they're going to do everything in their power not to get blown out and embarrassed at home. (Did you know that the Saints defense only allows 17.0 points per game? That's No. 4 in the NFL. Gregg Williams continues to do a fantastic job in New Orleans.)

JETS (-9) over Bengals

I guess it's obvious at this point that it's not really the Jets' style to blow out their opponents. But I can't side with a team that gave up 35 unanswered points to the Bills and seemed to quit in front of their home crowd like that. That was ridiculous, and it was probably the game that will get Marvin Lewis fired.

Vikings (+1) over REDSKINS

I really want to side with the Skins after that gutsy win over the Titans last week, but at some point, they're going to be missing too many players. They may be able to survive another week without LaRon Landry and another defender or two, but I'm much more worried about the injury issues on the offensive line. The line performed admirably last week as guys filled in and got the job done, but I just don't know that most of those fill-ins are talented enough to perform in consecutive weeks. The Vikings have been a disaster this year, but if the Redskins and their makeshift line don't block well enough, they won't win.

Steelers (-6.5) over BILLS

I give the Bills a lot of credit. They refused to give up on the season a few weeks ago and have actually pulled out two wins in a row. Unfortunately, they're on the tracks this week as the Steelers train comes rolling into town. Pittsburgh needs a little more fine-tuning before their huge Week 13 battle with the Ravens in Baltimore, and the Bills just aren't as good as they looked last week in that huge (and hilarious) comeback victory over the Bengals. Prediction for this game? Pain.

Titans (+6.5) over TEXANS

Rusty Smith will get the start at quarterback for Tennessee, so that's not a good thing for them at all. But that does mean the Texans will see a heavy dose of Chris Johnson. That also means Jeff Fisher can get back to what his teams usually do best: run the ball and stop opposing teams from scoring. Let's see if he can coach his team up to get the job done this week with all that's going on around him.

Jaguars (+7.5) over GIANTS

The Giants have lost two big games in a row to NFC East foes, and they appear to be folding. Oh, and they also lost Hakeem Nicks for a few weeks. But I still can't believe that the Jaguars are 6-4, especially since they've been outscored by 50 points on the season. I think the Giants will win this week and avoid losing three games in a row, but they may also be missing too many pieces to win handily over Jacksonville. I think the Giants will win, but it'll be close.

BROWNS (-10) over Panthers

That's a lot of points for a 3-7 team to be laying, but the Panthers (1-9) really are that bad. I'll side with the Browns and the Mangenius this week.

Packers (+2) over FALCONS

Huge game between arguably the two best teams in the NFC. I like the Falcons a little more as a team because of their ability to run the ball, but I think the Packers defense makes the difference this week and forces a few turnovers.

RAIDERS (PK) over Dolphins

That Bears-Dolphins game on Thursday night last week was one of the worst football games I've ever seen. Adding in the horrible NFL Network broadcast booth, it may have been the worst football game I've watched. Considering all that, I'm going to penalize the Dolphins and possibly not pick them for the rest of the season. Way to go, guys.

OK, time for the speed round.

Chiefs (-2) over SEAHAWKS

RAVENS (-7.5) over Buccaneers

Eagles (-3) over BEARS

Rams (+4) over BRONCOS

COLTS (-3) over Chargers

49ers (-1) over CARDINALS

Last week: 7-9
Season: 68-86-6

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wizards fight back, stun 76ers against in OT

Because of work, I was unable to watch one minute of the Wizards' 116-114 win over the Sixers last night. But on the way home, I did have the opportunity to listen to the radio during the fourth quarter and overtime, and I will say this: play-by-play man Dave Johnson and color analyst Glenn Consor were shocked at the Wizards' comeback and eventual victory.

From listening to Johnson and Consor and looking at the game's box score, the Wizards were terrible in the first half. They finished the half down 14 points, and from what I could tell by glancing at the box score, no Wiz player was really competing except for JaVale McGee, who already had a double-double midway through the second quarter. (More on McGee and his monster game below.)

After scoring just 38 points in the first half, though, the Wizards turned things around in a hurry, outscoring the Sixers by 10 points (35-25) in the third quarter and scratching and clawing in the fourth to send the game to overtime.

Let's go back to the fourth quarter. With about six minutes to go, Marreese Speights hit a jumper to give the Sixers a 98-85 lead. For nearly the next five minutes, though, the Sixers failed to score any points; meanwhile, the Wizards scored 10 and cut the lead to 98-95. Both teams traded a few buckets, and then Evan Turner hit two free throws with 27 seconds left, giving the Sixers a 104-99 advantage. John Wall then got fouled and hit two free throws, making the score 104-101. Then came arguably the biggest play in the game (at the time, at least): On the ensuing inbounds pass, Trevor Booker tied up Andres Nocioni and forced a jump ball, which he eventually tipped to Gilbert Arenas. The teams traded free throws, and the Wizards got the ball back with 11 seconds to go. Flip Saunders used a timeout to advance the ball and drew up a play, but Nick Young launched a three-pointer that either was an airball or barely touched the rim, giving the ball back to the Sixers. Luckily, though, the Wizards fouled Evan Turner on the inbounds pass, and he missed both free throws.

Still down by three with eight seconds to go, Wall hurriedly drove down the floor and then made an absolutely fantastic decision. With the Sixers looking to foul instead of giving the Wizards a chance to hit a three -- a strategy that simply has not worked in two games against Washington -- Wall pulled up from about halfway between mid-court and the three-point line and was able to draw an obvious foul by Jrue Holiday. Holiday was not expecting Wall to force a shot from that far away. Wall made all three free throws and sent the game to overtime, 106-106.

Overtime was just as exciting, or even more so, than the fourth quarter, but let's skip ahead to the final seconds. Down 114-113 after a Thaddeus Young tip-in, the Wizards drew up another play and hoped for some more late-game heroics. And they got it when Nick Young (on a pass from Arenas) hit a three-point jumper in the corner to put the Wiz up two, 116-114. I'd like to say that the Wizards ran some awesome play to get Young that wide-open three, but judging from the replay, all Young did was run down the baseline, and the Sixers simply lost track of him for a moment, which was just enough time for him to nail the shot. Andre Iguodala missed his shot to tie the game, which gave the Wizards another overtime win over the Sixers.

I apologize for the long game recap, but it really was an outstanding comeback and an exciting game (at least to listen to, for me). Wall was the story in the second half and overtime after a bad first half in his first game back from injury, but the player of the game for the Wizards has to be McGee, who had the best game of his career with 24 points (9-15 shooting), 18 rebounds, and four blocks. He also had two assists and two steals. Amazingly enough, McGee still would have had a double-double without the defensive rebounds (8) he grabbed because he had 10 offensive boards. And as I discussed yesterday, McGee has now grabbed 10 or more rebounds in four straight games. Phenomenal work, JaVale.

Back to Wall: He led the Wizards with 25 points and was 7-15 from the field -- not great, but much better than he started off the game. He also had six assists, three rebounds, and just one turnover in 36 minutes.

Playing 32 minutes off the bench (partly because of an Al Thornton injury), Young scored 19 points and was also 7-15 from the field. He even grabbed three rebounds and made four three-pointers. As for the starters (other than McGee; Wall came off the bench), Arenas had 17 points and seven assists; Andray Blatche scored 17 points and snagged 12 rebounds; Kirk Hinrich chipped in seven points and six assists; and Thornton had no points and a rebound in eight minutes before departing. Neither Arenas nor Blatche shot well, though; they were a combined 14-37 from the field (ouch).

Overall, the Wizards won a game in which they were outshot (46.2% to 43.9%), outrebounded (48-45), and out-assisted (29-25). But they made four more three-pointers and shot better from the free throw line (76.9% to 71.0%), which certainly ended up mattering.

The Wizards improved to 5-8 on the season with the win, and they travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Thursday (on TNT). Also, in just 13 games, the Wizards have already played three overtime games.

Note: According to Basketball-Reference.com, since 1986-1987 only eight other players (other than McGee) have had games with at least 24 points, 10 offensive rebounds, a field-goal percentage of 60 percent (or higher), and four blocks. Those players, in descending order sorted by points, are Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal (three times), Patrick Ewing, Elton Brand, Billy Thompson, Dikembe Mutombo, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JaVale McGee's rebounding accomplishment

JaVale McGee is sort of a seven-foot anomaly. He's taller than most players on the court, but he's not exactly a rebounding machine. Most of that is of his own doing, as he's often out of position or more worried about going for put-back dunks or highlight plays.

But recently, there have been signs that the 22-year-old McGee may be modifying his game to be more effective. McGee, who's now in his third season, did something in the last few games that he had not yet done in his professional career: grab 10 or more rebounds in three straight games. He almost made it four games, but he only had nine rebounds against the Raptors on Nov. 16.

In the Wizards' most recent game, a loss to the Pistons, McGee snatched a career-high 16 rebounds and a stunning eight offensive rebounds. In his last four games, McGee has 47 rebounds -- and 24 of them have been offensive boards. That's impressive.

After the Pistons game, McGee received praise from both Gilbert Arenas and Flip Saunders. Here were there quotes, via The Washington Post's Michael Lee:
"He played great basketball," said Arenas . . . "He stuck to his principles. He made it easy for himself, he was getting offensive rebounds, waiting for the offense to come to him and he didn't try to do too much to get him taken out of the game like usual. He showed that if he plays the right way, he is effective out there."


"By far, his best overall game," Saunders said.
Considering how critical Saunders has been of McGee, that's a strong compliment.

It's still early in the season, but here's a quick look at how McGee's rebounding numbers stack up to his two previous seasons.


A couple things first: 1) Minutes were rounded up or down, 2) "Off" = offensive rebounds, and 3) McGee played 75 games in his rookie season, 60 games the next, and has played 12 games so far this season. So, yes, it's still a small sample size for the potential new McGee. Still, though, he is grabbing offensive rebounds at a much better rate, which likely has to do with him playing more minutes. But his improved minutes and stats are also aided by better stamina and conditioning, which he should be credited for as well.

Right now, McGee is averaging 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field. All of those numbers would be career highs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 11 picks

Now that was an absolutely brutal week -- maybe my worst yet. Here's what went wrong: 1) The Ravens had the lead in the final minutes but lost on a last-second drive; 2) the Colts won by six instead of seven; 3) the Texans were headed for overtime before the Jaguars hauled in a Hail Mary pass to win; 4) the previously winless Bills won by two instead of three; and 5) the Jets and Browns looked like they were about to tie before the Browns choked and gave up a game-ending touchdown after whiffing on a few tackles. The Giants also lost at home to the Cowboys despite being 14 points favorites.

So yeah, that really sucked. But just like the Redskins after the fiasco at FedEx on Monday night against the Eagles, I've got to keep moving. Unless I was Albert Haynesworth, of course. Then I could just fall down and give up. But no, I won't do that.

DOLPHINS (-1) over Bears

Forgot to throw this in before. Thanks a lot, Dolphins.

STEELERS (-7.5) over Raiders

Tom Brady and the Patriots moved the ball up and down the field against the Steelers defense last week, but I seriously doubt that Jason Campbell and the Raiders can duplicate that effort. It's not that the Raiders are a bad team -- far from it. They're 5-4 and actually have a better point differential (+47) than the Steelers (+38), thanks to a few blowout wins over the Broncos and Seahawks. Also, the Steelers and Ravens are both 6-3, and the Ravens travel to Carolina to face the Panthers, which should be a cakewalk for Baltimore. The Steelers need to keep pace with the Ravens, and they also probably aren't happy with how they looked last week on Sunday Night Football. Look for them to get things rolling again this week.

JETS (-7) over Texans

It looks like Matt Schaub is going to play after an injury scare earlier in the week, but how can anyone trust the Texans at this point? They haven't won since Week 6. That's a long time. The Jets, on the other hand, keep winning, but they're not winning big. In fact, they haven't won by more than 10 points since their Week 4 38-14 win over the Bills. Well, I think that stretch ends this week, primarily because the Texans have a dreadful defense. The Jets should be able to put up plenty of points, and their defense should pressure Schaub all game long.

Ravens (-12) over PANTHERS

There's simply no way anyone can side with Carolina. Right?

TITANS (-7) over Redskins

Except for the debacle on Monday night against the Eagles, the Redskins have been a competitive team this season. But with LaRon Landry and Carlos Rogers both expected to miss this week's game, the Redskins and their already-struggling defense are in big trouble. If they can manage to keep this game within 10 points, I'll be extremely surprised.

Lions (+7) over COWBOYS

I find it hard to believe that Jason Garrett has the ability to change the entire culture of the Cowboys locker room, but they did look impressive last week in beating the Giants. Still, they are 2-7 for a reason, so it'll take another win or two -- or at least another week of solid effort -- before I start to take them seriously again.

Packers (-3) over VIKINGS

This line seems too low, doesn't it? But who knows, maybe the 3-6 Vikings will make one last stand at home to at least make things interesting. But I doubt it.

Bills (+5) over BENGALS

A 1-8 team travels to take on a 2-7 team -- not exactly the best game of the day, is it?

JAGUARS (-2) over Browns

I was tempted to take the Browns, but losing Josh Cribbs this week is a huge problem for them. Then again, despite having a 3-6 record, the Browns (-10) have a better point differential than the 5-4 Jaguars (-54). That's something to think about, at least.

CHIEFS (-8) over Cardinals

The Chiefs should have no problem feeding Jamaal Charles, with some carries to Thomas Jones thrown in. Hopefully that doesn't end up the other way around.

SAINTS (-11.5) over Seahawks

The Saints just had a bye week and are getting healthier, and they're also playing at home. The Seahawks, on the other hand, just aren't a very good team; I don't care if they have a winning record or not.

RAMS (+3) over Falcons

Like the Packers-Vikings game, this line also seems a little too low. Unlike that game, though, I'll actually side with the Rams this week, for no apparent reason. Maybe that's why I'm having such a hard time picking games this season.

49ERS (-3) over Buccaneers

With Troy Smith under center, the 49ers are 2-0. And no, I never thought I would write that sentence.

PATRIOTS (-4) over Colts

The Patriots (7-2) are firing on all cylinders lately. Meanwhile, the Colts are 6-3 and are still obviously a threatening team, but something just seems a little off about them. I guess it's all Pierre Garcon's fault.

Giants (+3.5) over EAGLES

Seriously, who knows?

Broncos (+10) over CHARGERS

I have no concrete reason to pick against Philip Rivers, but Antonio Gates will probably be out again. Ten points also seems a little high, but maybe that's just me.

Last week: 4-10
Season: 61-77-6

Friday, November 19, 2010

Terps battle but fall to No. 4 Pitt

The college basketball season is only about two weeks old, but the now 3-1 Terps learned a lot about themselves last night in a 79-70 loss to No. 4 Pittsburgh. Primarily, though, they learned two things: 1) They're going to be competitive this year, and 2) they really, really need to improve their free throw shooting.

In the nine-point loss, Maryland was a dreadful 14-30 (46.7%) from the line. That's 16 points left on the board, and even if the Terps had made just half of those, that's still eight important, potential points. The entire team contributed to the poor shooting, but the two biggest culprits were Jordan Williams (2-7) and James Padgett (0-5). Williams's struggles at the line are frustrating, but he brings so much else to the table that it's hard to complain too much about it. Padgett, on the other hand, hasn't done much else to this point in his career as a sophomore, and he really needs to make those shots when given the opportunity to do so. At one point, Gary Williams seemed to express some frustration towards Padgett right before a TV timeout after he missed two more free throws, but that also could have been for a missed defensive assignment, or maybe something else. It wasn't clear. Still, the point remains the same: Stop giving up free points.

Maryland forced 16 Pitt turnovers -- and only had eight themselves -- so that was a positive, along with shooting a better percentage than Pitt from the field (48.2% to 46.3%). Still, Maryland was outrebounded by 18 (43-25), and they also shot an abysmal 2-14 from three-point range. Dino Gregory seemed more concerned with blocking shots (he had four) than boxing out and grabbing rebounds (only two in 35 minutes). Williams had eight rebounds, and the only other Terp with more than five was Sean Mosley, with six. Sure, Pittsburgh is a deep team and has a lot of frontcourt size, but Maryland has to do better on the boards, period.

Overall, it was a tough, hard-fought victory for Pitt, even if they looked sloppy for most of the game. But Maryland battled them to the end. They'll face another tough opponent, No. 16 Illinois, tonight in the consolation game.

Two other notes:

- Whenever Williams gets in foul trouble, the Terps are going to struggle. Gregory isn't really adept at controlling the paint like Williams can, and Berend Weijs (junior) and Padgett aren't really big enough to do a whole lot of damage inside either. Besides Mosley and Gregory (when he actually focuses on it), the Terps don't have a ton of rebounding ability.

- Freshmen Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard are only going to get better. The Terps' best perimeter scorer this season is probably going to be Cliff Tucker, but both Stoglin and Howard can spell Tucker and Adrian Bowie and still keep the pressure on opposing defenses. They sometimes don't have the best shot selection and aren't as skilled at running Gary Williams's offense yet, but they're still rather advanced for freshmen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Skins and blowout losses

It's no revelation to point out that fans aren't fond of their teams getting blown out, especially in big games. But except for a select few elite teams, every team loses big at one time or another, like it or not. Now, I'm not saying the Redskins are an elite team, or even close to one, and I'm also not excusing their terrible, embarrassing performance against the Eagles on Monday night. But judging by some of the crazy reactions from fans, you'd think this kind of thing never happens to the Redskins, or at least hadn't happened for a long time.

But that's not true. Just going back a few seasons, the Redskins suffered two such losses that rival the 59-28 debacle against the Eagles.

Patriots 52, Redskins 7

On October 28, 2007, the 4-2 Redskins traveled to Gillette Stadium to take on the 7-0 Patriots. The undefeated Patriots were definitely thought of as the better team, but some still gave the Skins a fighting chance. Unfortunately, that hope didn't last long; the Patriots took a quick lead and didn't look back. At halftime, the Patriots led 24-0, and they kept their foot on the accelerator, eventually leading 52-0 with just a few minutes left in the game. With about three minutes left, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Chris Cooley cut the lead to 52-7, which ended up being the final score.

On that day, the Skins were completely dominated in every phase of the game. Here's the tale of the tape (Patriots numbers listed first):

Total yards: 486-224
Pass yards: 334-177
Rush yards: 152-47
First downs: 34-13
Forced turnovers: 4-1

Tom Brady finished the game 29-38 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Oddly enough, he also rushed for two touchdowns. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, was 21-36 for 197 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Oh, and he also lost three fumbles.

Silver lining: The Redskins beat the Jets 23-20 the very next week, but they lost four straight games afterward. But then, with Todd Collins filling in for an injured Campbell and with heavy hearts following the death of Sean Taylor, the Skins put together four straight crucial wins to earn a playoff berth. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round against the Seahawks in Seattle.

Giants 45, Redskins 12

Most fans should remember this game; it took place just last season, on another Monday night (December 21) at home. The Giants came into the game as a decent (7-6) team, but they would eventually finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The Skins, however, were 4-9 and not a good team at all, though they had just returned home from Oakland after a 34-13 win over the Raiders.

Just like in the Patriots game above, the Giants took the lead in no time and were ahead 24-0 at halftime. Right before the half, though, the Skins pulled off one of the worst plays in NFL history. You probably remember it: Instead of opting for a 38-yard field goal to end the half and at least get some points on the board in an awful game, Jim Zorn sent out the special teams unit to attempt a crazy Hail Mary-type pass with punter Hunter Smith -- not once, but twice -- even after the Giants were prepared to stop it (which wasn't too difficult). If the loss in Week 3 to the Lions hadn't already sealed Zorn's fate after the season, that play certainly did.

The Skins scored two touchdowns in the third quarter (with a missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion), but that was it. The Giants scored the final points of the game, a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and ended up with a 45-12 win. A terrible, embarrassing loss? Yes, definitely.

Here's the tale of the tape for that game (Giants numbers listed first):

Total yards: 387-302
Pass yards: 273-213
Rush yards: 114-89
First downs: 23-15
Forced turnovers: 3-0

The Giants didn't necessarily dominate statistically, but they dominated the Skins in every other way possible. Also, Eli Manning was 19-26 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Campbell, though, was 15-28 for 192 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.

Silver lining: Sort of. The Redskins lost their next two games and finished the season with a 4-12 record. But that also led to Zorn's firing and, more importantly, Vinny Cerrato's overdue departure. So yeah, losses aren't fun, but sometimes they lead to good things.


Is there an overarching point in all of this? Maybe, maybe not. But it's clear that the Redskins are not an elite team, and they won't be until they stop making horrific personnel decisions and start keeping draft picks instead of giving them away for overrated, older players -- especially ones that don't fit a certain scheme that the team will run.

It's hard to watch Albert Haynesworth laying on the field against the Eagles (and in other games too) and think that the primary problem isn't effort or a lack of heart. But really, that's not it. The Redskins are too old at too many key positions, and they don't have solid backups behind them. That's not a defense of Haynesworth -- far from it. But until the Skins start operating differently -- and there are a few signs that maybe the Skins are, in fact, changing for the better -- these types of losses will continue to happen. And no amount of yelling or insane ranting is going to change that.

It takes time to build a consistent winner; Band-Aids rarely work.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wiz handle Raptors without Wall, Yi

Now with a 2-9 record after last night's 109-94 loss to the short-handed Wizards, it's fair to say that the Raptors are one of the worst teams in the NBA. Still, the Wizards improved to 3-6 with the win, and they did so without John Wall, and to a lesser extent, Yi Jianlian.

The Raptors, far from a good defensive team, allowed the Wizards to shoot over 56 percent from the field and dish out 28 assists. The Wizards ended the first half with a seven-point lead and then outscored the Raptors by 15 points in the third quarter (36-21) to put the game away for good.

With Wall out, Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich started together in the backcourt, and both had solid games. Arenas scored 20 points on 7-14 shooting, including 3-6 from three-point range, and he also had seven rebounds and six assists. Hinrich was also efficient, scoring 13 points on eight shots, while also dishing out a game-high 12 assists. Andray Blatche led the Wizards with 22 points (9-13 from the field) and also had seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Rounding out the starting five, Al Thornton added six points and seven rebounds, and JaVale McGee had eight points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.

Nick Young (30 minutes) and Trevor Booker (20 minutes) both played a sizable chunk of minutes off the bench. Young poured in 20 points on 8-15 shooting and also managed to do something else other than scoring points, grabbing six rebounds. The 20 minutes for Booker were the most he's played so far in his young career, and his eight points were also a career high. Also, Hilton Armstrong scored 10 points in a productive 16 minutes off the bench.

As a team, the Wizards held the Raptors to 40.7 percent from the field and outrebounded them 47-36. The Wizards also had nine more assists than Toronto (28-19), but they did turn the ball over three more times (16-13).

After beating the Raptors in Washington, the Wizards face the Celtics in Boston today. Unfortunately, they may still be without Wall, whose status is "still uncertain." The Celtics won't roll over like the Raptors did, and Wall's presence will likely be missed much more in tonight's game.

Brief note: I realize that Young was likely to play more minutes in this game because of Wall's injury, but it's still funny to see how his minutes change from game to game. His 30 minutes last night were a season high, but he hadn't even played 20 minutes in a game since November 2 against the 76ers. I realize that Young basically is who he is at this point -- a guy who doesn't bring a whole lot to the table other than his ability to heat up and score points in bunches -- but I guess he's sort of settling into his role as the fourth guard, which essentially means that he'll see some playing time if Wall, Arenas, or Hinrich misses a game. If not, then I guess he gets to spend most of the game with Sam Cassell on the bench.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

McNabb's last seven games

Last night's embarrassing blowout loss to the Eagles -- with a final score of 59-28 -- showcased this current Redskins team's weaknesses. And yes, there are plenty of them. Here are a few: The defense gives up way too many yards and can't get a consistent pass rush; overall team speed is lacking; the offense doesn't have many playmakers; the offensive line is rather awful; and the Redskins have not gotten consistent quarterback play from Donovan McNabb. None of this should be surprising at this point.

Well, let's go back to that point about McNabb: that he hasn't been consistent. Actually, that's not quite true. With all of the deficiencies of this team contributing, McNabb has been consistently mediocre. That might seem a little unfair after last night's terrible game; after all, of course it's not McNabb's fault that the defense allowed that many points and a whopping 592 total yards. McNabb doesn't deserve all of the blame -- far from it. But he does deserve his fair share, especially since he's going to be in Washington for a few more years after signing an extension.

Last night, McNabb completed 17 of 31 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. That was good enough for a 69.4 quarterback rating. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown. McNabb was sacked twice and hit six times, and he was under consistent pressure from the beginning of the game. Still, the Redskins failed to convert one third down the entire game (0-10). That just can't happen.

Let's try to forget about last night's game for a moment. McNabb's last solid performance probably came against Houston, when he threw for 426 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort. He didn't turn the ball over and had a 119.0 QB rating. Since that game (all the way back in Week 2), McNabb hasn't posted a QB rating over 80, and his only multi-touchdown game came last night. Take a look at the numbers:


And then yesterday's game against the Eagles. So, yeah, not very good. Here are some other numbers:
  • His quarterback rating of 75.2 ranks 29th in the NFL.
  • His 57.1 completion percentage also ranks 29th, just ahead of Jason Campbell (56.7).
  • McNabb is actually ranked ninth in passing yards (2,266), one yard ahead of Matt Ryan. But McNabb also only has nine touchdown passes (tied for 24th) while also throwing 11 interceptions (tied for fourth most).
Whether it's the current offensive scheme, the lack of playmakers, or just not being familiar in a Redskins uniform yet, McNabb has not played well in Washington. He also turns 34 on November 25. It's nice that the Redskins have some quarterback stability (not sure if that's the right word) with McNabb after signing him to an extension. The deal likely ensures that he'll be in Washington for the next three or four years, and in that time, maybe the Skins can draft and develop a young quarterback to be ready by the time McNabb departs. Also, with the quarterback position filled, the Redskins can finally focus on key areas in the next few NFL drafts, like offensive and defensive line, wide receiver, running back, and obviously other positions. Maybe that finally means they'll stop trading away draft picks for players that don't produce. If it takes giving McNabb that extension for that to happen, maybe it's worth it.

Then again, the Redskins have just committed a lot of money to an aging quarterback who hasn't shown, except for one game against a terrible defense, that he can still produce at a high level. I don't think McNabb is done, and obviously the Redskins don't either. But they painted themselves into a corner when they traded for McNabb, and the only thing that would have looked worse than signing him to an extension would have been to let him walk.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 10 picks

I've got a busy weekend ahead of me, so here are my (quick) NFL picks for Week 10.

Ravens (PK) over FALCONS

I had the Ravens winning this game on the road, and they nearly pulled off the comeback win. But almosts don't count.

COLTS (-7) over Bengals

Texans (+1) over JAGUARS

Titans (-1.5) over DOLPHINS

Vikings (-1) over BEARS

BILLS (-3) over Lions

BROWNS (+3) over Jets

BUCCANEERS (-7) over Panthers

Chiefs (-1) over BRONCOS

Rams (+6) over 49ERS

CARDINALS (-3) over Seahawks

GIANTS (-14) over Cowboys

Patriots (+4.5) over STEELERS

Eagles (-3) over REDSKINS

Last week: 6-5-2
Season: 57-67-6

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boswell says the Wizards "need to practice"

Thomas Boswell frequently writes solid columns. His most recent column on the Wizards, though, struck me as a bit simplistic. Don't get me wrong: He brought up some interesting points and even crunched some numbers in the second part of his article (where he "added up all [players'] points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, then subtracted [their] turnovers and missed shots of any type" and compared various players. The Wizards don't have anyone elite in that category, if you were wondering). But his main point, essentially, is that the Wizards have "a chance to be a losing team, but a respectable one . . . [i]f they work hard."

Yes, for Boswell, it's about practice.

This column was primarily written because of the Wizards practice controversy on Monday, when Flip Saunders stormed out of practice and held a second one later in the day. Apparently there was a lack of effort, and also some complaining, so instead of sticking around, Saunders just rolled out. But after Tuesday's practice, Saunders seemed pleased with the level of effort at practice, saying, "We had better concentration. More concentrated effort, mentally and physically. Comprehended more things. Hopefully message delivered, message received."

I'm not saying that Saunders overreacted -- far from it. But coaches do occasionally pull stunts like what Saunders did to motivate their players. So if the Wizards do happen to beat the Rockets tonight, don't be stunned to hear about how focused the team was, or how much more effort the team exerted.

But back to Boswell's column. He also makes two other points:
  • "This year's team could go either way - dramatically. They have just enough talent, plus the Wall spark, to be fun most nights. But Monday's eruption is a major red flag. The Wizards need to be honest with themselves: Less than full effort will be a disaster."
  • "All in all, by this measure and plenty of others you can use, the Wizards are not doomed to be terrible. But if they want to compete with anyone, they must use every iota of ability, not force the coach to kick them out of practice in disgust."
I don't think anyone would disagree with these two statements. All fans want their teams to hustle and play hard every game, and lackadaisical effort gets booed and written about negatively. For the most part, most Wizards fans didn't see this current team as anything special (other than John Wall). I still think they'll improve on last year's 26-56 record, but a lot of that hinges on Wall's improvement, Gilbert Arenas's health, how much production the Wiz can get from Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, and several other factors.

However, if the Wizards continue to play poorly, it'll be pretty easy to blame their lack of wins on effort, or a lack thereof. Not that he's played flawlessly, but it's not Wall's fault that the Wizards don't have a great rebounder or a strong interior presence. And it's not his fault that Saunders insists on a three-guard lineup that doesn't seem to be working too well. Despite the effort/practice cliche, talent wins in the NBA. Boswell briefly touches on this later in his article when looking at the best three players on the Heat, Lakers, and Celtics -- three of the league's best teams. The Wizards simply don't compare to those teams over a full season, and no amount of hard-nosed practicing will change that.

That's not to say that the Wizards can't or shouldn't practice harder and give more effort, but sometimes that's not enough. Even Saunders would admit that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mark Connor hired as O's pitching coach

The Orioles and Mark Connor have agreed to terms, and he will be the O's new pitching coach under Buck Showalter.

Here's a little mini-bio on Connor, via Dan Connolly:
Connor, 61, has been on Showalter's staff in each of the manager's three previous stints in the majors, including time as Showalter's pitching coach with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers.


Connor's resume is exceptionally full. He has spent 35 years as a baseball coach, including the last eight seasons with the Texas Rangers. He most recently was a special assistant in the Rangers' player development department, working primarily with minor-league pitchers. He was the big-league club's pitching coach from 2006 to 2008, and was originally hired by Showalter in November 2002 to be Rangers' bullpen coach, a post he held for three seasons.

Along with working with Showalter, Connor was Buck Martinez's pitching coach with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001-02 and also has been the head baseball coach at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. A former pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization, he played two seasons in the minors before an arm injury derailed his hopes of making the big leagues.
With Connor now on board, here is the updated O's coaching staff list:

Pitching Coach: Mark Connor
Hitting Coach: Jim Presley
First-base Coach: Wayne Kirby
Bullpen Coach: Rick Adair

Two positions on Showalter's staff -- bench coach and third-base coach -- still need to be filled.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bill Simmons ranks Bills over Skins

First, let me state two semi-obvious things: 1) I'm a Redskins fan, and 2) I don't think they're headed for anything better than an 8-8 final record. Regardless of whatever you think about the Redskins, that at least seems fair, right? They have a few tough games in the second half, but it's at least conceivable that they finish the season with a .500 record. Even a complete hater could admit that.

OK, now with that out of the way, let's address the subject of this post: Despite owning a 0-7 record, the Buffalo Bills, according to Bill Simmons's latest power poll, are better than the Redskins. How could the Skins, even if they've played slightly over their heads, be placed below a winless team that has also been outscored by the most points (80) in the NFL? It just seems wrong.

Normally, I wouldn't bring something like this up. But Simmons, for the most part, seems pretty levelheaded about how good most teams are (not counting his blatant homerism for the Patriots and other Boston teams, for that matter). Anyway, let's take a quick look at the two teams. (The numbers in parentheses are teams' ratings according to Simmons, for what it's worth.)

Teams the Redskins have beaten: Dallas (29), Philadelphia (12), Green Bay (8), Chicago (28)

Teams the Bills have beaten: no one

Teams the Redskins have lost to: Houston (16), St. Louis (19), Indianapolis (2), Detroit (22)

Teams the Bills have lost to: Miami (13), Green Bay (8), New England (1), New York Jets (9), Jacksonville (23), Baltimore (4), Kansas City (10)

The Redskins have the advantage in terms of wins, particularly because they've actually won a few games -- four, in fact -- which is, you know, kind of important. The Bills, again, have no wins. Still, the Bills have played against some very good teams and only lost to the Ravens and Chiefs by three points each, and to the Dolphins by five in Week 1. They've been a very competitive team, especially the last few weeks.

Was a breakdown like this really necessary? Probably not -- after all, these are just one guy's rankings. But how the Skins, with four wins, can be placed below a winless team, even if the Redskins have overachieved and have a bit of a problem at quarterback, is simply questionable at best. (By the way, I didn't mean to hate on the Bills in this post, so don't take it that way. And if you do, blame it on Simmons.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week 9 picks

OK, so it's Week 9, which also happens to be the Redskins' bye week. Maybe that, for some reason, will give me the spark I've needed to go on a little run. (Probably not.)

BILLS (+3) over Bears

The Bills are the last winless team, but they've still played several close games. In the last two weeks, they've lost to the Ravens and Chiefs, two pretty good teams, by a field goal each. I'm not saying that they'll break through this week, but they certainly have the chance to do so.

TEXANS (+3) over Chargers

A healthy Chargers team is probably better than the Texans, but San Diego will have two things working against them: 1) they're on the road, and 2) they'll likely be without Antonio Gates, arguably their best player. Philip Rivers can still find other receivers, and he's already having a fantastic season, but losing Gates will be one lost weapon too many for this offense.

Saints (-6.5) over PANTHERS

These two teams played a close game in Week 4 (Saints 16, Panthers 14), but I have absolutely no confidence in picking the 1-6 Panthers for any reason. The Saints (5-3) also need this win to keep pace with the Falcons and Buccaneers (both 5-2).

VIKINGS (-8) over Cardinals

Is Brett Favre going to play in this one? Probably, I guess, but either way he should be handing the ball off a ton to Adrian Peterson this week (and every week, for that matter).

Buccaneers (+8.5) over FALCONS

Just a guess here, though I could see the Bucs getting blown out in this one.

Jets (-4) over LIONS

Unlike the Redskins, the Jets will be able to block the Lions' strong defensive line. And that will make an enormous difference.

Dolphins (+5) over RAVENS

The Ravens had the bye week to get healthy and sort things out, but I still think this could be a close game -- maybe one that comes down to a late field goal.

Patriots (-5) over BROWNS

The Patriots have everything working now, don't they? They should be able to get by the Browns without a problem.

Giants (-7) over SEAHAWKS

Charlie Whitehurst will be starting at quarterback for the Seahawks. In a completely related note, I like the Giants.

Chiefs (+3) over RAIDERS

The Raiders have blown out two teams in a row, but neither team could run the ball like the Chiefs can. This is actually a huge game for both teams -- and don't get me wrong, the Raiders have been impressive lately -- but I think the Chiefs are a little bit better.

Colts (+3) over EAGLES

Michael Vick is back; is he completely healthy? Will he show any rust? Still, this game could go either way, though I do think the Colts are better.

PACKERS (-8) over Cowboys

If the Cowboys haven't given up the last few weeks, then maybe they're just really, really bad. Either way, I'll go with Green Bay.

Steelers (-5) over BENGALS

The Steelers only scored 10 points last week. They won't be held down in consecutive weeks, and the defense should be able to force several turnovers in this one.

Last week: 5-8
Season: 51-62-4

Thursday, November 4, 2010

O's add Wayne Kirby to coaching staff

The O's coaching staff wolf pack has grown by one. According to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun, Wayne Kirby has agreed to be the team's new first-base coach and outfield instructor under Buck Showalter.

The expected additions of Juan Samuel (third-base coach) and Mark Connor (pitching coach) have still yet to officially be announced, so the only official hires are:

Hitting Coach: Jim Presley
First-base Coach: Wayne Kirby
Bullpen Coach: Rick Adair

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

O's notes: Hendrickson, Kranitz gone; Samuel returns

- The Orioles have declined their $1.2 million club option on Mark Hendrickson. The O's will instead pay Hendrickson his $200,000 buyout, and he becomes a free agent. According to FanGraphs, Hendrickson was worth 0.4 WAR ($1.8 million) last season, so paying him $1 million next season would have been reasonable. Still, the O's have other bullpen options, and Hendrickson is also 36 years old.

- Without a new contract from the O's, Rick Kranitz accepted a position with the Astros to become the organization's Minor League pitching coordinator. Brittany Ghiroli, who wrote the linked MLB.com article, speculates that "Rangers Minor League special assistant Mark Connor is in line to become the new Orioles pitching coach." That deal may be announced soon.

- Juan Samuel apparently will be returning to the O's to occupy a position he had before Buck Showalter's arrival: third-base coach. The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly offers this reason for Samuel's return: "In putting together his coaching staff, Showalter wanted a base coach who could work with infielders and also was hoping to add a Spanish-speaking coach. He accomplished both with Samuel. Although not involved in the organization’s glory days, Samuel is also someone with Orioles ties, given his four previous years as a coach with the club." Makes sense. Hopefully Samuel doesn't also end up filling another O's coaching position he previously held: interim head coach.

Quick take on the McNabb situation

The decision by Mike Shanahan to pull Donovan McNabb in the Lions game has been the dominant NFL story the last few days, even with all of the Randy Moss drama unfolding. Whether or not Shanahan was trying to send a message to McNabb that he needs to play better, Shanahan never offered a logical reason for the move and has instead given a range of excuses: the possibility that McNabb doesn't practice hard enough; that McNabb was very sore going into the game and was told he could be removed from the game at some point; Shanahan at first saying that Grossman "gave us the best chance to win"; that McNabb might not be that great at running two-minute drills; and that maybe McNabb isn't as familiar with the team's offense as he needs to be (which at first was insinuated and then never touched on again, for obvious reasons). Some people have raised the racial implications of some of the things Shanahan has said (like that last example above), and even Vinny Cerrato has offered his opinion, for what that's worth (next to nothing).

Trying to sort through all of the nonsense from Shanahan, here's my take: This situation has less to do with removing McNabb from the game and more about the timing. What coaches let their quarterback play the entire game and then pull him with two minutes left when they're down by less than a touchdown? It doesn't matter if McNabb's hamstrings were sore, if he's in bad shape, or even if he knew that there was a possibility he could be taken out of the game. Shanahan is wrong on this issue, and now he has to deal with this for maybe the rest of the season -- and especially for the next two weeks. Nice work.

People aren't exactly lining up to congratulate Shanahan. And that's to be expected. When was the last time that a starting quarterback had played just about the entire game, and then was unexpectedly removed from the game while his team had a chance to march down the field for a game-winning score? I honestly can't remember, though I'm sure at some point it's occurred.

McNabb can play much, much better. And really, he needs to for this team to go anywhere -- or for him to even possibly return to D.C. after this season. But Shanahan deserves all of the blame in this case. If he didn't know this was the quarterback he was getting in McNabb, or that the offensive line would be even close to as bad as it currently is, why even trade for McNabb in the first place? Keep that pick and draft a young QB or another offensive lineman (or three).

Shanahan already has a difficult job, but he didn't help himself at all with this move. The only way he wins in this whole mess is if McNabb somehow starts playing better and rallies the troops in the team's final eight games. But even then, when it comes to the possibility of re-signing with Washington, would McNabb forgive Shanahan for not only taking him out of the game, but criticizing him, if only briefly, about his lack of knowledge of the team's offense?

Who knows what McNabb or Shanahan are really thinking, but hopefully McNabb is able to focus his rage on something that may anger him even more than Shanahan: the Philadelphia Eagles.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Praising the common-sense genius

In last night's game between the Steelers and the Saints, an interesting situation arose in the second quarter that definitely got my attention. On a 4th and 3 on the Pittsburgh 13 and 12 seconds remaining in the half, the Saints, for some reason, shifted out of field goal formation and looked as if they were going to run a pass play. Instead of letting his field goal unit cover the possible trick play, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin simply called a timeout (the Steelers' third and final timeout of the half). After the timeout, the Saints opted to kick the field goal instead.

Not only was the decision by Tomlin to call a timeout logical, but it seemed like a simple solution. But Cris Collinsworth seemed amazed by Tomlin's timeout-calling genius, and he and Al Michaels discussed the move for the next few moments/minutes until the Saints lined up for their actual field goal attempt.

Now, there are thousands of coaching decisions behind the scenes both during the week for preparation and during actual games that fans will never know or be able to comprehend. But many coaches these days seemingly make so many bone-headed decisions that an obvious coaching move by Tomlin was enough for Collinsworth and Michaels to praise as if Tomlin had just pulled off some difficult maneuver that only he could have accomplished. Why is it so tough to have a common-sense approach?

Maybe that's because just about every bad coaching decision is analyzed endlessly by SportsCenter, teams' local media, other sports TV/radio shows, etc. But like it or not, that's going to be the case this week (and next week) with Mike Shanahan and his decision to pull Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman in the fourth quarter. (And that's not counting his two decisions to go for two in the second half, but I'll leave that for others to examine.)

To be clear, I completely disagreed with the decision to pull McNabb, even if he was having another mediocre game. I don't think McNabb has played all that well this season, which I've noted in previous posts. But that doesn't mean that Grossman gives the Redskins a better chance to win, which, oddly enough, was another topic that was discussed this week. There's very little, if anything, on the football field that Grossman does better than McNabb, especially with how poorly -- very, very poorly -- the Redskins offensive line was playing against the Detroit front four.

I think Shanahan likes to play these little head games with some of his team's best players. He was (still is?) in a battle of wills with Albert Haynesworth, though hopefully that's over as Haynesworth has played rather well the last few weeks. It's possible that Shanahan was trying to send a message to McNabb that mediocrity from him won't be enough to a) possibly get the Skins to the playoffs and b) earn him a contract to stay in Washington if it's not deserved.

But the timing of the move was beyond questionable. Let's take a look at the fourth-quarter situation again. Leading 25-20 after a Brandon Banks kickoff return touchdown, the Skins defense forced the Lions to punt the ball away, and McNabb and the offense took over at their own 26 with a little more than five minutes to go. The Lions also still had all three of their timeouts. On first down, Keiland Williams rushed for no gain. But on second down, McNabb made a disastrous decision, forcing the ball into a crowded area. Detroit intercepted the pass and took over in Redskins territory. Detroit both scored the go-ahead touchdown and completed the two-point conversion, which gave them a 28-25 lead.

The Redskins got the ball back with 3:12 remaining -- unfortunately, Banks didn't return the kickoff for a touchdown again -- and the offensive line again ruined any potential scoring drive. Trent Williams was called for holding on first down, and after two incomplete passes on second and third down, McNabb was sacked on 4th and 10. With the ball already in Washington territory, the Lions ran the ball three times and kicked a field goal to go up by a score of 31-25.

And that's when the switch to Grossman happened. Three thoughts popped into my head when I saw Grossman running onto the field: 1) Is McNabb hurt? 2) Why would Shanahan do this? 3) How exactly is Grossman supposed to perform any better than McNabb did with the way the offensive line was playing? As if it was destined to happen, Grossman was immediately sacked, and his fumble was recovered and returned for a touchdown. With the game now out of reach, Grossman threw a few short passes when the Skins got the ball back, but they didn't mean anything.

After the game, Shanahan said he made the switch because Grossman "gave us the best chance to win" at the time. I really hope he didn't believe that, no matter how poorly or slowly McNabb had previously run the team's two-minute drill in other games. Grossman had absolutely no chance behind the Redskins offensive line in that game, and that was evident from the beginning of the first quarter. McNabb ran for his life all game, basically having to avoid one or two potential tackles on most passing plays just to get the ball off. Sure, he missed his fair share of open receivers when the line actually gave him time. That's been an issue all season. Does that mean that pulling him in the fourth quarter when all the team needed was a touchdown was really a good decision?

If Shanahan really was trying to send McNabb a message, maybe he could have found a different time to make such a choice. Or maybe he decided that was the single best opportunity he'd have all season to demonstrate to McNabb that he needs to play better, no matter what. Unfortunately, unlike Tomlin, Shanahan did not use common sense in assessing the situation, and it may not only have cost the Redskins the game, but now Shanahan and the team face some serious question marks heading into their bye week.