You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
There will be two statements made from Washington on Monday
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