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The bye week should go bye-bye.
Don’t buy into that crap about how vital some midseason time off is to players’ health. If the owners gave the slightest damn about players’ well-being, would there be artificial turf? The bye week was installed by the NFL during TV contract negotiations to extend the number of weeks in the season, give the networks more nationally televised games, and sweeten the pot by a few tenths of a billion.
But as the Redskins enter their bye week and recuperate from the 49ers thrashing, the lull gives fans time to ponder the impossiblity now of a playoff berth or a winning season. One week off doesn’t give us enough time to mull over all this season’s points of blight, so let’s reflect on some of the darkness.
A Tale of Two Cities Washington comes off the bye week against Dallas. We have the worst of teams; they have the best of teams. With the Monday Night win over the Giants, Dallas has won more NFC Eastern Division games this week (one) than Washington has since Week 2 of last season. Dallas has won as many games in the past six weeks as Washington has in two years (six). Dallas has won 12 Eastern Division games in a row. Washington has lost 12 Eastern Division games in a row.
Home Sweet Home Jesse James was killed in his house, but only once; the Redskins get killed regularly in theirs. Washington is 0-6 at RFK Stadium, and has but two more chances to equal or surpass the underachievements of the 1961 squad, which won one home game. By the way, that was the last year the Redskins had a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback.
Dome Sweet Dome Both of Washington’s wins, on the road in New Orleans and in Indianapolis, came indoors. There are no more games in domes on the schedule, and not even a roof placed on RFK would help the home team.
Least Shocking Development Tydus Winans has leapfrogged Desmond Howard to become the Redskins’ No. 2 wideout, behind Henry Ellard. Back in training camp, everybody in burgundy and gold sweat pants was proclaiming that this was going to be Howard’s make-or-break year. After 10 games, he’s got 16 catches, and about twice as many drops. That’s not make, that’s break. As if his stats weren’t damaging enough, Howard further hurt his standing by stupidly staying inbounds after making a catch in the final seconds against Philly, even though the Skins were out oftimeouts. Bet the rent he won’t be back next year.
Second Least Shocking Development Leonard Marshall’s inadequacy. Siegfried and Roy couldn’t make the signing of Leonard Marshall appear justified. Charley Casserly shelled out big bucks to sign the free agent defensive lineman despite chronic injury problems, but after missing the entire preseason because of pre-Redskin ailments, he’s done nothing noticeable to help his team. If it weren’t for Ken Harvey, who’s earning every penny of the $3 million the Redskins spent to lure him from Phoenix, the Redskins wouldn’t have any pass rush at all, and Casserly might be fishing with Marshall and Howard next year.
Biggest Flop Reggie Brooks. Last year, he picked up 1,063 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry. This season, he’s gotten just 212 yards on less than three yards per carry. Brooks has been buried way down on the running back depth chart ever since sullying Heath Shuler’s debut with three fumbles in just five carries against Dallas. His only assignments of late, in fact, have come as a decoy on short yardage and two-point plays.
Biggest Surprise The length of the Norv Turner honeymoon. Turner’s team has a worse record at the 10-game mark than Petitbon’s sad sacks, but this year’s head coach’s competence hasn’t been questioned. So what if his team sucks? The coaching staff of any team that’s blown as many second half leads as the Redskins have this year should be criticized. A good starting point for abuse would be Turner’s clock mismanagement, which has been blatant in several close games.
And the Race Is On Pursuit of the starting quarterback job is the only compelling reason to stay tuned through the season’s final stretch, though the field is moreclaimer than stakes. Turner has already declared that Gus Frerotte will start after the bye, even though the San Francisco game proved he’s not the sure thing his debut in Indianapolis suggested. It was rigged from the start that pace-setter John Friesz would drop to the back of the pack for the stretch run. Heath Shuler, the pre-race favorite, has the breeding and the money behind him, so he will contend, but look for Frerotte to still be in the lead by a head going into Carlisle next year.
Don’t Avoid the Draft It’s time to lift the moratorium on thinking about next year’s draft. If current standings hold, only a pair of AFC teams, the Bengals and Oilers, would pick ahead of the Redskins. Cincinnati, however, has shown life since unknown bomber Jeff Blake took over as quarterback, and just last week beat the same Seahawks team that thrashed Washington on opening day. That means the Redskins may soon trail only Houston in the Toilet Bowl Coalition Poll. Don’t look for them to move up any further, however: Under former Redskin Coach of the Year Jack Pardee, the Oilers are playing the poorest football in the NFL right now. And, sorry, Air McNair fans, no matter where they end up, the Redskins are not going to draft another QB in 1995.
Most Valuable Skin Brian Mitchell. His season began with a thud. In the opener against Seattle, he fumbled a punt and a kickoff and dropped several catchable passes. He’s been phenomenal ever since. Against the Saints, Mitchell returned a kickoff 86 yards and also had a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown. Mitchell currently ranks first in the league in punt return average and total yards (punt returns, kickoff returns, rushing, and receiving). He also leads the Redskins in yards per rush and is third in receiving. If only he’d lose that trash-talking routine.
Comeback Player of the Midyear After a very slow start, Darrell Green has been playing like only Darrell Green can for the past several weeks. Maybe it was because of the new rules, but Green sure was having trouble at the start of the season; he was burned repeatedly and flagged even more often for illegal chucks and pass interference calls. Outside of Mitchell, he’s the only guy on the squad with a realistic chance of an invitation to Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be back for a 13th season.
Use Your Time Wisely The week’s vacation means there won’t be any Redskins game to keep viewers from watching real football: 4 p.m. Sunday. WTTG-TV (Channel 5). Dallas at San Francisco.