Skins have worst offensive day in 43 years

Updated: October 11, 2004, 8:44 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- Maybe it takes five games or so for Joe Gibbs to find his stride, as it did when he first joined the Washington Redskins 23 years ago.

Right now, however, the Hall of Fame coach has a pathetic, unimaginative offense despite the most expensive roster in NFL history. Like Steve Spurrier before him, Gibbs is running out of answers early in the season.

"There's nothing good about this," Gibbs said Monday. "We don't like it. The only way out of it is to work our way out of it. I don't think there's too much else I can say."

The Redskins (1-4) had their worst offensive day in 43 years Sunday, gaining just 107 yards in a 17-10 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It was the franchise's lowest output since the 1961 Redskins -- a team that went 1-12-1 -- produced just 97 yards in a 27-6 loss to the Baltimore Colts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Gibbs now has a four-game losing streak, his longest since starting 0-5 as a rookie head coach in 1981.

"I just remember being miserable," Gibbs said when asked about the 0-5 start. "And I'd say this is every bit as miserable. ... This may be a rare deal right here, but every other time when I've gone through it, I look back at it and say, `This is the reason why we went through it.' We'll see what this one is going to be. Life is full of wild things."

The task is tough. The Redskins, who haven't had a winning season since 1999, have lost 14 of their last 17 games.

"It gets frustrating, man," said linebacker LaVar Arrington, a spectator the last three games because of a knee injury. "This is my fifth season. ... It's like the same old results every single season, the same thing every season."

Gibbs did some significant tinkering with his offensive schemes to turn the 1981 season around and finish 8-8. The coach is ambiguous about his plans this time, but he acknowledges the problems are everywhere -- in the passing game, in the running game, in the coaching.

"We've got to lay out a plan to try and work our way out of that," Gibbs said. "That's the only solution to it. I don't think it's any one person. It's all of us, and I include myself in that."

The biggest disappointments are big-money signings Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis. The Redskins gave the two players contracts totaling $93.5 million -- and traded four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to get Portis -- but neither player appears to be worth the money or the accompanying salary cap problems they'll create down the road.

At 34, Brunell no longer has the arm to be a consistent downfield passing threat. His 53-percent completion rate is last in the NFC, as is his 5.6 yards per attempt.

When Gibbs tried to defend Brunell's arm strength, he cited as an example a long downfield pass to Laveranues Coles in the third quarter of Sunday's game. However, that pass floated into double coverage and was intercepted by Deion Sanders. Gibbs said he is not considering benching Brunell.

Meanwhile, Portis is averaging just 3.6 yards a carry, 18th among the top 20 backs in the NFC. He's lost three fumbles and can't reliably convert third-and-one, failing on three of six tries this season. Portis and the coaches were at odds last week over the offense's tendencies, the first sign of internal friction.

Two weeks ago, Gibbs openly complained of "two awful calls" in a loss to Dallas. Last week, Gibbs cited failed headset communications as a distraction in a loss to Cleveland. This week, Gibbs indicated the breaks weren't going the team's way, pointing out a stripped ball that was returned by Baltimore for a touchdown.

However, the Redskins would have won all three games with a consistent -- even mediocre -- performance from the offense. Besides, the Redskins had three huge breaks against the Ravens -- three interceptions that gave the offense the ball in Baltimore territory.

The losing streak has brought the inevitable questions about whether the game has passed Gibbs by. He was ready with an answer.

"I knew when I took this job that if we lose ball games, that's what's going to be said," Gibbs explained. "You're one kind of guy when you win games and another kind of guy when you don't in the perception of a lot of people. It's understandable. There's only one way to change that, and that's something I can control."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press