Watching the DeAngelo Hall scrum during the Falcons game with (what appears in retrospect as) their entire sideline, it did not cross my mind that the thing wrong here was a lack of Redskins uniforms, in large part because:
3-3-ATL 40 (1:37) (Shotgun) 2-M.Ryan scrambles right end ran ob at ATL 44 for 4 yards (30-L.Landry). PENALTY on WAS-30-L.Landry, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at ATL 44. Penaltyon WAS-92-A.Haynesworth, Unnecessary Roughness, declined.
Count me among those who desperately think this team is lacking something right now, be it passion, talent, or coaching. But one of the few jerseys that did show up to the party on Hall's behalf ended up with a penalty. At the time I thought little of the incident beyond 'this is what a frustrated, 2-5 football team looks like when they're down 21-3 heading into the half and the bad guys are about to score.'
Having watched the incident again, more than once, I was a little struck both by the dearth of teammates defending Hall and the unusually long amount of time it took them to appear. See for yourself after the jump:
Admission: I kind of have a soft spot for vigilantes, particularly those who enforce on behalf of friends or teammates, so the lack of Redskins jerseys does piss me off a bit. However, the real bad actor here is LaRon Landry, who gets pegged with the late hit. All that happened subsequent is superfluous because Haynesworth's penalty was declined. If Landry lets Matt Ryan trot off the sideline at his own 43 (would that have been the "passionate" move, I wonder?) the Falcons are 1st and 57 to go to the endzone as opposed to 1st and 41. Difference maker? Probably not: we lost by 14. But watching the above video, I will happily conclude that Landry's late hit frustrates me more than the resulting bedlam, or lack thereof.
Lavar Arrington thought differently. With a hat tipped Bog's way:
If you didn't hear LaVar Arrington's full-throated condemnation of the Redskins' defense Monday afternoon, it's worth a listen. He started off his show on 106.7 The Fan just screaming at the top of his lungs about the lack of heart when DeAngelo Hall got caught in that scrum on that Falcons' sideline. His complaint wasn't about the late hit by LaRon Landry or about Hall's actions, but about the fact that Hall was left by himself as the Atlanta net closed in.
My favorite Arrington quotes from the entire affair, emphasis added:
"Every time you want to think about what type of defense we have, just pull that clip up[.]"
(You mean, #1 passing defense in the league? Top 10 total defense? I'm not saying we're as good as our stats, given our soft schedule, but if there's anything in Washington that is not broken right now, it's the defense.)
"That's a coach grabbing on my teammate, that's the head coach pushing on my teammate, saying I'm gonna kick your [behind]. I am running in that pileup head on, 100 miles an hour, let's go, CHOO CHOO! I don't care if I've got to walk in the locker room after that. I don't care. That's heart. We're playing with heart. I saw no heart. I saw no heart. I saw no dedication, no accountability for my fellow man out there on that field, and it came from the side of the ball that I would have never thought it would have came from."
There might be a lot in Arrington's rant that has many a Redskin fan nodding his/her head. Does this team lack heart? Hell if I know, but they're certainly lacking something. But based on the reactions of the zebras, I don't think a lack of heart is where I'd point the finger after the play.
Anyways, Deangelo Hall, for his part, agreed with Arrington, if in a muted manner. Arrington wanted "disappointment":
"You know what, not disappointment," Hall said. "Like I said, it was a little bit disheartening, but disappointment is probably a little bit too big of a word that I'm prepared to throw out there. Like I said, some guys are just built different, and like I told LaVar, I'm fiery, wear my emotions on my sleeve, try to leave 100 percent out there on the field at all times. I can't speak for everybody else and their mindset and how they approach the game, but I know for me, that's just kind of how I am, that's kind of how I've always been."
I loved Lavar Arrington, he was a bright spot on some Redskins teams that I considered, at the time, to be pretty mediocre. (In hindsight, who wouldn't want to be on track for an 8-8 season?) But for all his apparently much needed passion, Arrington was 37-42 in games he accumulated stats. I don't say this to dump on one of my all time favorite Redskins, but to suggest that maybe more is needed to win games than mere passion.
What's the point? Lavar Arrington is making an observation on talk radio about the lack of support the defense had for one of its members, then surrounded by enemy uniformed soldiers physically accosting him. Pretty fair point. After reviewing the video, even I thought it strange that Haynesworth and others showed up to the fight so late. Having said that, there is a lot broken with this football team right now, much of it potentially institutional, and fans will do the team few favors by chasing down windmill bogey-men shaped as a giant lack of passion, whatever that looks like. As we contemplate the future of this team and examine crucial issues, such as the future of our current coach, or the name and curriculum vitae of the next one, we should focus holistically on what this team needs to win more than two games a season. Our alleged lack of heart is one of a million red herrings that will inevitably fit into a narrative about what coach gives us the best chance to win in the future. Do we need a player's coach or an Xs and Os guy? False dilemma?
This is what happens when you're down in the NFL. Everyone has an opinion as to why, but at 2-6 against one of the worst schedules in the league (although by some measures I'm not certain we're as bad as everyone says) if it feels like there are a million things wrong -- players? play calling? passion? -- it is probably the case that there isn't precisely one thing wrong. If it were so "clear and simple" why we can't win, then we'd have stumbled upon the clear and simple solution by now.
Some problems are complicated enough to require more than head-butting choo choo trains. As the season goes on and if/when the losses continue, speculation will be legion as to why/how/who/what has gone wrong with our beloved 'Skins. In answering that quandary, I say we stick to the measurables -- penalty yards, for instance -- before pointing accusatory fingers at the size of our player's hearts. It is tempting but cheap, in my opinion.
But what do I know?