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Not yet discension, we hope

Two articles caught my eye from over at the WaPo, one from Howard Bryant detailing Coach Gibbs' frustration with the team generally and specifically (failure to run the ball on offense). The second is a piece by Jason La Canfora where the players are directly and indirectly challenging the play calling of Gregg Williams.

Dissent and frustration is endemic to losing. Very few positives are identifiable when a team is 3-7 with no apparent easy fixes for failure. The worst thing a team can do to itself, however, is free fall into disarray and dissent. This is a well coached teams with a lot of talent. Perhaps there is an ego problem, though those are easily checked when you are 4 games south of .500. Right now the coaches and players need to work together on identifying why, for example, a top 10 defense devolves into one of the worst in the league.

Moving on to the articles, here is Howard Bryant's Gibbs Bemoans Team's Lost Way.

For a team that said it wanted to run the football on offense and stop the run on defense, Campbell rushed as many times as Duckett, while the Redskins' defense gave up 181 yards on the ground to a 2-7 team that for the season was averaging half that. Over his three previous games, Tampa Bay running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams had rushed 35 times for 103 yards. Against the Redskins, he had his best rushing game of the season, with 122 yards on 27 carries.
Most of this I outlined yesterday though none of it is suprising. Statistical analysis of this team does little besides depress and reinforce what Redskins fans already know; we suck on defense and, despite stating the contrary repeatedly this season, appear more interested in talking about establishing the run than actually doing so.
"I think we have certain principles that we know, that we win by and when we abide by those we're going to win football games. Right now, we're not getting that done," Gibbs said after the game.

"We have certain principles. We have to run and we have to stop the run when we get back to those, we can start winning football games. And when we violate these certain principles we're not going to be able to win any games."

He added later that he had no intention of taking over play calling duties. So why are we still complaining about an inability to run the ball? If we have to run what is stopping us from doing so besides the coaches? Should we believe that our head coach is powerless to intervene when Al Saunders fails to call a run?

Playing against a lead isn't an excuse that works this week. We led or were tied with Tampa Bay for much of the game. The failure to run was a failure in scheme and play calling. Whether or not the outcome would've been any different is debatable (we were averaging just 3.5 yards per carry with running backs when we did) but 14 rushes for Betts/Duckett/Sellers does not constitute an honest effort to establish the run.

The bigger question is how does a team lose its "principles" without voluntarily abandoning them? Is Joe Gibbs taking a subtle shot at Al Saunders here? The good news is that an abandonment of principles is a fixable problem. The solution is, come next Sunday, you call running plays. You get TJ Duckett more involved in the game. These are Coaching decisions -- which is why the complaint is so disturbing coming from our Head Coach.

Whether or not this turns into a team wide dispute is largely a function of winning. A scheme is the correct one when a team wins, regardless of who gets the ball how many times. Hopefully the puzzling resignation mentioned by Joe Gibbs above is not a subtle attack on Al Saunders, but rather just a Coach voicing unsurprising frustration with a losing team. Time will tell.

The bigger disaster for this team is its defense, outlined in Jason La Canfora's (hat tip: DC Sports Bog) column this morning, Defense Rests, and Fails to Stop Anyone. Much of it is rehashing those familiar, upsetting statistics; Redskins make opposing quarterbacks look brilliant, cannot get interceptions, and cannot sack opposing quarterbacks. Perhaps and probably we are even worse than Coach Spurrier's impugned 2003 defense.

Quick break -- here is Carlos Rogers explanation for getting burnt by Joey Galloway on Sunday for a 34 yard touchdown (emphasis added):

"Going against the fastest guy in the league and running [cover-0] and you don't get there [with the blitz], there's nothing you can do about it," Rogers said. "The only thing I can do is line up and play the call that's being made and try to execute to the best of my ability. He's a fast guy, and there ain't too much I can do."
I agree that the playcalling is suspect in that situation, especially if you don't get pressure. But I will leave it to Hogs Haven readers to decide for themselves whether Joey Galloway is the fastest player in the league or whether Carlos Rogers is a helpless observer-victim on that particular play or not. Break over.

What troubles me most from the article is the questioning of scheme by the players. First from Carlos Rogers:

"It's the scheme, it's the play-calling, it's the execution of the plays that are being called," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "It's both the players and the coaches. It's not just one individual, either. It's some of both. We've got the same group we had last year [when Washington ranked ninth overall on defense] and even added some players, but we're just not clicking like a unit."
and later, more damning, from Phillip Daniels:
End Phillip Daniels said: "The players aren't the only ones at fault. The coaches take blame for lot of stuff, too. They tell us behind the scenes. We know what's going on."
Once the players decide that the scheme isn't working -- and they might be right to do so: we're horrible -- then there's bound to be dissent. Especially if people are being blamed and publicly humiliated for that failure, such as Adam Archuleta. We all like to take cheap shots at Archuleta for his dramatic failure as an expensive free agent acquisition, but I doubt whether he is as bad an option as Vernon Fox, who was sent in to replace Troy Vincent when the latter went down with a hamstring injury. I can't help but view that as a symbolic move. Adam Archuleta's future with this team is over, likely by the beginning of next season. He's become the first (perhaps) in a series of discarded excuses for the failures of this defense. The rest of the players will see the writing on the wall.

Carlos Rogers no doubt feels the heat as well. When everyone blames him for giving up the deep pass to Galloway, it surely crosses his mind that maybe sending 8 people at the QB should result in meaningful pressure. It didn't.

Fortunately Gregg Williams has a resume that speaks for itself, which should curb some of the players' criticisms. But until and unless this defense starts actually stopping opposing offenses on the field, I expect the dissent to increase in frequency and measure. That does not bode well for this team.