2005 should finally bring success
Despite finishing on a high note, the Washington Redskins had yet another disappointing season with a final record of 6-10. This season hurts more than others because of the sky-high expectations from the beginning. Their Hall of Fame coach, Joe Gibbs, returned and Redskins fans were swearing that this was finally the year. Unfortunately, this was not the year of success; it was more of the same for the Redskins.
Gibbs was supposed to turn the team's fortunes around, just as he did in his first stint. Gibbs was the only coach that has ever led the Redskins to a Superbowl championship; as a matter of fact he led them to three. Many die-hard Redskins fans, including myself, claimed him to be the best coach for the Redskins.
Problems from the start
Gibbs always valued experienced quarterbacks as the cornerstone of Superbowl franchises. Thus, the first free agent move Gibbs did was to bring in Mark Brunell. Brunell had spent most of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and had 11 years in the league before coming to Washington. Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville had just displaced him in Jacksonville. Regardless, Gibbs had confidence that Brunell could still compete at a professional level.
Thus, Dan Snyder hands out a contract for seven years worth over $43 million dollars with an eight million dollar signing bonus. At this point, I along with half the world was wondering what the seven years was for. Brunell was already 34 and has had a shaky and injury prone record in the past. Brunell has only started all sixteen game of the regular season once in his 11 years in the National Football League (NFL). The seven-year deal was supposed to help alleviate the impact of the contract on the salary cap, but another question arose whether Brunell was worth all that money.
Looking back at the season, Brunell seems to be a major part of the reason the Redskins' offense was dormant at the beginning. Gibbs already had a capable quarterback in Patrick Ramsey, who he should have stuck with. The problem was Ramsey was not learning Gibbs' system quick enough and did not play well in the preseason.
Brunell played decently enough to be named the starter, but struggled since the beginning. The offense should definitely be better than last year under Steve Spurrier's Fun N' Gun system, which left the quarterback unprotected and did not stress a running game.
However, the Redskins offense this year is worse in just about every category. Snyder and the Redskins acquired one of the best running backs in the game in Clinton Portis and temporarily made him the highest paid running back in the league with an eight-year deal worth $50.5 million.
The Redskins played their first game in the Gibbs II era versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Portis ran well and looked just as he did in his two year with the Denver Broncos. Portis broke through the defense for a 64-yard touchdown run, his first carry with the Redskins. He finished the day with 148 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. That average was the best of the season for Portis, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry over the next 15 games. Over his first two seasons with the Broncos, he ran over 1500 yards with a 5.5 yards per carry average. His touchdown production was also down, as he only scored five rushing touchdowns opposed to 15 and 14 in his two years with the Broncos.
While the Redskins won the first game, the problems were already present. Brunell only threw for a 125 yards without any touchdowns. Portis was generating the only offense on the team and if he ever struggled, questions about the offense were circulating. After nine weeks of offensive futility with Brunell as their starter, Gibbs named Patrick Ramsey the starter for the rest of the season.
Ramsey, who possesses an extremely strong arm, is used to relying on passes to run the offense. After all, in his four years at Tulane, he carried his team with his strong arm passing for over 9000 yards and 72 touchdowns. In his first two years in the NFL, he learned the Fun N' Gun system under Spurrier. However, Gibbs' system is more conservative and stresses quarterback protection and a running game.
The Redskins lost games they simply shouldn't have. The glaring losses are the Cleveland game on Oct. 3 and the second Dallas game on Dec. 13. The Browns were one of the worst teams in the NFL this year. There is no excuse for losing to the Browns. In the second Dallas game, the Cowboys won on a desperate touchdown pass with just over thirty seconds left. Winning these two games would have given us an 8-8 record, which was good enough to make the playoffs in the pitiful National Football Conference (NFC).
The Redskins could have probably finished better than 8-8. The referees took back a touchdown run by Portis against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 31, which would have given the Redskins the lead at 21-20 with only a few minutes remaining. There was an illegal motion penalty on Redskins wide receiver James Thrash and instead, of getting a much-deserved victory they were moved yards back.
The Redskins did not get blown out by one of the best teams in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles, this season. They actually had a shot at winning both of the games against them, especially the second one on Dec. 12. The Redskins were driving late into the Eagles territory and Ramsey forces one ball into the end zone. Unfortunately, it was intercepted to end the hopes of Redskins fans. This game deserved to go into overtime, where either team would have a shot at winning. These four games would have drastically changed the outcome of the season.
There is reason to believe 2005 will bring the success Redskins fans hope. The 2004 Redskins team that finished 6-10 was a team much better than their record indicated. Their defense, despite the countless injuries, which led to the reserves' of reserves' starting, finished second in the league. The unit kept the offense in almost every game and did not allow more than 28 points in any one game.
The defense should be just as good or even better next season. For the first time in a while, the defensive coordinator and system will not change. Gregg Williams, the head-honcho and brains behind this vaunted defense, will return next season. Several other starting players including LaVar Arrington, Mike Barrow, Matt Bowen, and Phillip Daniels will be able to have an impact. The only danger for the Redskins defense is the possible loss of cornerback Fred Smoot in the off-season. However, Snyder and Gibbs will probably come to an agreement with Smoot.
Meanwhile, the offense started to click towards the end of the season. Ramsey, who was far from mistake free, ignited the Redskins offense. In his seven starts of the season, Ramsey went 3-4. In his nine appearances, he threw ten touchdowns and 11 interceptions. However, in his seven starts he threw eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Overall, he finished with a 62.1 completion percentage and 1665 yards.
Gibbs named Ramsey the starter in 2005, which should to lead to even more improvement for the offense. Ramsey will spend the off-season working with the first team offense and his receivers. The offensive line, "dirt bags," will have right tackle Jon Jansen back next season, which will be a major plus. The improvements in the offensive line should also help Portis run next year, making the offense multi-dimensional.
The Redskins have the ninth pick in the 2005 NFL draft, so are in position to draft another playmaker. Their schedule is also favorable next season, with opponents such as the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco Forty-Niners, and the Oakland Raiders. If Gibbs can lead the offense and the defense remains stellar, the Redskins should be a playoff caliber team in 2005.
Adith Sekaran. Adith Sekaran is finally a senior at Blair. Adith is a man who is a big time sports fan and can spend any day to its' entirety watching sports or ESPN. Football season is his favorite, which he spends cheering on his ‘Skins to no … More »