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Flashback Friday—Lombardi’s Skins vs. the Saints

Flashback Friday—Lombardi’s Skins vs. the Saints


"Gentlemen," the coach said, "it is not true that I can walk across the Potomac. Not even when it is frozen."

The assembled media mass at the Sheraton Carlton in downtown Washington laughed on cue. It's not often that a man can have the Washington press corps, used to dealing with the world famous and the very powerful, eating out of the palm of his hand. But that's exactly where Vincent T. Lombardi had this group when he was introduced as the new head coach, general manager, and part owner of the Washington Redskins in February of 1969.

And why not? Even new presidents coming to town had just reached the pinnacle of their profession. Lombardi was already a legend, having guided Green Bay to five NFL titles in a seven-year span. Lombardi biographer David Maraniss said that the coach was "an American icon, a coach who transcended his sport."

With the adulation came expectations. The Redskins hadn't had a winning season since 1955, a situation that the coach was expected to remedy in short order. To do that, the coach had to find a running back. Gerry Allen, the team's leading rusher in 1968, had gained just 399 yards and, as a team, the Redskins were outrushed by over 1,000 yards. That's hardly running to daylight.

Lombardi found his man in unheralded rookie Larry Brown, an eighth-round draft pick. It didn't take long for the coach to identify Brown's talent. At the first practice in training camp, he told Sonny Jurgensen, "See that (rookie) over there in the overalls?" pointing at Brown. "When the rest of these guys are gone, he'll still be here."

The team started off well, going 4-1-1 and talk of Washington becoming Title Town East began to percolate. Such talk proved to be premature and Lombardi was realistic about the state of the team. "We can be outclassed. We can be overpowered."

That they were as the schedule grew tougher and they lost to NFL elites Dallas, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. They went into the last two games of the season at 6-4-2, so a split was needed to achieve a winning record, something that Lombardi had never failed to do. As the season finale would be in Dallas, it looked like the game at RFK Stadium against the Saints was a must win.

Two Charley Harraway touchdowns, one rushing and the other on a pass reception, spurred the Redskins to a 17-0 halftime lead and they held off the Saints in the second half to come away with the win

A 25-yard punt return set up Harraway's first score. From the Saints' 12, the Redskins lined up in a tight formation. In a role reversal, Brown threw a block that cleared the way for the fullback Harraway and it was 7-0.

A 47-yard return with an interception by Rickie Harris led to a 19-yard Curt Knight field goal. After a New Orleans punt, Jurgensen took to the air, completing three of four passes that accounted for all of the 47 yards in the touchdown drive. The last 30 came on a short toss to Harraway, who blew by the linebacker attempting to cover him and went into the end zone untouched.

During the first half, in addition to Harris' interception, Mike Bass picked off a Saints pass and Chris Hanburger recovered a fumble, but all the Redskins got off of those three turnovers was the three point's following Harris' play. It nearly cost the Redskins in the second half.

Rookie quarterback Edd Hargett, subbing for an ailing Billy Kilmer, brought the Saints' offense to life. As a taste of things to come in the second half, Hargett moved his team from its own 20 to the Washington five, but the gun ending the half sounded before he could get off a play from there. Hargett led TD drives of 53 and 97 yards in the second half to cut the lead to 17-14. In the game's last two minutes, he drove the Saints to the Washington 43, but linebacker Harold McLinton tackled Hargett for no gain on fourth down and the Skins were able to kill the clock.

After the season, Lombardi said of the team's 7-5-2 final record, "I thought we could have had a better won-lost record. I hope we can find some better people."

Maraniss tells of Lombardi and Jurgensen attending Super Bowl V in New Orleans. They sat too far apart to consult during the game, but they communicated with hand gestures, indicating what play they would have run. Coach and quarterback "nodded in agreement, both certain that soon enough they would be down on the field, playing for a championship, and winning."

Sadly, it would never happen. Before the 1970 season, Lombardi was gone, a victim of cancer.

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Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 26, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 46 days.

Today’s schedule: Players report to training camp for physicals and conditioning test. Jay Gruden news conference 2 p.m.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 15
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 24
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 38

Five pre-camp questions for Jay Gruden

RICHMOND—The media portion of training camp gets underway on Wednesday as Jay Gruden holds his pre-camp presser at 2 pm at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center (that’s probably the last time I’ll use the full name of the facility).

Here are some questions we will ask of Gruden as he enters his fourth season as the Redskins head coach.

Will Kirk Cousins’ contract situation be a distraction? This must be asked, even though we know that the answer will be no. Yes, Cousins handled a similar situation just fine last year. But a quarterback playing on a second franchise tag is unprecedented. Certainly, Gruden has to guard against things getting out of hand if the season starts to turn sour.

In his fourth training camp, what is he doing now that he wishes he would have done in 2014? One very visible change has been a reduction in the amount of contact that takes place on the field. Will this continue to decline or, give the issues the team had tackling last year, will it ramp up? What used to be the morning practice and afternoon walkthrough were flipped a couple of years ago. Has there been any thought to changing it back?

How has the adjustment process to having so many new coaches gone so far? The Redskins have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and several new position coaches. As happens when any group of co-workers gets added to a workplace, there is an adjustment period. In the NFL, the coaches have to get up to speed with each other in a hurry.

Will Gruden use the season-ending loss to the Giants as a motivational/learning tool or just bury it in the past? It’s a fine line between learning from past mistakes and dwelling on them. While Cousin should make sure that he doesn’t throw another late-game interception like the one he threw in that game, he can’t have it spook him to the point where he can’t pull the trigger on a pass late in a close game. How Gruden handles the 2016 finale could have a major effect on how 2017 unfolds.

After having one of the highest pass ratios in the league, will Gruden look to run the ball more often? Last year, Sean McVay called passes on 62.4 percent of the Redskins’ snaps. The Redskins drafted a fourth-round running back in Samaje Perine and they may team him with starter Rob Kelley and call to keep the ball on the ground a few more times per game.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

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