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Rick “Doc” Walker deals with the aftermath of yet another heartbreaking, last-second loss to the Cowboys, and minces no words about his frustrations over the continuing struggles of the Redskins passing game. Join us for the latest in our exclusive talks ...
We were hoping to talk to you about a breakthrough win against Dallas, Doc, but unfortunately we don’t get to do that. The way this thing has been going, fans have begun to talk about silly things like “curses” and the like ... do things like that ever get into the locker room, where the team maybe starts to believe that another team simply “has their number”?
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] Well, if the same teams played every year, maybe, but there’s enough changeover in personnel that the new guys ... well, you know, maybe you do buy into that a bit, based upon wondering “what happened?” ... but I have to base it on this: no matter who plays for Dallas, they always seem to be a lot more into the rivalry than we give them credit for. Our fans are really into the rivalry, but I’m not certain that our players are convinced yet of the importance of this. Now, they play hard—there’s no lack of effort—but maybe they’re playing a little tight. They just don’t really go. Sometimes you try so hard at things, that it gets in the way of your ability. You do dumb things. They had penalties, and some unfortunate things did happen with the football ... but Dallas had their turnovers, too. In the end, [the Cowboys] just “make plays,” and for whatever reason, we don’t.
Doc, it almost didn’t look like the same Redskins team I’d seen in the last few weeks. From the time Patrick Ramsey’s pass bounced off [TE Brian] Kozlowski’s hands and got intercepted on the very first drive, they just didn’t look like the same Redskins team to me.
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] Well, that first drive looked great, until the ball went off Koz’s hands. I thought seven [there], I never thought three. Then the defense came out and shut them down. But I’ll tell you what ... Vinny Testaverde, he threw some picks, but he’s better than a lot of guys that have been playing in this league. And Parcells never panicked—even though things didn’t look [good], they never panicked.
And then there was our inability to get a first down. You know? Our inability to get a stinkin’ first down. Not once, not twice, but three times ... when it mattered most. Then we had the turnover on the punt return, and you thought to yourself, “well, that negates the turnover that we got,” and we needed to be ahead in turnover differential. It just became like the same old thing. I’m watching it, and I’m watching with no confidence, thinking, “okay, when is it going to happen?” instead of thinking, “well, this can’t happen.”
It does start to grate on you. Now we have to go through the whole off season ... and we’ll crank it up again and try to snap this deal and get it turned around. I’d like to say that the percentages and all those things are with us, but I don’t believe that. It’s just going to take some play-makers, in our uniforms, to step up and make it happen. Hopefully, this off season will bring about enough mental changes—I’m not convinced that the guys already here cannot do the job—a lot of people are, but I’m not. I think we have people. I’m just not convinced that everybody’s working in concert for the same thing.
Let me ask you about the 3rd downs, Doc, specifically the last one. You need a first down to ice the game. You run it twice, and it’s 3rd and 7. Dallas has a time out left, so you know they’re going to stop the clock if you run and don’t make it. In that position, are you not screaming at the television for them to at least take a shot—throw a slant, throw a hitch to Cooley—anything other than to run Ladell Betts wide against a stacked front? You just knew he wasn’t going to the get first there. What did that say to you?
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] That they have no confidence in the passing game.
Why is that, Doc?
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] Because it hasn’t been consistent at all. It’s like we are frightened to attack in the passing game. Now, they’ll tell you that there were breakdowns—well, there are breakdowns on every team, you know what I mean? That’s what makes it football. It’s not going to be perfect. But for some reason, as good as Laveranues Coles has been, in my opinion, he’s never allowed to get anywhere over 25 yards. It just seems like everybody knows what it’s going to be—the hitch, the under screen—whatever it is, it’s going to be short. You can almost bet your life on that. And it becomes too easy to defend.
You know, I’d almost rather lose by twenty and just go all out and attack. I know that irritates people [on the team], because they say, “well, we are,” but it doesn’t look like they are. And if they are, then whatever they’re doing, they have to change. I mean, this is not emotional, this is factual. You can’t be rated as low as they are, are consistently as they have been, and not say that it’s not working in the passing game. The running game has worked—I think they could be a lot better, and I think they will be, but we can’t say that the running game didn’t bring some glory, because it did. Not often enough, but it did. But that passing game? No way. There’s no way you can talk me out of saying anything other than they’re making up excuses.
That leads to a tough question then, Doc, because when it comes right down to it, we’re talking about play selection and/or scheme, and that comes back to the guy calling the plays. I hear you surprised and frustrated that they’re not going down the field ... can you get into Gibbs’ head at all and try to figure out what he’s doing? Clearly he knows that you have to go down the field ...
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] I think he’s still trying to learn his personnel. You know, the season wasn’t sixteen or seventeen weeks; as far as I’m concerned, when Patrick started, it started. So everything was brand new. Somebody just doesn’t get it. It’s either the players that don’t get it, or he’s got a disconnect. Because you can’t explain to me week after week after week why you can’t have success with guys who can run. I can see it if they were slow, but we have some guys who can run.
What about the pass protection?
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] No protection is perfect—Peyton Manning’s protection is not perfect. [But] it’s always a play here, or a play there, where somebody breaks down—that’s true. That I see. But that happens with everybody in the NFL. These things are not just unique to Washington, it happens all over the league.
When Coach Gibbs was asked earlier in the week about not “going down the field,” his response was that, during the middle part of the game, he did call several downfield shots ... but he came right out and said that they had trouble with protections so they went back to the safe, ball-control stuff, and that’s when they had the 80-yard touchdown drive. It’s unlike Gibbs to criticize anyone publicly, but to me that was about as close as I’ve ever heard him come to openly criticizing a unit ...
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] Well, it was a fact—they had breakdowns.
But you know what? Dallas was just better at certain times. They’re pros, too. They had guys who were just better on certain plays. That happens—I don’t worry about that; that doesn’t bother me—it’s the NFL. But you have to think that your guys are good enough to at least connect once or twice a game downfield.
So now we have one more game, against Minnesota ... what do you consider more important, getting the win at all costs, or is it time to finally put some guys like Rock Cartwright and D Mac in there and really see what they can do?
[img]/images/doc_icon.gif[/img] No—get the win. Get the win. Fight your guts out. They’re hurt ... they have a lot of guys injured ... so it’s all about pride now. And if you can get a chance to knock a team out of the playoffs, there’s nothing more gratifying.
Thanks, Doc. Happy New Year.
Look for our next exclusive conversation with Doc Walker next week. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out www.docwalker.com for the latest on Doc’s shows, whereabouts and upcoming special events.