Rarely has the task of picking a winner for this award, annually conferred on the individuals who create the biggest disturbances on the local sports radar, been so simple.
Sure, some past honorees have made their case for a second helping. Rod Strickland, the big winner from 1999, notched yet another arrest, helped get a coach fired, and played as if he still doesn’t care. 1998 co-honorees Albert Belle and Peter Angelos both managed to creep underneath the bar they’d set so, so low.
And it’s also true that a heralded newcomer, Michael Jordan, showed some award-quality unsportsmanship as he mocked us from his Chicago outpost with a potpourri of slackerness, incompetence, and utter contempt for Wizards fans.
Yet these folks still fell short. Waaay short.
The Redskins stood feet and knees below everybody else.
This is truly a team prize. From the bozo owner on down to the scrubs on the special teams, the current Redskins have shown less heart than Dick Cheneywhich is exactly why FedEx Field will be emptier than the men’s room at an Indigo Girls gig when the Cardinals come to town this weekend. And because this was a real one-for-all, all-for-naught effort, we hereby pronounce the Washington Redskins the Washington City Paper’s 2000 Unsportsmen of the Year. Kudos!
These Skins lack character, but not characters. Michael Westbrook, after a quiet start, ended the season superbly, if only in terms of unsportsmanship. Duly deposed coach Norv Turner always stood up for the overpaid, consistently underachieving miscreant from Colorado, and he ignored such incidents as Westbrook’s televised assault of a teammate, his childish on-field tantrums, and his six years of malingering.
Yet on the very day Turner was canned, Westbrook became the first Redskin to publicly smear the suddenly former coach, blasting him as a nonmotivator whose play-calling cost the Redskins at least two games this season. Those criticisms would have carried weight had they come from any other source. But given how little the 1995 draftee has playedtwo guys who have already retired at least once from the NFL, Irving Fryar and Andre Reed(!), had more catches this season than Westbrook, who had only 20 touchdown receptions in six seasons (and none this year)Westbrook wasn’t the right guy to be kicking Turner when he was down.
Speaking of kicking…What the heck did Vinny Cerrato do for this team? Cerrato, the Skins’ ceremonial general manager, often takes credit for having built championship squads at Notre Dame and in San Francisco, where he was an underling before taking the Washington job. It’s now abundantly clear that those programs became successful in spite of Cerrato, not because of him. Cerrato turned the Redskins’ search for a kicker into a charade that made the team an NFL laughingstock. Under pressure from Dan Snyder, Cerrato fired the Turk brothers, snapper Dan and holder/punter Matt, who were both blamed for the botched 53-yard field goal attempt that ended the Skins’ 1999 season in the NFC semifinal game in Tampa Bay.
Then this season, Cerrato, again under orders from the Little Big Man, released the kicker on that fateful play, Brett Conway, when a leg injury sidelined him after just a few games. Conway, at the time he was cut, had hit on every field goal and extra point he’d attempted. None of the five kickers brought in since to replace him can say the same, and Conway went away so bitter about his treatment by Snyder/Cerrato that he wouldn’t come back when his leg healed. The situation is now so ridiculous that, while the receiving corps and offensive lines are greatly depleted, Cerrato has two kickers on the rosterEddie Murray and Scott Bentleyneither of whom can kick off as deep as Conway or even attempt a 53-yard field goal. Again, what does Cerrato do all day? If embalmed pep-talker Pepper Rodgers can replace anybody, it’s Cerrato.
Even the alleged nice guys on the Redskins flashed Unsportsman tendencies. Brad Johnson, the Boy Next Door quarterback, burst through a picket line to film a scab commercial for McDonald’s at RFK Stadium in defiance of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild. Veteran offensive lineman Andy Heck got a personal foul for roughing up a Dallas Cowboys player after a play in the Monday-night debacle, and Heck wasn’t even in the game at the time. Bruce Smith, hard as he played, led the team in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, many of which came on late hits late in close games. Terry Robiskie, after being named the temporary head coach, admitted that he’d be starting Jeff George at quarterback instead of Johnson because Snyder wanted it that way. Robiskie made himself look even less a leader when he explained that he “wouldn’t change my desk” without talking to Snyder.
Well, Robiskie will very likely be cleaning out his desk soon, and it’s a safe bet that that, too, will be preceded by a conversation
with the well-heeled high-heeled owner.
Deion Sanders shouldn’t come back, either. The mercenary’s “Veni/vidi/Versace” (loosely translated: “I came, I saw, I got paid”) persona proved very influential among the 2000 Redskins and won’t soon be forgotten around these parts.
He’s the only Skin who wears a different number in practice than he does in games: Sanders works out in jersey No. 2which, in the infant-poopie sense, seems proper. He brought his own personal trainer to camp. And after suffering the latest in a string of alleged injuries in the Pittsburgh game, he violated team rules (without reprimand, as always) by going to his own doctor and refusing to report to the Redskins medical staff for a checkup. You wouldn’t have needed a medical degree to diagnose Sanders with an acute case of loser’s limp throughout much of Saturday’s blowout, during which Pittsburgh’s no-name receivers (Hines Ward? Bobby Shaw?) picked on him as if he were the schoolyard runt. He didn’t huddle with his teammates between plays all season long. Then, last week, he blasted his teammates and blamed them for his laughably lame performance as a punt returner this year. James Thrash, behind the same blockers, gained 30 percent more yards per return than Sanders this season.
Forget the remaining years on Sanders’ cap-crushing $56 million pact with the Skins. He’s as done as the Oldsmobile. Sanders carried himself all season as if he thinks he’s God; well, Jesus didn’t have many good years after 33, either. Dave McKenna