Week 13: They Might Not Be Giants
By: Eric Johnson 
Posted: 2003-12-10
Category: Washington Redskins News
Greetings and salutations, Shaolin Redskins fans! It is a few days since our troops returned triumphant from the icy battlefields of the northeast, but the joy at their victory has not abated. Though we huddle around our small fires, we are warmed by their success!

It is *most* pleasing when the Ol' Ball Coach once again instructs others in the lessons he has learned from Master Sun Tzu. Let us see what he taught to his foes this week:


JUST A LITTLE NIPPY

Sun Tzu said:

"Appraise war in terms of the five fundamental
factors. . . The first of these factors is moral
influence; the second, weather; the third,
terrain; the fourth, command; and the fifth,
doctrine. . . By weather I mean the interaction
of natural forces; the effects of winter's cold
and summer's heat and the conduct of military
operations in accordance with the seasons."


It was a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind was blowing at 15 miles per hour from the north-northwest, and gusting in a swirling, nasty way across the field. There was snow in the stands and piles of the stuff by the sides of the field.

It was, in short, a cold one at Giants stadium this week.

So how did the Ol' Ball Coach fare? The same ball coach who loved to pass through the balmy fall nights in Florida, who loves it when he can describe a game day as "a beautiful day for passing"?

He went in and called a game that had a 48:19 pass-to-run ratio. Forty-eight to nineteen. It would seem, on the surface, to be completely unheard of by this coach.

And maybe it was, but it sure as heck was effective. The Redskins had a 37:08 to 22:52 advantage in time of possession--that is, the Redskins had the ball 60.88% of the game. And the combination gave the Redskins a clear-cut victory, 20-7.

But is this play-calling an anomaly? I'm beginning to think it isn't. I feel, down in my deepest bones (where the cold can't reach) that Spurrier is starting to show that he gets this professional game. I have no doubt that he'd rather be able to pass it up and down the field and rack up a 50-point differential; but he's come to understand that such games are rarities in the NFL.

So instead, he'll do what it takes in the present game to ensure a win; and this week, in this cold, that meant conducting his operations in accordance with the season. It wasn't a time to throw it all over the place. It was a time to keep it on the ground while picking the right spots to throw. And because of this plan, the Redskins came home winners.


THE WAR HORSE

Sun Tzu said:

"For there has never been a protracted war
from which a country has benefited."

Master Sun Tzu tells us that extended efforts rarely achieve the results the home nation desires; too often, such campaigns are too draining, so that when they finally do wind to a conclusion, the nation is too exhausted and drained of resources to take any sort of benefit from the victory.

So it was, ultimately, with Bruce Smith's pursuit of the so-called sack record. Let me not show too much disrespect--any professional football player who lasts nineteen years has my deepest respect just for the willpower and stamina it shows. But longevity for the sake of personal goals over team goals is a tarnished legacy, and the fact that Smith was willing to keep playing pretty clearly for the sole reason of pursuing that record meant that a.) his accomplishment, when finally achieved, was pretty darn hollow; and b.) that not a lot of fans truly cared that he actually achieved it.

Frankly, it took too much time--so that while being stretched so long and thin, we could see right through his gauzy efforts to the selfish motives underlying them all. And that's a shame. That's no way for a athlete of his quality to go out. Few players look as much like actual battle-scarred warriors of the ancient world as he does when he straps on his pads, so I was sad to see his precipitous decline.

I can only hope that in some way, he taught players younger than he the right kinds of lessons.


YOUNG BLOOD

Sun Tzu said:

"[The general] leads the army deep into
hostile territory and there releases the
trigger."

And that trigger, this year, has a name: Darnerian McCants. Allow me to take a moment to praise the play of one of our up-and-coming young stars. Darnerian has come a long way since he was referred to by his new coach as "Darkerian." Indeed, he's made some noise now.

In his senior year, at Delaware State, McCants caught only 36 passes--but an astounding 18 of them were for touchdowns. While it's a harder row to hoe in the NFL, this year he's caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice: of his 23 receptions, 6 have been for touchdowns (and 6 have been for 20 or more yards). He's a terror in the red zone--he seems to be consistently open and has the leaping ability and sure hands to give the Redskins QBs a target they can count on. And they certainly have done so.

If the team is smart, they'll lock McCants in for a long-term contract. I don't know if he's ready to challenge for a starter spot yet, having never really gone up against starter cornerbacks. On the other hand, if Rod Gardner were to be traded--and I don't think he necessarily should be--McCants should get a crack at the role. He's done little but provide Spurrier with a sort of ultra-TE (with a wide receiver's ranginess) in the end zone--once Spurrier has gotten the team deep into hostile territory, he needs but pull the trigger. And up #85 comes up with the ball, again and again.
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