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Article 9

by Steve Stegeman (September 23, 2000)
Correspondent, FootballInsider.com

 

 

    After just reading through a multitude of articles, opinion columns and alleged NFL news breaks regarding the Brad Johnson/Jeff George Washington Redskin quarterback dilemma during my daily perusal of the usual football information and fantasy football web sites, I was compelled to throw my 2? in, or should I say, some sense in and try to make some change.  Outside of one fairly level-headed expose and an innocuous article based on an interview with Brad Johnson evidently produced by a eunuch and, of course, those neutered AP articlets which just quote Norv Turner, in one way or another the stuff I was reading was so overly opinionated one way or the other.  Whether it maintained that Brad should maintain his role as starting QB this Sunday or that Jeff George should get the nod, the articles were all, in large, written with tendentious, black-and-white presentations of the premises and in bombastic and acrimonious tones.  Forget, just for a moment, about who is and is not getting benched in the NFL.  How about some pink slips for the guys with the over-opinionated pens and incomplete arguments?  Take a look-see for yourself.

    Upon embarking on this literary journey... I shared the opinion of those who think George should get the start against New York and, moreover, that Turner should have inserted him in the Monday night game on that last drive, the one which Johnson ended with an interception.  I, also, being an ever-forgiving empathizer, have always contended that Jeff and his idiosyncratic personality have gotten the short end of the stick more often than not, which I felt was exemplified back in 1997 when June Jones benched and berated him during that Eagles game.  On the other hand, I am also part of Brad's fan club.  I am with the people who love Brad's story, admire him for the dignified attitude he has always displayed in the face of adversity and for always taking the high-road during his career-long, up-hill battle which dates all the way back to his years at Florida State, and those who just, in general, think he is a great guy, not mention a great quarterback.  Both of these guys, although coming from opposite sides of the spectrum, seem to have the same dilemma, how to get their wonderful talent appreciated and their careers stabilized?  Bottom line - I root for both of these guys.  Then, as the rabble roused, capriciously throwing out their barbs and chides, the divine illumination of Saints  Augustine and Bonaventure shined on me letting the undiluted truth filter through the deluded opinions of man and the answer dawned upon me.

The journey began with the following quote from CNN/SI:
"Did you see the sideline close-up shot of Brad Johnson's face before he went out to try to win it on the final drive against the Cowboys Monday night?  Absolute anguish. He looked as if he'd rather be anyplace in the world other than where he was.  The owner wants Norv Turner to switch to Jeff George.  This is a quick fix that will reap disastrous results.  George hasn't played anywhere without eventually losing the confidence of the team around him.  Oh, he'll throw a pretty pass every now and then and the TV commentators will chirp about how wonderful he is."

Things, it appeared, were really playing out the way CNN/SI had purported they would in an article during the offseason in which the assertion was that bringing George to Washington in the first place was a bad move as, in essence, it makes the situation into a pressure-cooker.  I was really seeing the author's point...but as the character assassination continued, I began to recall how well George did when he stepped in Week 6 of last season and led the 2 - 4 Minnesota Vikings to a 10 - 6 record and into the 2nd round of the playoffs.  The change didn't seem to rattle their confidence.  The most important thing, the way Cris Carter and Randy Moss explained it, was that Jeff was getting them the ball in a way that Randall was not.  This guy makes it sound as if the whole Redskins team is going to need psychological therapy if a quarterback switch is made.  Pleeeeeease!  My conclusion thus far, put Jeff in!  The article's author went on to quote George's former coach in Oakland, Jon Gruden:
"Then there'll be a day or two when he'll come to practice," Oakland coach Jon Gruden told me at the league meetings, "and he just won't feel like practicing.  And the team will catch the mood of that la-de-dah attitude and your day is wasted and you know you've got to get rid of him."

Remember that 1) Jeff George was injured for most of his tenure in Oakland when Gruden was the coach, 2) this writer obviously has an axe to grind as he is only relating one side of the story, and 3) Gruden is, in fact, Popeye's evil twin brother.

The next article, also up at CNN/SI, was the most reasonable of them all.  In it the writer stated:
"The Redskins' biggest gain of the night against Dallas went for 17 yards, and that won't cut it.  Johnson isn't getting great velocity on some of his throws, and that has led to speculation about him having a tired or dead arm.  But the truth of the matter is that Johnson's game is precision and decision-making.  He has never had a true major-league fastball, and that means at times he's capable of looking bad.  To bench Johnson now and go to Jeff George would be a sure sign of panic in Washington, and that's one signal that the Redskins should avoid sending at all costs.  As bad as things look right now, a 1-2 hole is not inescapable.  The Redskins have time to recover.  But the recovery must start this week on the road against the first-place New York Giants (3-0). Must game in Week 4?  You betcha.  Especially since a date with unbeaten Tampa Bay looms at home in Week 5."

At this point, disregarding the negativity from the first article, I was on board.  The Redskins should stick with Brad.  However, within this quote above lies the ultimate key to the equation, a key I had yet to discover.  I, then, went on ahead to Fanball.com and read their take on the situation which went like this:
"What more does Turner need to see to make a change?
  Johnson, God bless his timid heart, has done nothing but create a state of panic in our nation's capitol, but the entire mess was avoidable."

Hmmm...  I thought!   That's an interesting spin on the contention at CNN/SI, but the condescending attitude would continue.
"After watching Johnson and the Redskins sleepwalk through the first half against the Cowboys, it was abundantly clear that Turner should have switched to George at halftime.  However, Norv stuck with Brad, who lost his second straight game with a fourth quarter interception.
"

That was something I had contemplated, as well.  The article goes on...
"Then, Norv stepped up to the mic on Tuesday and told the football world that Johnson would remain the starter for Washington's death game in Jersey this Sunday.  Freaks, with those words, Turner unofficially committed professional suicide.  His firing should be made official after the Skins drop to 1-3, and three games behind the soon-to-be 4-0 Giants.  With George, who is not afraid to accurately fire laser beams into double coverage, Albert Connell and Champ Bailey become downfield threats, and the 'Skins stand a fighting chance against one of the NFL's best defenses.  With Johnson, who has made an art form of the five-yard dump-off, the Giants' secondary will sag, take Connell out of the game plan, and send the 'Skins to their third straight loss."

Through the fantasy-goggles and all the arrogance, I was able to see the value in what was being said.  At this point, I even agreed that perhaps George should have seen action in the 2nd half of the Dallas game, but as negative as the first article was toward George, this article was toward Johnson, and, consequently, I was not convinced that George should be the starter against the Giants.  The solution was starting to come to me, but I still needed to see that aforementioned key to put me over the top on where I stood.  But, first, the waters would muddy up again when seeing what "the expert" Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com was quoted as saying during their on-line Daily Chat:
"If Jeff George was such a commodity, don't you think teams would have bid for him?  Nobody did.  Now, he does have a wonderful arm, but the Redskins' problems on offense has more to do with a below-average group of receivers."

Even though this was coming off of Mort's fingertips, I could not help but think that he was speaking with his heart and not his head regarding his comment on George.  As for his statement regarding the Redskin receivers, it is inconclusive regarding the issue at hand.  However, it does beg the question, "Does it really matter who quarterbacks the team given the low quality of the receivers?"  Perhaps, we are all arguing a moot point.  Just for argument's sake...I then to a look at Tuffsport's NFL news breaks and saw that:
"WTEM reports Washington Redskins team officials are pressuring HC Norv Turner to bench QB Brad Johnson in favor of backup QB Jeff George."...

...Which is the perfect segue to the beginning of the final article I looked at at Fox Sports's web site.  It started:
"
Norv Turner stood before the media and proclaimed that Brad Johnson would remain his starting quarterback. When footage of the press conference was broken down and played frame-by-frame, critics swore the name Jeff George was scrawled over the Redskins logo.  The handwriting belonged to Daniel Snyder."

It is nice in these last two quotes to be reminded of the bottom line amidst all the clamor.  Whenever an owner pays big bucks to bring in a player, he wants to see him produce, and the team brass are going to lobby hard for that player in order to stay in the good graces of the owner.  Just ask Moses Moreno or Doug Flutie!  Johnson, a holdover from the old regime, is in the last year of his contract.  George is Snyder's boy and just beginning his lucrative, multi-year contract.  Putting speculation on the impact of the QB on the future fortune of the Redskins this year, which is ultimately about more than just their QB, on the back burner for just a moment, Turner, at some point, has to think about his own future, which might not exist too much longer if he refuses to play George.  Actually, the ideal situation, business-wise and fan-politics-wise, for Snyder is for Johnson to fail and George to succeed and take the team to the promised land.  If the opposite were to happen, Snyder would be in a fiscal and political bind at the end of the season...  The article goes on to lay out Washington's poor numbers on offense and then make the following well-taken point:
"It's up to Johnson. If he plays well enough to retain his job there's no dilemma.  If he doesn't, Turner will be forced to turn to George."

That one quote speaks volumes to what was being stated above at CNN/SI and Fanball.com!  Kind of sums it all up, huh?  This sobering reality primed me to see the key in an apparently unassuming sentence:
"After Sunday night's game against the New York Giants, the team faces Tampa Bay."

That second article at CNN/SI to which I refer above had also pointed out that it would be an absolute disaster if Turner benched Johnson too early in the season (i.e. this week), and George flailed.   This was embedded somewhere in the back of my mind, and now I was finally in the right frame of mind to see the key which was being presented in such a matter-of-fact way.  They have to play the Bucs the following week.  With Johnson starting this week, if he does not succeed, Turner has got a downright disaster on his hands (unless...) as either a more "anguished" and downtrodden Johnson will be thrown (throwing) to the wolves the following week, or George will be seeing his first action against the best defense in the league, one that harks back to the ' 85 Bears.  Not who you want to have to debut against, especially under these circumstances.  If he does not fair well, who is going to pick up the pieces then?  Nevertheless, Norv has made the right, perhaps even the perfect, decision.  Even if he had not, it is a done deal and not worth discussing anyway...eh, hum.  Johnson should be given one more chance, BUT, and this is a big BUT, if he is not cuttin' it, Norv must pull him while the game can still be won.  If George can muster a comeback win, it would be huge and would smooth things over quickly.  If he cannot but looks good, no biggie.  At least, he got some good work in before going up against Tampa.  If he does not look good, they are no worse for the wear.  He can go back to Johnson, whose ego will not have been too bruised as he would not have been benched yet as the starter, or he can stick with George, who, at least, has gotten in some regular-season work against a decent Giant defense.

As for some bylines implied in the title, the Chargers will get no relief with Leaf.  I saw the following two beauties at Pro Football Weekly's web site and Tuffsports.com:
"What does Ryan Leaf’s psyche look like these days?  Moses Moreno couldn’t part the Red Sea that was the Chiefs’ defense Sunday, and then he got hurt.  So now, just like that, it looks to be Leaf’s job again.  Demotions tend to wear on people with much more character than ole’ Ryan.  But when will the Chargers’ coaching staff learn that the only chance they have at respectability is with Leaf under center?  Love him or leave him, just don’t keep him on the bench."
"
Moses Moreno looked awful anyways, so Ryan Leaf could regain the job for good with a decent outing against the Hawks."

What kind of whacked out logic is that in the first quote?  Toss out the ridiculous statement about them having their best chance at being respectable with Leaf.  The Chargers are not going to be good this season, period.  This is about grooming a potential future QB.  Evidently these writers neglect to consult Chargers.com, which talks of Moses's composure, poise and courage in his up-hill-battle-from-the-get-go with K.C. last weekend.  The PFW writer also implies that they should be held captive to Leaf's weak character and not bench him again.  I guess having strong character has nothing to do with successful quarterbacking.  Then there was this at PFW:

"Well, at least Leaf continues to show his newfound maturity.  In my eyes, he’s saying the right things, which he’s done since the beginning of training camp."


First off, this writer needs to be reminded that you listen with your ears, not your eyes, and then he needs to start listening to the microphone Ryan has been speaking in lately.  Without further ado, I am directing you all to the San Diego Chargers Team Report page here at Football Insider for more detailed information on this situation.

Finally, some like to call him Antowain Stiff, but I think right now a more apropos nickname would be Antowain Gettin' Stiffed.  Bum's son Wade seems to be back to his old ways...of bad coaching.  Most recently he has benched RB Antowain Smith for Jonathon Linton who, to date, has not been active.  In the process he is leap-frogging Shawn Bryson as well.  Granted both of them have poor statistics.  Smith is averaging 2.1 yards per rush and Bryson 2.6.  However, Philips had yet to really live up to his promise and let Smith have a chance in a one-back set backfield in which he is most effective as was exemplified (and hyped up) during the preseason.  Last report out has it that Phillips is working Linton in the team's 1st-and-2nd-down, 2-back formation while they are practicing Bryson in the team's 3rd-down, 1-back set.  Bryson is better in a 2-back formation, by the way.  Wade is not a good head coach.  He wasn't in Denver.  He isn't in Buffalo.  He does not know how to coach to his team's strengths (by the way the longest word in the English language with only one vowel ; ) !).  Last year, he had a better team, a very charismatic quarterback, Doug Flutie who he benched for the playoffs, leading his team (during the regular season getting them to the playoffs) and a lot of good fortune.  This year will be a reality check for Wade and the Bills, and one in which he should receive his last check as a head coach along with a pink slip with some of the writers above.  Oh, and, do not be surprised if Smith resurfaces somewhere else next year and has some success as the lone running back in the backfield.

 

 

 

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