You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
There will be two statements made from Washington on Monday night.
One will come from the Oval Office and it will deal with matters that are far, far more important than games on a field of play. It is an unfortunate accident of the calendar that we must juxtapose the celebration that accompanies the start of the Redskins' football season with the anniversary of one of our darkest days as a nation. What President Bush has to say will be fairly predictable. He will bring back memories of that terrible day and look forward to the challenges ahead.
The other statement will be made about nine miles to the east, in Maryland actually. At FedEx Field the Redskins will make a statement in their game against the Minnesota Vikings. It's easy to blow off what Joe Gibbs says about how important a game is since, as part of his job, he has to say that every game is a big one. But in this particular case, you should listen to what he has to say.
I think it's huge for us from the standpoint of where we are in the current program, going into the third year. A lot of things figure in to that—it's Monday night, it's the first game, the way we played in the preseason. Every year up here you're judged on winning and losing. We made a lot of decisions in the offseason and you know that for every decision you make you could have made another one. If you win, you made some good ones (decisions). If you lose, you made a bunch of bad ones.
At this point in time during his first go-around as the Redskins' head coach, going in to his third season, Gibbs already had a Super Bowl ring. The Redskins headed in to the 1983 season secure in the knowledge that they were among the NFL's elite teams. And this was in an era when the quick turnaround was more the exception than the rule around the league.
The Redskins have been as active as any team in free agency. The massive, expensive coaching staff is already legendary for its makeup if not its accomplishments. Anything Gibbs wants in terms of facilities or equipment he gets. If it can be said that any NFL coach has a unlimited budget, it's Gibbs. In his opinion, and it's a reasonable one, it's time to have something to show for all of this. And that something is a championship. Rightly or wrongly, if that doesn't happen this year, or if the Skins don't at least come close, there will be questions about whether or not Gibbs still has the ability to build a Lombardi Trophy winner. Those questions will begin late Monday night if the Redskins don't win this one.
And that's not a given. Those of you who are thinking that the Vikings are some sort of a pushover stopped paying attention last year when they were 0-5 and then woke up when they traded Daunte Culpepper away and cut Pro Bowl returner and receiver Koren Robinson. They missed Minnesota's 9-2 finish to the season and Brad Johnson's heady play at quarterback. Minnesota is solid on both lines. They added Seattle's Steve Hutchinson to team with Brian McKinnie to form one of the biggest, nastiest left offensive sides in the game while center Matt Birk, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, returns after spending the whole 2005 season on injured reserve. They have built a good defensive line primarily through the draft, spending first-round picks on ends Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James and tackle Kevin Williams.
The Redskins will have their work cut out for them. They will be without one of their best players in Shawn Springs and it appears that Clinton Portis' role will be somewhat limited. They will be trying out a new offense against live ammunition for the first time since they opted not to unveil 98% of Al Saunders' new scheme during the preseason.
Still, the Redskins should be able to get this one done. Although Troy Williamson is a nice deep threat, there is nobody at wide receiver that scares Gregg Williams. That will allow the Redskins to play to their strength defensively and blitz the daylights out of an immobile Johnson. They will also be able to play to Adam Archuleta's strength by putting him in the box, which will make the Vikings' attempts to pound Chester Taylor behind Hutch and McKinnie an exercise in futility.
The offense should play well in spurts but the consistency that will come later in the season when Saunders' offense is second nature and the skill position players have settled into their roles will not be there. There should be plenty there to outscore the Vikings.Redskins 24, Vikings 10
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when the moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com