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