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Skins have worst offensive day in 43 years

10/11/2004 - Washington Redskins

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."