Monday, November 14, 2005

Bucs 36-Redskins 35: A Gutsy Call Beats a Gutless Review

John Gruden had a lot of guts to call for a two-point conversion when he was down by one with less than a minute to play. An easy extra point would have sent the game into overtime. A failed two-point conversion would have given the Bucs a loss. Every columnist in America is writing today about John Gruden’s guts. In the interest of equal time, I would also like to talk about how dumb that call was. What if Alstott didn’t get in? Gruden should be waking up this morning and reading headlines like these in the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times:

2 Bad Gruden Won’t be Coaching Here Much Longer
2 Much Ego for His Own Good
Tampa’s Terrible Twos

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Alstott didn’t get in. Aikman showed that Alstott’s elbow was on the ground well short of the goal line, just as the Redskins had claimed. Troy Aikman doesn’t have a dog in this fight. The former Cowboy hasn’t exactly been pro-Redskin as an announcer. Here is a clip from the Fox broadcast that I found on

On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Tribune might have a dog in the fight. Writers for the Tribune might be expected to give the benefit of the doubt to the Bucs. Here is what Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune had to say:
“…It may not have been the officials' best effort, either…video replays appeared to back the Redskins' contention that the ball never got over the goal line…”

So, if Gruden showed a lot of guts, Bill Vinovich was absolutely gutless. Who’s he? He is the replay official. He was the guy in Tampa Bay who was charged with taking away from the Tampa Bay Bucs a win that was granted to them by the official on the field. That official on the field didn’t signal that Alstott made it over the goal line until well after Alstott’s elbow hit the ground, so he obviously missed it. Vinovich couldn’t have missed it. Everyone watching Fox saw it hit the ground. Is there any doubt that Vinovich would have overturned the call if it happened earlier in the game? Bill Vinovich is gutless.

Look, I don't want to turn this into a "the officials cost us the game" post. The NFL, though, can very easily and very quickly make officiating much better than it is today. In an era of 50+ inch high definition televisions and high definition cameras everywhere, it's time for the NFL to open up replay reviews.

For example, a more egregious call came on the Bucs first touchdown drive that was set up by a 34-yard pass, on second down and ten, to Galloway at the three yard line. Galloway’s second step after controlling the ball was about a foot out of bounds. All of the officials on the field agreed with that assessment. But, somehow one official—the field judge—made the call that Galloway was pushed out. That was one of the worst calls I have ever seen. The best the Redskins defender could do was dive and chop at the receiver’s hands to try to jar the ball loose. He never got close enough to push him.

When one call can make or break a team in a sixteen-game season, why not scrutinize every call using all of your resources to get it right? The judgment by an official on the field that a receiver was pushed out is not reviewable. Why not?

The Bad: The Redskins have not found a cure for their turnover problems. On the giveaway side, Brunell is a concern, but not because of interceptions. In fact, at least one and possibly both of his picks yesterday were not his fault. He hit David Patten in the hands on that first interception. Patten has to catch that. The second one was a screen in tight coverage, but that ball also hit the receiver’s hands. However, Brunell has fumbled an inordinate amount of the time. It seems he fumbles about half of the time that he gets hit. Given the Redskins woeful record in recovering fumbles this year, that does not bode well.

The other negative that has come up in the past five games is the two or three big plays that the defense is giving up per game. Injuries to some of their best defenders haven’t helped. Their best defensive lineman is Cornelius Griffin and he hasn’t played the last three games beginning with the Giants game. They were already thin at the D-line, so they miss him terribly. They get no push in the middle of their line. And, Sean Taylor did not play yesterday. You have to wonder if he would have delivered one of his famous bone-crushing hits on Alstott and taken the outcome of the game out of the replay booth's control. The Redskins defense, traditionally its strength, has a few things it needs to work on, but the Skins should see significant improvement when Griffin and Taylor come back.

The Good: Once again the Redskins outplayed their opponent in all of the major statistical categories. They earned more first downs, more yards (389, the most against the Bucs this year) and held the ball longer (the Skins dominated time of possession by ten minutes). They did it against the number one defense in the NFL and they did it on the road. It is very hard to move the ball in a loud stadium against an excellent defense. Portis averaged 6.3 yards per rush and he was very consistent. I think the Redskins offense has taken that next step. Scoring 30-points per game is a Gibbs trademark.

As maddening as yesterday’s loss was, the Skins have many more positive things they can take away from it than the Giants can take away from their loss. First of all, the Giants lost to a pitiful team. Second, they lost to a pitiful team at home in a game they were favored to win by ten points. Legitimate first-place teams playing at home don’t lose to pitiful teams. So, the team that is ahead of them now probably won’t be there for long. At least we will be spared all of that nauseating Manning-versus-Manning-in-the-Super-Bowl talk. The Redskins lost an opportunity to catch the Giants yesterday, but the road to the NFC East crown still goes through Philadelphia.


At November 15, 2005 1:15 PM, Blogger Charlottesvillain said...

What this team needs is more Hawkeyes! Give Ladell the ball!

At November 15, 2005 1:33 PM, Blogger Counter Trey said...

I agree. I like Betts, especially in short yardage. If he came up with Brunell's pass at the 30 with about 30 seconds left, he would have been canonized.


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