- The Washington Times
Saturday, September 6, 2008

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The only thing different about the Washington Redskins’ season opener Thursday night against the New York Giants with Jim Zorn on the sideline - as opposed to having Joe Gibbs there for the last four years - was, well, you tell me.

You had confusing play calling. You had poor clock management. You had a quarterback who couldn’t complete a pass long enough to qualify for a Punt, Pass & Kick contest. And, of course, you had the requisite defense that found a way to bend but not break and keep them in the game.

Gibbs or Zorn. Mark Brunell or Jason Campbell. Gregg Williams or Greg Blache. They are interchangeable right now.

It almost makes you yearn for the days of the ol’ Ballcoach. At least with Steve Spurrier, the chaos was more entertaining than this predictability.

The reasons for the offensive ineptitude Thursday might be different than they were under Gibbs.

This, after all, was Zorn’s debut as a coach in an NFL regular-season game, and he is trying to introduce the complicated West Coast offense to a team that struggled with Al Saunders’ complicated offense the previous two seasons.

But these complications are getting old. Receivers can’t find the first-down marker, and the explanation always is, more or less, that they are making adjustments to the offense.

Campbell is making adjustments. Santana Moss is making adjustments. Antwaan Randle El is making adjustments.

Can’t anyone just get the hang of running down the field more than 7 yards to catch a pass?

“The thing that hurt us was not converting those first downs when we had the opportunity,” Zorn told reporters after the game. “We had third-and-6, and we’d made 5. We’d have third-and-9 and make 8 1/2. We’d have third-and-7 and make 6. We just couldn’t get over that line.”

Here is the maddening part: On the surface, playing under a rookie coach and losing 16-7 to the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on their home field is not that bad.

Unless you have thick rose-colored glasses, you could not have expected the Redskins to come away from the Meadowlands with a win. Come on, when you looked at the schedule and added up the possible wins and losses, this game was in the “L” column.

It could have been far worse. With the Giants taking a 16-0 lead, it sure seemed like the Redskins were on the way to a 35-7 beating.

But like so many times in the past, the defense kept it close enough to keep them in the game. And like so many times in the second tenure of Gibbs, the offense couldn’t take advantage of it.

The only difference now is the uncertainty of Zorn’s track record - he has none. Therefore, the flickering flame of hope still burns that progress will be made by their next game Sept. 14, the opener at FedEx Field against the New Orleans Saints.

The offense needs to adjust in time for that game to find first-down markers. This is a game that needs to be a “W,” along with the following home game against the Arizona Cardinals. After that, it is on the road against the Cowboys and Eagles.

By then, Jim Zorn may be talking about how his team “played its guts out.”

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