Ah, Shaolin Redskins fans--we came close this week to eking out another come-from-behind victory; alas, it was not meant to be. But I was seated high on my mountainside and watched the battle unfold below me, and I could see that the Ol' Ball Coach learned more from Master Sun Tzu.
Let us examine how:
Sun Tzu said:
"When his flags and banners move about constantly
he is in disarray."
"Now gongs and drums, banners and flags are used
to focus the attention of the troops. When the
troops can be thus united, the brave cannot
advance alone, nor can the cowardly withdraw.
This is the art of employing a host."
Much ink has already been spilled in the media about the team record-tying *seventeen* penalties incurred by the Redskins in this week's competition. The only other game the Redskins were flagged as many times was played in 1948--that's FIFTY-FIVE years ago.
But what do those flags signify? To me, it primarily stems from one thing--this team is still young and is seeking it's identity. They haven't played much together, so players are thinking about their individual assignments rather than their unit-oriented jobs. I believe that they'll straighten this out. So yes, the team is in disarray--but this is a temporary condition.
Instead of dwelling on the mistakes as such, I think the players and coaching staff can use these flags as an opportunity much as Master Sun Tzu has stated--to focus the attention of the troops. The team has not been notably disciplined in its play so far this season or in the whole of last season. It is a matter that has been addressed proactively by the coaching staff in the off-season. The victorious nature of the first two games of the season covered the sins that were committed (18 penalties in the two games combined); however, now that the penalties have led directly to a loss, the players will--MUST--begin to believe that only through discipline can victory be assured. This Giants team did not beat these Redskins--the Redskins beat themselves through penalties. They can compete with any team in the NFL if they straighten up.
And once they unify--both through the gradual process of playing together and the intentional process of addressing these discipline issues--the brave will advance together. No cowards will be seen. The host will be victorious.
Sun Tzu said:
"[A]t first be shy as a maiden. When the enemy
gives you an opening be swift as a hare and he
will be unable to withstand you."
While few professional football players would ever want to be described as "shy as a maiden," it is perhaps a fitting if poetical way of describing the play of our offense under young quarterback Patrick Ramsey. He has now started eight NFL games. Of those eight games, fully half--against New Orleans and Philadelphia in 2002 and Atlanta and New York this year--have seen Ramsey and the Redskins battle back from at least 17-point margins.
He only won two of those games, but in a third--against the Giants--he managed to tie the game. The team is coming to realize that with Ramsey at the helm, they are never truly out of a game, and that's a powerful weapon for a young team. In week two, his ability to step it up after being down by 17 assured us a victory. In the Giants game, only the flip of the overtime coin gave the enemy a shot at beating the Redskins--there is little doubt that, if the coin had landed on the other side, that Patrick Ramsey would have marched the offense down the field for a game-winning score.
It is remarkable to see his growth before our eyes. Again, Ramsey has started EIGHT games, and had significant time in all of two others. But he plays with a poise of a seven-year veteran. He's got a rifle for an arm and a truly sharp mind. After his maiden-like start to the Giants game (5 of 15 in the first half for 80 yards and no TDs) he needed only shrug it off: "Early, it's going to be an adjustment. If they come out doing a lot of the same things, then it makes it a little easier. But they didn't today. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get going early." Hidden is the unspoken statement that the young quarterback (and his coach) *was* able to make those adjustments and to get going later--in the second half, Ramsey went 18 of 30 for 268 yards and two TDs. This ability to pick up his game gives his team hope at all times, and that is a commodity for which--and with which--teams will fight their way to victory.
He is able to start recognize the opening his enemy gives him, and he then moves swift as a hare--and they are, simply, unable to withstand him.