Mailbag: Redskins' Zorn has a ways to go and the lowdown on Brooklyn
Forgive me if this is a mumbling, disjointed mess. Check that... if this is a column not quite up to its piercing penetration, and uh... folks, it is late at night and I just did the 30-mile number from Giants Stadium west on Route 3, thence US 80, Cherry Hill Road, Rte. 46 and Lakewood Drive, where a candle and holly wreath were waiting in the window. Oh yes, got stopped on good old Rte. 46 in Wayne.
"Do you know why I stopped you?"
"No, sir." (I bestowed knighthood immediately.)
"Failure to maintain proper lane control." In other words, weaving a bit.
I had shown my license at this point and was searching for the other documents, which Linda had hidden somewhere in the forests of the glove compartment. Finally I stopped scratching about, faced up to the young Jersey state trooper and decided to throw myself on the mercy of the court.
"Look, I'm a writer," I said, "and I just covered the Giants-Redskins, and they've got construction going on there and I had to walk about half a mile under the stadium to get to the lot where I'd parked. I'm awfully tired." All of this was absolutely true.
"How was the game?"
"Not good. One team played hard, the other was just going through the motions."
"I guess you're not a Giants fan."
"No, sir, I'm not."
"You don't have to show any more documents. Just drive home safely."
And that's why you won't hear me ever saying any bad things about Jersey state cops. They listen to reason, once they've established that you're not reeking of alcohol and representing an accident just waiting to happen.
Which leads me to question numero uno, which is, well, what was my take on the game, and the questioner is Sandy of Bethesda, Md. Well, little Missy, I'm afraid you're not going to like this if you're a 'Skins fan. I didn't visit the Giants locker room after their rather workmanlike 16-7 victory. I knew it would be packed, with everyone sqwunched together, asking the same questions about how great they are in this post-Super Bowl year and so forth. No, I was interested in the 'Skins and their coach Jim Zorn, for whom I rooted very hard when he was an exciting, freelancing QB for the Seahawks.
I wanted to know about the last 6:12 of the game, a moment of truth of sorts. The score was 16-7. Washington got the ball on its own 10. It had run only 34 plays for the entire night up to this point. The Giant defense was as fresh as anyone could have been in that muggy, humid night. There was no sense of urgency in the Redskins' operation, no feeling the offense had to score twice within six minutes. They ran Clinton Portis four times on the drive, if you could call it that -- for minus-three, minus-four, eight and three yards. Four carries, four yards, with the clock moving, moving and no timeouts called.
OK, run the ball once, as a change of pace, but this fooled nobody. The passing was of the take-what-they-give-us, under the zone variety. There was no hustling in and out of the huddle, no spikes to stop the clock, nothing really deep downfield. A dull blah of an offense, in crunch time, and this was not the Zorn I remembered.
They ran 10 plays, gained 58 yards, took 4:10 off the clock and gave the ball back to the Giants with 2:02 left, having used only one of their three timeouts. People were heading for the exits. The 'Skins had done the Giants clock-killing job for them.
"Honestly, I don't know what they were doing," said Hall of Fame QB Sonny Jurgensen, who does the 'Skins game on the radio. I talked to guys I knew in that locker room: guard Pete Kendall and ex-Ram and Bill London Fletcher, the terrific MLB, who played himself into exhaustion. Shrugs. Of course we know, but what do you expect us to say?
"First game as head coach," Kendall said. "Give him a break."
"We were starting to move the ball," Zorn said when I caught up to him. "We picked up some yards on the ground. I thought if we could have scored, and then gotten the ball back with more than two minutes left, and held them, and..."
I told him that the old Jim Zorn would have gotten them in and out of the huddle in a hurry, would have called two plays at the line, killed the clock, whatever it took.
"Jim Zorn called his own plays," he said. "Jason Campbell doesn't." Then he paused for a minute and seemed to deflate.
"OK, we could have gotten in and out of the huddle faster, I'll give you that. Sense of urgency? Yeah, I guess that was lacking. The truth is that I'll have to sit down and go over this game pretty carefully."
I guarantee the films will be painful for him. He's in a tough spot. Sure, I still root for him. And on to the rest of the mailbag we go...
My rankings, with nothing to base them on except wisps of smoke, drew some pretty pointed rebuttals.
--Mario of Panama says my 17th-ranked Saints will still be playing in February, and added an obscene rejoinder that the Redhead got a kick out of but drove me to the smelling salts.
--Pat of "no city given" (I used to live there myself) wants to know "what Genius Z has against the Bears' D-Line" (pass rushers, no run stoppers).
--Conrad of Detroit "must take exception" to my ranking of the Lions 22nd. "Have you seen any of their exhibition games?" Yes, their 13-10 victory over the Giants. Exhibition records are meaningless.
--Mike of Eau Claire, Wisc., doesn't understand how I can crunch the numbers hard enough to crunch in two wild card teams in the same division. It happens, it happens, and I'm getting tired.
--Mark of Houston says my picks are "a sign of age or prescience," prescience being a word meaning exactly that, pre-science, in other words, when I picked the Saints to go to the Super Bowl a year ago, I was a year ahead of myself.
Which reminds me of a story. Groucho Marx once said he had a scheme for predicting the future. Every autumn, when Daylight Saving time gives way to Standard time and we move the clock back an hour, he won't do it. Thus he'll pick up an hour a day. At the end of 24 years, he'll have picked up 24 hours, a full day, and he'll be able to predict tomorrow's events.