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Posted: Tuesday September 25, 2001 5:00 PM|
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks tackles three questions that matter to fans:
|| From the early looks of it, what does Washington head coach Marty Schottenheimer have in common with Mike Ditka, Hank Stram, Jimmy Johnson and Bum Phillips?
All of the aforementioned head coaches knew sustained success at one stop in their careers, but never came close to reproducing it elsewhere. Wearing different colors, their late-career attempts at enhancing their reputations only wound up sullying them.
Yes, the Redskins are only 0-2. But that's only because they haven't played three games. Washington is bad. Historically bad. So bad the Skins couldn't beat the Houston Texans. This year.
Schottenheimer never had a losing season in four full years with Cleveland and just one in 10 years with Kansas City. But he's going to match that number -- if he lasts the year -- in Washington. These Redskins can only fantasize that a Schottenheimer-coached team will be in the position to execute another one of his patented playoff-time folds.
Like Ditka, Stram and Johnson, Schottenheimer is attempting to recapture his previous magic after a short hiatus from the league. Only Johnson tasted any success in his comeback, and even Miami's playoff berths served to shrink his once Texas-sized legend down to mere life-size. Stram, Phillips and Ditka all went out with sorry Saints teams that they probably wished they had never been associated with.
Hey, Marty, see any parallels?
Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil, of course, have managed winning big after making comebacks. George Seifert, and Vermeil himself (again), are in the midst of trying to do it. But Schottenheimer, who spent 1999-2000 out of the league, is in a hopeless situation, and he must know it.
In a 37-0 drubbing at Green Bay on Monday night, the Redskins didn't show quite as much fight for their beseiged city as the Giants and Jets managed on Sunday, did they? The Redskins suffered their first road shutout in 30 years, and for the first time ever -- in 69 seasons of football -- has opened a schedule with two consecutive touchdown-less games. Washington has been outscored 67-3 and Schottenheimer is 0-2 for the first time in his 15 seasons as NFL head coach.
Poor Marty. That TV analyst chair is probably looking a bit more comfy about now.
|| Which 0-2 team that had legitimate playoff chances to start with is in the most jeopardy?
You decide. Defending AFC Central champion Tennessee has lost tough games to Miami and Jacksonville, but still has nine division games remaining against the likes of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and a home rematch with the Jaguars.
Outside of the division, the Titans face tough games against Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Oakland. Getting to 10-6 and in the playoffs -- assuming a 12-team post-season field -- will be no easy task.
Then there's defending NFC Central champion Minnesota. The Vikings have already dropped two games they counted on winning, home against Carolina and at Chicago, and now must prepare for a stretch that includes games against Tampa Bay (two), New Orleans, Green Bay, Philadelphia and the Giants in the coming eight weeks.
After that, the Vikings, who have the NFL's toughest schedule this season, still must contend with games against Tennessee and Jacksonville, before finishing up with road games at frosty Green Bay and the make-up at Baltimore.
Factor in that Minnesota's always potent offense hasn't been seen since before last January's NFC title game, and the loss of strong safety Robert Griffith (broken fibula) for at least six weeks, and the Vikings' streak of five consecutive playoff berths looks like it's going, going, gone.
None of the 18 teams that have started 0-2 the past two seasons have qualified for the playoffs. Here's betting that the Titans buck that trend, and the Vikings don't.
|| What's the early season trend that has gone largely unnoticed?
For one, we don't see any Vince Lombardis yet among the crop of new head coaches. The six new guys went 0-6 in Week 1, and in almost every case their teams showed very little.
After the unexpected week off, the newcomers didn't exactly redeem themselves this weekend, going 2-4 with nary a highlight among them. One of those wins was virtually guaranteed. Marty Mornhinweg's Detroit Lions played at Cleveland, meaning either he or Butch Davis' Browns had five full quarters to avoid either a loss or a tie.
Davis got the W, thanks to quarterback Ty Detmer's mind-boggling seven interceptions. The Browns traded Detmer to the Lions just weeks earlier. Maybe that should count as a double-header win for Davis. Maybe Mornhinweg's reputation for quarterback-making is, dare we say, overrated?
The Jets' Herman Edwards also got on the board when his team toughed out an ugly 10-3 win at woeful New England. It was something to build on for a New York team that has been through a lot, but that's a sorry 2-10 record through two weeks for the dirty half-dozen if you're keeping track.
As for Buffalo, Kansas City and Washington, Gregg Willliams, Vermeil and Schottenheimer are all known for being well-organized, fine motivators and sticklers for detail. And it hasn't helped a bit. All three men have had their off-season quarterback decisions backfire on them so far, and there's absolutely no reason to think that fans in those cities will have much to cheer about this year.
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