LANDOVER, Md. -- People like you and me, we like to exaggerate. We like to watch a struggling team like the Washington Redskins, with a struggling coach like Jim Zorn, and we like to say things like, "That guy's an idiot."
|Jim Zorn might want to take that fake field-goal play out of the playbook. (AP)|
Only today, I'm going to say this, and I'm not going to exaggerate. I'm simply going to make a reasonable observation about genuinely nice Jim Zorn:
That guy's an idiot.
You saw the play, right? The play at the end of the first half of the Redskins' 10th loss of the season, 45-12 on Monday night to the New York Giants? The play was so bad that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would have been justified in firing Jim Zorn at halftime, and that's allowing for the fact that Zorn might not have been the one to call it. Zorn already had been cuckolded by Snyder in early October, forced to accept bingo-calling retiree Sherman Lewis onto his staff as an "offensive consultant" and then forced to let Lewis call the plays a few weeks later. It's possible Sherman Lewis called the play in question, which means that guy's an idiot.
But Zorn let it happen, after a timeout was called. Which leads me to my original premise: He's an idiot.
If you saw the play, you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't see the play, picture this. Picture the Redskins lining up for a 38-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. They trail 24-0, so the field goal is window dressing. The Redskins are going to lose this game, obviously. But if they want to avoid a shutout, here's their chance.
Only, they decide to fake it. The Redskins line up for a conventional field goal, and then most of the team splits out wide to the left side of the field for some sort of trick play. OK, fine. The Giants have no idea what's going on, so they call timeout. Again, fine. After the timeout, the Redskins line up again for a conventional field goal.
And then they do it again. They send most of the team over to the left, leaving only the snapper, the holder and the kicker in the middle of the field. The crowd, still holding onto hope that Jim Zorn isn't an idiot, screams in pleasure.
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This, they're thinking, is going to be good.
If they only knew ...
The ball is snapped to holder Hunter Smith, a punter by day, and an awful thrower of the football by night. Nobody is open -- hell, nobody even seems to be running a route -- but Smith throws it anyway, fluttering the football toward the left side of the field. He threw it to everybody, and to nobody. Remember when you were in recess in junior high and one kid threw the football up for grabs into a crowd of about 15 classmates? That's what this was.
A play out of junior high recess.
Did it work? Of course it didn't work. It was batted down by one Giant, intercepted by another, and damn near returned 90 yards for a touchdown. In the stadium, the crowd was booing. In the press box, the media was laughing. Lewis or Zorn -- somebody -- had called for that monstrosity of a play ... and then, given a second chance after the New York timeout, that same somebody had called for it again.
When he's fired after this season -- and Jim Zorn will be fired after this season -- that play will be his epitaph, a multi-colored bird dropping on the tombstone of his head coaching career. And it came in the appropriate game, because a 60-minute showing this bad deserved a signature play that preposterous.
The Giants had 14 first downs before the Redskins got one. Late in the first half the Giants had 226 total yards, and the Redskins had three -- and New York was playing without starting cornerback Corey Webster (knee), and without his backup, Aaron Ross (hamstring).
And anyway, this was the Giants. They'd started the season on a 5-0 roll, but after the Saints ripped out their heart on Oct. 18 -- destroying the Giants 48-27 -- that triggered the 2-6 mudslide that had New York on the precipice of postseason elimination entering the weekend. New York's defense was toast. The Giants' last four opponents had averaged 294 passing yards and 31.5 points per game.
And Washington did this. The Redskins couldn't run (89 rushing yards). They couldn't throw (17 for 33, three interceptions). They couldn't kick an extra point (blocked), and they couldn't convert a two-point rushing try (stuffed).
And they couldn't fake a field goal. Twice. With the same stupid formation and the same punter throwing the ball and the same coach on the sideline nodding his head dumbly as the play was unfolding. Maybe -- and this is my eureka moment -- maybe Zorn knew what would happen. Maybe the play came straight from Sherman Lewis, and Zorn let it happen, knowing the likely result, as if to say to Daniel Snyder, This is the guy you want calling plays? Fine. Here he is. This ain't "B-14," Danny.
Zorn's explanation for the breakdown of the play was a laugh riot. He apparently liked the play call. He liked the personnel. He liked all of it so much, he said, that he stuck with the fake even after the timeout.
"I contemplated just kicking the field goal after that, but the play was unique enough where I didn't think they saw what we were trying to do," Zorn said. "But they smelled it out."
Smelled? Bad word, Jim. Accurate word. But bad.
The riotous Redskins helped keep the Giants within range of the playoffs. New York wouldn't have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason with a loss Monday night, but a loss would have made their eventual elimination extremely likely. Now, though, the Giants (8-6) are a mere one game behind the Cowboys (9-5) and Packers (9-5) in a three-way chase for the NFC's two wild-card spots -- and the Giants hold the tiebreaker edge on both. Pull even with either team at season's end, and New York is back in the playoffs.
The ferocious pass rush the Giants showed Monday (season-high five sacks) -- a pass rush that had been nonexistent most of the season -- would do them wonders in the playoffs. So would the effective 1-2 running punch of speedy Ahmad Bradshaw (nine carries for 61 yards) and bruising Brandon Jacobs (16 for 52). So would the precision passing of Eli Manning (19 for 26 for 268 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions), especially on third down, when New York converted 11 of 15 chances.
Then again, who are we kidding? The Giants looked like world-beaters on Monday night, but it was only against the Redskins.
And the guy coaching the Redskins? That guy's an idiot.