Page 4 of the Washington press guide traditionally carries the
heading, Redskins Directory. This year the list of front-office
personnel has been omitted. Too many heads have been chopped
off. The directory is a shambles.
Waving a stack of Fantasy Football guides in one hand and an ax
in the other, the new, 34-year-old owner, Daniel Snyder, bought
the team in May and came riding into Redskin Park like a
berserker in Norse mythology, spreading terror and devastation.
First he sent out a letter to all employees telling them that
they would be retained. Then he fired more than 20 of them.
Gone is Phyllis Hayes, the public relations secretary with 22
years of loyal service. Gone is the very able p.r. director Mike
McCall. He was replaced by John Konoza, a former Redskins p.r.
assistant who was working for a local car dealer. He lasted
three days at Redskin Park before quitting and going back to the
auto business. Gone, too, is the community relations director,
Wendy Wilson, who did such a good job getting the players
involved in community work. Well, what the hell. When you spend
$800 million to buy a team, you can do whatever you please.
General manager Charley Casserly was demoted and given a lesser
role as a "consultant," for one season. Someone's got to be
around to explain such things as the salary cap to Snyder. Some
of Casserly's last significant acts as G.M. were to corral three
No. 1 picks in next season's draft and to put together the best
collection of talent in Norv Turner's six years as coach. Then
the new owner came in, and one of the first things he wanted to
do was give up a No. 1 draft pick for the Vikings' 34-year-old
guard, Randall McDaniel. (Fortunately for Snyder, it didn't
happen.) Then he wanted to mortgage the farm to make a run at
Barry Sanders. "His style is to keep everyone worried about his
or her job, just like he does at Snyder Communications," says one
Redskins employee. "And he still hasn't figured out that if you
grab a bunch of big-name players, your salary cap goes blooey."
Turner, of course, is under the gun. Why should he be different
from any other employee? At quarterback he'll rely on Brad
Johnson, who had some terrific moments in Minnesota but has some
lingering trouble with a fractured right leg. Bright and
resourceful, Johnson could be the perfect fit for Turner's
attack, which relies on precision and timing. "I love this
system," says Johnson. "It's like the true West Coast offense I
used to watch under Don Coryell and Dan Fouts in San Diego--and
Joe Gibbs in Washington, and Norv here and in Dallas. It gives
you a little of everything."
Turner's receiving corps once again depends on Michael
Westbrook, whose injury-laden career has never afforded him more
than 10 starts in a season. Westbrook could be one of those
perennial future stars, always on the verge, never quite
there--although he says that this season he sees himself in a
leadership role: "It's my turn to take control and lead instead
of sitting back and letting people who aren't worthy lead the
team." Turner, who suspended or benched Westbrook for violating
rules three times in the last two years, wouldn't mind.
Everywhere you look on the field there are fresh faces, fresh
energy. Seven new starters have been brought in. Andy Heck and a
very sturdy rookie, Jon Jansen, are the new offensive tackles.
Fullback Larry Centers, the former Cardinal, gives Turner
something he's never had in D.C., a potential 100-catch receiver
out of the backfield.
Top draft pick Champ Bailey was installed as a starter in the
first exhibition game, and he staked his claim on the job by
returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown. Strong
safety Sam Shade, a free-agent signee from the Bengals, helps
firm up the secondary.
The defense will also benefit from a number of youngsters on the
rise, most notably defensive left end Kenard Lang and middle
linebacker Derek Smith, shifted from the weak side to make room
for Shawn Barber, who team officials say is quicker and more
gifted in coverage. At defensive right end, Marco Coleman, who
was part of the 1998 league-leading defense in San Diego before
coming to Washington, got off to a terrific start in training
camp. If tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson can supply
the muscle they were paid big bucks to provide last year, the
defense should be in fine shape.
Yes, things seem rosy, but you have to remember the Redskins are
coming off a 6-10 season that featured some serious blowouts. Is
there enough talent for this team to rise to the playoff level?
Snyder says he'll be a hands-on owner, but those are heavy hands
indeed. Can front-office turmoil and the possibility of a
lame-duck coach throw things out of whack? We'll find out.
Snyder, incidentally, did not return phone calls asking for
comment. Can't say that I blame him. I wouldn't, either. --P.Z.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS MIDDLE MAN One reason the Skins should be quicker on defense is the move of Smith from outside to middle linebacker.
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT GOLDSMITH
19 at N.Y. Giants
26 at N.Y. Jets
Oct. 3 CAROLINA
10 Open date
17 at Arizona
24 at Dallas
Nov. 7 BUFFALO
14 at Philadelphia
21 N.Y. GIANTS
Dec. 5 at Detroit
19 at Indianapolis
26 at San Francisco
Jan. 2 MIAMI
1998 Record 6-10 (4th in NFC East)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 18/13/15; defense 28/5/24
1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 27 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .469 Games against playoff teams: 8
DOING IT ALL
Brian Mitchell has gained more combined yards (rushing,
receiving and returns) over the last five seasons than any other
player over any five-year span in NFL history. In fact, Mitchell
has now accounted for the top two totals in this category.
Player, team Years Rush Rec. return return Combined
yds. yds. yds. yds. yds.
Brian Mitchell, Redskins
1994-98 1,120 1,590 1,973 6,575 11,258
Brian Mitchell, Redskins
1993-97 1,158 1,441 1,660 5,916 10,175
Barry Sanders, Lions
1994-98 8,480 1,422 0 0 9,902
Emmitt Smith, Cowboys
1991-95 8,019 1,723 0 0 9,742
Bruce Harper, Jets
1977-81 1,302 1,748 1,600 5,023 9,673
1994-98 475 854 1,741 6,554 9,624
PLAYER TO WATCH
In OT of the third game of the 1997 season, Kenard Lang, a
22-year-old rookie left defensive end, reached into the
Cardinals' backfield and stripped the ball from Leeland McElroy.
The Redskins recovered and won the game. It was Lang's first big
play, and everyone predicted he'd only get better. An inner ear
infection cost him his next five games, however, and when he
came back, he had lost strength. Last year, high-priced tackles
Dan Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield got all the attention, but
Lang ended the season tops among all Washington linemen in
tackles and half a sack shy of Wilkinson's team lead of 7 1/2.
"I've always considered myself a good run stopper," says Lang,
"but I feel like I've rounded off my game now." Washington needs
a serious outside rusher. Lang may be the man.
PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS
Coach: Norv Turner
Sixth season with Redskins (32-47-1 in NFL)
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Brad Johnson 45
101 att. 65 comp. 64.4% 747 yds. 7 TDs 5 int. 89.0 rtg.
RB Stephen Davis 240
34 att. 109 yds. 3.2 avg. 21 rec. 263 yds. 12.5 avg. 2 TDs
RB Skip Hicks 61
122 att. 433 yds. 3.5 avg. 4 rec. 23 yds. 5.8 avg. 8 TDs
FB Larry Centers 139
31 att. 110 yds. 3.5 avg. 69 rec. 559 yds. 8.1 avg. 2 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Michael Westbrook 104 44 rec. 736 yds. 6 TDs
WR Albert Connell 177 28 rec. 451 yds. 2 TDs
WR Irving Fryar 124 48 rec. 556 yds. 2 TDs
TE Stephen Alexander 185 37 rec. 383 yds. 4 TDs
K Cary Blanchard 213 30/31 XPs 11/17 FGs 63 pts.
PR Brian Mitchell 220 44 ret. 11.5 avg. 0 TDs
KR Brian Mitchell 220 59 ret. 22.7 avg. 1 TD
LT Andy Heck 6'6" 298 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
LG Keith Sims 6'3" 309 lbs. 4 games 0 starts
C Cory Raymer 6'2" 289 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Tre Johnson 6'2" 328 lbs. 10 games 10 starts
RT Jon Jansen (R) 6'6" 302 lbs. 13 games 13 starts
LE Kenard Lang 54 tackles 7 sacks
LT Dan Wilkinson 45 tackles 7 1/2 sacks
RT Dana Stubblefield 32 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
RE Marco Coleman 51 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
OLB Greg Jones 20 tackles 1 sack
MLB Derek Smith 103 tackles 1/2 sack
OLB Shawn Barber 27 tackles 0 sacks
CB Champ Bailey (R) 52 tackles 3 int.
SS Sam Shade 78 tackles 3 int.
FS Leomont Evans 76 tackles 3 int.
CB Darrell Green 65 tackles 3 int.
P Matt Turk 93 punts 44.1 avg.
 New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)