Ah, Shaolin Redskins fans--the tempest is blowing prodigiously in my little mountain valley. It's as if the gods themselves are irate at the way our army failed to acquit themselves against their greatest enemies. Lightening, thunder, hail, rain--will it end? Will the tempest around our army eventually calm? Or will the army scatter and its pieces blow away on the wind?
The Ol' Ball Coach was schooled many ways this week in the lessons of Master Sun Tzu. Let us see what he learned.
LOOKING THE GIFT HORSE
Sun Tzu said:
"The wise general sees to it that his troops feed on the
enemy, for one bushel of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to
twenty of his; one hundredweight of enemy fodder to twenty
hundredweight of his."
Alas, we failed to feed on the enemy this time, despite their willingness to offer themselves to us. Dallas coughed up the ball *three* times in a mere *six* plays to open the game. They lost it another time later in the game. And they had two touchdowns called back by penalties.
And yet the most we could come up with was six points on a touchdown--not even seven, because the extra point was blocked.
These are the gifts that cannot be ignored in the NFL--teams are too close in quality, the turn of the game is on shades of yards and bounces of the ball. We had the opportunity to bury the Cowboys before the game even got under way, but unfortunately the Redskins are too, well, discombobulated to take advantage of another team's generosity.
If I were Spurrier, I would drill those images into the minds of my players, so they come to learn that they can *never* let such gifts go by with capitalizing on them. Getting the ball is one thing--getting the ball via a takeaway and turning that into seven easy points multiplies the pain twentyfold.
OPEN THE FLOODGATES
Sun Tzu said:
"When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because
of its momentum."
And this, I believe, is the simple explanation for why opposing defenses have had such success swarming Patrick Ramsey with blitzes. It isn't a matter of mere physical prowess--the enemy now has the psychological momentum, and the Redskins' pass-protectors (O-line, running backs, and tight ends alike) have gotten into a zone where they more or less expect to be defeated.
And because of that, they are tossed aside as boulders before the flood--and Patrick Ramsey pays the price time and again for their inability to stop the pass rush.
It won't be until the team starts implementing schemes to stop the blitz--making them pay with runs, short passes (that score), and most certainly with quicker decision-making by the young quarterback--that the pass-protectors as a group will begin to feel a bit more confidence. And as that confidence builds, the boulders will find themselves more firmly rooted against the flood.
THE FLOGGINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES
Sun Tzu said:
"Victory is the main object in war. If this is long delayed,
weapons are blunted and morale depressed."
The psyche of the professional athletic team is a delicate instrument. Team chemistry--while decried as irrelevant by some and scoffed at as "soft" by others--still remains an important ingredient in determining success or defeat on the field of play. On some teams, adversity can drive a wedge between players; others find that developing good chemistry in the face of difficulty helps them to elevate their play, so that they come to play better than their apparent talent would dictate.
But almost everyone agrees that the best salve for team chemistry is victory. Blessed victory pretty much smoothes over all problems. Anybody with a beef against another player, or a coach, or a scheme, or an owner--all those problems dissolve when the W's keep coming. So maybe it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. Does good chemistry cause victories, or is it caused by them? Like the chicken and the egg, the answer is probably a bit of both.
Right now, the Redskins can no longer worry about their place in the division standings or whether or not they have the league-leading offense as they did in week 3. Their challenge at this stage is merely to put together a victory. And in some ways, that might be a bit liberating: outside considerations and distractions can be swept aside when the goal is so clearly crystallized.
There's no telling what may yet come to pass this season--continued defeat might mean the end of his tenure with the Redskins for the Ol' Ball Coach. But if he turns it around--as this team has done before--then the weapons might well be sharpened, the morale improved, and a chain of victories be strung together again like bright diamonds.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Sun Tzu said:
"Throw the troops into a position from which there is no escape
and even when faced with death they will not flee. For if
prepared to die, what can they not achieve?"
Perhaps now is the time for a team meeting--with or without coaches--in which the players come to realize that Spurrier isn't going anywhere and that they have nothing to lose this season. I can't help but think that if they "prepare to die" in this way, their talent will win out and the victories will become more likely. They need that psychological break to get them out of this slump.