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14-13 loss gives Redskins and fans optimism in 2000


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2000

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14-13 loss gives Redskins and fans optimism in 2000

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TAMPA -- The Redskins might have found some building blocks in Saturday's 14-13 loss to the Bucs.

Washington has not played like a champion, or even a potential champion, since Joe Gibbs retired as coach. The Redskins have won individual games and made a couple of stumbling runs at the playoffs. But until the last month, they've shown few signs of fundamental progress. Too often, especially in crisis moments, the Redskins were scatterbrained, undisciplined, immature, easily rattled or, most disturbing, simply not ready to play their best in key games. To call them inconsistent would be flattery.

On Jan. 8, the Redskins brought everything they possessed -- intensity, skill, a passion for the kill -- to a lopsided 28-13 victory over the Lions to begin the playoffs. Then, against the Bucs, they gave evidence that they might, someday soon, become a team that can count on itself for dependable, clutch play.

The game boiled down to two fourth-quarter fumbles, by Washington's Brad Johnson and Tampa Bay's Shaun King. Both were sacked and lost the ball in their backfield within the span of four plays, with the Redskins ahead 13-7.

Johnson's fumble was covered quickly by Warren Sapp. King's not only bounced to a teammate, but to the best Buc runner on the field -- Warrick Dunn. And it arrived right in stride so he could turn a 5-yard, third-down loss into an 8-yard gain for a first down. Instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal, Tampa Bay drove for its winning touchdown.

"When we got that one, I thought it might be our day," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said.

"We didn't execute. But we did get lucky," Dunn said. "Silly plays like that are made and we somehow capitalize."

Washington's task now is to improve individually and through the draft. The Redskins have the second, 12th and 24th picks in the first round.

JETS: A year ago today, New York took a halftime lead at Mile High Stadium over the team favored to win the Super Bowl -- the Broncos.

It was the AFC Championship Game, and although the Jets wound up 30 minutes short of the Super Bowl, players, coaches and fans could see a brighter future 365 days away.

Instead, they wound up short of the playoffs and short of a coach after starting the season short of an owner and losing a quarterback in their opener.

In a matter of days, though, the biggest questions facing the team should be resolved. NFL owners are expected Tuesday to approve Robert Wood Johnson IV as the Jets' new owner. Johnson wants to maintain stability and probably will move quickly in naming a coach, either by persuading Bill Parcells to return in that role or by appointing Al Groh.

No matter which way that decision goes, Parcells' fingerprints probably will be seen on the organization and on the field. Groh has limited administrative experience, so decisions about personnel and other matters would be overseen by Parcells.

After Johnson is approved as owner, commissioner Paul Tagliabue will rule on the status of Bill Belichick, who resigned as Jets coach after one day on the job two weeks ago and is trying to win the right to work elsewhere -- presumably as the coach and general manager of the Patriots. Tagliabue may well decide that Belichick remains bound to his Jets contract, which would mean the Patriots would probably give the Jets draft picks in exchange for Belichick.

Parcells met with Johnson for two hours Friday, the second time they had met in three days.

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