Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 11, 2017

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals, Wizards, the NFL and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

It's days like this (watching the Nats clinch while the Snyders hack up another hairball on a winnable game) that make me glad I've moved on from football. I rather suspect I'm not the only one making that observation to you today. Other than kudos for the Nats on (for the first time) celebrating a back to back division win, I am curious about whether activating Robles has any implications for his "service clock." For many promising rookies, there is a debate about whether to deliberately hold them in AAA a little longer to preserve an extra year of team control over their contracts. In Robles case, I hadn't heard any real expectation that he would be coming up in 2017. Usually it was "probably a Sept call-up in 2018". I understand the possible logic (if Goodwin is out for the rest of the year, we need a good backup CF in the 2017 playoffs). But bringing Robles up now as an audition for the playoffs risks starting a very raw player in a harsh, unforgiving crucible of pressure. And whether or not Robles is thrown into the fire in this year's playoffs, does bringing Robles up this Sept mean that he may end up having one less season under team control?

Good point on stark Nats-Skins contrast. Hard to miss or avoid that. It's just right there looking everybody in the face.

In the last six years, Dodgers have won 548 games, the Nats 547. Those are the two top teams in MLB.

In the last 25 years, the Skins are the ONLY NFL team that has NOT had an 11-win (or better) season.

So, you tell me which is worth more of your time at this point.

Here are some of the other NFL teams and the number of times they have won 11-or-more games. Skins = 0.

NE 14 times...win totals: 16, 14, 14, 14, 14, 13, 12, 12, 12, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11, 11.

Pitts 12...Totals: 15, 13, 12, 12, 12, 12 12, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11.

Indy 11 times with 11-or-more wins.

GB 11 times

SF 10

Denver 9

Dallas 8

KC 7

Phil 7

12 teams with 4, 5 or 6 times with 11-or-more wins.

Skins 0

...

On Robles. No, this doesn't cost the Nats a year. This is exactly how they brought up Trea Turner in last '15, then brought hjim back for good in mid-'16 and will have him through the entire '21 season.

If they bring up Robles in mid-'18, they have him for six MORE years after '18.

What is going on with Dusty's contract, are they trying to embarrass him? I cant think of a reason why, going into the playoffs, this still isn't settled. Any news?

Badly handled by the Lerners on this one. Looks like they are saying, "Beat the Cubs in the first round to come back in '18."

That may NOT be what they are thinking. But it is certainly what they have ME thinking.

IMO, an extension should be both immediate for '18 -- it's been earned, and more -- and just a formality. You can ALWAYS fire a manager. What are they doing? Trying to, maybe, save ~$3M by waiting? They can give him '18 now, then if they don't like the way the playoffs go, fire him then. I wouldn't tie the two together. But what is your max loss? Just the value of the '18 extension. What are you risking by not doing it? Putting extra pressure on the team to win to keep Dusty. That's just weird in my book.

If they go to the World Series, or win it, then you can do an extension to the extension.

Dusty is a big man -- bigger than this. So, he said his piece long ago and I don't think he'll return to it because it would distract from the team's focus. 

It's not unprecedented to keep a manager hanging. But it is unwise -- especially since Baker should be a serious candidate for MOY.

A few weeks ago, Scherzer started a game and the lineup he faced had 6 lefties and 2 switch hitters. It was a road game so the lineup was locked in before Max took the mound. I was wondering if there was anything preventing the Nats from switching pitchers to take advantage of the situation. Say it is the playoffs and both Max and Gio are on full rest. Nats are playing game 1 and 2 on the road against LA and the Dodgers put a lineup in like this. Could the Nats swap pitchers after the top of the 1st? Have Gio warm up out of sight and throw him in against 6 lefties? If a team is going to commit to that unbalanced of a lineup, couldn't a smart team take advantage? Has a team ever done it?

It's been done. Pretty sure Earl Weaver did it in mid-season. Pitch to one hitter, then switch pitchers to the "real" starter.

But you wouldn't mess around with your rotation like that in normal circumstances. Certainly not in playoffs.

Chatters: Did Earl (or some other manager) force a change in the rules on this? I assume it's still the same. A pitcher -- any pitcher, including the starter -- only HAS to face one batter.

I know many people (myself included) have asked what happens to people like Michael A. Taylor or Wilmer Difo when the Opening Day starters are all healthy again. But what about Kendrick? Seems like the Nats can't afford to take his bat out of the lineup, especially with the slow offensive showing lately. Thoughts?

Kendrick and Lind are a perfect RH-LH pair off the bench -- the "two hairy chested guys" that Davey Johnson said he always wanted on either side of him in the late innings. Also, in the World Series they'd make a very good DH combo -- something that few NL teams ever bring into the Series. The NL would have a disadvantage, losing its DH in games in Nats Park. The Nats would lose nothing in the AL part because Lind-Kendrick are hitting (combined) well over .300 with an OPS near .900.

Michael A. Taylor is the CF for the rest of this season -- and a fine one. Will he hit this well the rest of his career, or the next several years? I think so -- like Mike Cameron and Tony Armas, who are his closest statistical "comps" at the same age and who both broke out at the same age as Taylor -- 26. But we'll have to see if the MAT is the real MAT next season. But I see no reason to think that he is not. He's a "learner." He's just as likely to get a little bit better.

It's easy to miss what a remarkable year MAT is having. He's only had 336 at bats but has 16 HR, 48 RBI and 14/5 steals.

Pro-rated for a 560 at bat season, that would be 35 doubles, 85 runs, 26 homers, 80 RBI, .274 and .819 OPS. And that's while hitting at the bottom of the lineup. As I mentioned last week, FanGraphs ranks him the SECOND-BEST DEFENDER in MLB at ANY position. (Simmons first, Rendon third best.)

Difo (.283/.725) is a super sub who can really have late-inning impact in the playoffs as a switch-hitting PH -- you can't trap him in a bad match-up.

But, of course, Trea Turner, who's hot again, has to start at SS. Since May 23 when he came out of an early season slump, in 48 games (less than a third of a season), Turner has 40 runs, 63 hits, 10 doubles, 5 triples, 5 homers, 20 RBI, a good 20-to-30 walk-to-strikeout ratio (a big area of improvement this year), 30-for-35 in STEALS and a slash of .310/.375/.483 for an .858 OPS.

More and more, it is starting to look like this may be the player he is. That would be hard to believe. The last two years in 154 games (still fewer than the full 162), Turner has 650 at bats, 117 runs, 201 hits, 33 doubles, 14 triples, 22 homers, 80 RBI, 72/12 in steals (!!!) and a slash of .309/.350/.505 and an OPS of .854.

I wonder if most fans have any idea what this means. THAT player, if Turner remains at this level, is a slightly BETTER Derek Jeter at the plate and in the field, but with 70-stolen-base speed! I think we need a couple of more SEASONS, and healthy ones, to start saying such things. But Jeter's career slash line was .310/.377/.440 with an .817 OPS.

Some forget the impact Turner could have in the playoffs this year. He drove the Cubs crazy before they broke his wrist. He'll want to get even. 

Boz, Who do YOU want the Nats to face in the NLDS? Diamondbacks? Rockies? Brewers? Cubs? StL? Thx! Go Nats!

I'd prefer that they play the best: Cubs, Dodgers and Indians in that order.

Gotta get past the Cubs. But if Harper is back OK, which I assume he will be, and Scherzer and Strasburg are pitching the way they are now, I think they will.

USAToday's MLB power rankings are 1) Cleveland, 2) Dodgers, 3) Nats, 4) Houston, followed by Arizona, Boston, Yanks, Cubs, Brewers. Note that the Cubs are EIGHTH.  (However, in self-confidence, bordering on a superiority complex, they remind me of the '14 Giants. And the Nats didn't do too well against them.)

I agree with that whole list, in that order, but after spending hours watching the Dodgers for the last week, I'd put the Nats even with LAD for second-best team. The Dodgers are having as bad a nervous breakdown as I've seen since the '78 Red Sox who looked like, if they tried to tie their shoes, might be so nervous that they'd end up strangling themselves. Bellinger, at 1st base on Saturday, pulled a Buckner in the late innings of a close game -- two hop grounder directly between his legs untouched. He never moved either foot. Then bent over and watching the ball go into rightfield while looking between his legs.

Not a goods October look.

The Dodgers WILL snap out of this. They will rip off 4 or 5 or more wins in a row and everybody will let out their breath and pronounce them "okay" again. But they WON'T be fully "OK" again this year. They have done much too much damage to their own sense of themselves. I'd consider them no better than 8-to-1 to win the Series, maybe worse, if they had to go through the D'backs, Nats and either Indians or Astros. If they get an easier road -- well, I think they'll NEED an easier road to win a title because, after this 1-15, they will NOT get through 3 teams that put as much pressure on you in as many different ways as the D'backs, Nats and any A.L. winner.

the Natz season ends. Mystics winning in the playoffs, Syracuse, errrrrrrrr, the Natz clinch the division, all kind of wonderful items happening in baseball, yes Cleveland and you too L.A. Malfunction Junction is the nome du plume I gave the Redskins the year Danny boy took over with his Captains of Industry get-rich-quick schemes and cannon fodder for G.M.'s. A ray of hope appeared with Scot McCloughan on board only to be snuffed out by Mussolini type wannabe Bruce Allen. I will eventually pay attention to the Skins, but only when baseball is over. By that time, perhaps, either the ship will have sunk-recovery in operation, or has been righted-rescue operation. Floundering, I will not tolerate after the McCloughan debacle.

Well, I think "Mussolini" is a tad harsh.

Boz, I know Dusty is protecting him, saying he's too young and raw and it wouldn't be fair to put Robles in the kleig lights, but... well, okay. What would it take for the Nats to be unable to leave him off the roster?

It wouldn't take anything. I'd put him on the playoff roster as the 25th man if he just keeps playing the way he is so far. Goodwin is out. You'll need an OFer.

They put Severino on the post-season last year and he did fine. (Difo, too.) Robles has a ton of poise. He roped a ball off the very top of the scoreboard in rightcenter on Sunday to drive in a run and he made it to third even though the ball bounced right back to a Phil. Most fast players don't even come close to a triple of that. But he slid a couple of inches PAST third and was called out -- so only a double. But one which showed his opposite-field power, his explosiveness and aggression. He also got hit by a pitch -- something that happens to him about 35 times per 600 AB. That's a long-term worry. But if he still looks like he's kept his timing, and Goodwin doesn't get back, I'd lean toward Robles on the roster. Yes, he's only 20. One note: Taylor is playing so well in CF that I wouldn't even consider anybody else for that job in '18. I'd just give it to Taylor for '18-'19-'20 unless/until he plays himself out of it over a big data sample. 

By '19, I suspect the oF will be Eaton LF, Taylor CF and Robles RF. Might be the best defensive OF you'd see in DC in a 50-yererar period. Kinda reminds me of speedsters Sam Rice and Goose Goslin in the same OF back in 1924. (Oh, sorry, momentary hallucination.) 

Should we be paying more attention to the sorry, no account football team and its meddling, incompetent, destructive owner at the beginning of a surely disappointing season or to the team that just won the NL East for the fourth time in six years? It seems as if the Post is giving short shrift to the latter, as even pre-season coverage eclipsed the resilient Nats. Evidence? Look at today's online Sports front page. Six - count 'em - SIX linked articles about the football team, plus a large photo. Two articles about the Nats at the top of the fold (an opinion piece about how they're the among the best franchises in baseball and a silly listicle). It's not until you scroll down past another seven articles about other non-Washington football teams that you get to the article describing the game that clinched the NL East. What gives? I understand this is a "football town," whatever that is, but maybe it's time to ask why, especially given the excellent run of form for the Nats, the Caps, and now Les Wiz (and oh, by the way, the Mystics are in the semi-finals).

The Skins game was VERY important to their season and to getting a read on whether their hideously bad offensive showings in pre-season were an omen of a deception. I really wanted to cover that game because I thought it would be a "tell" for their whole season. And I think it was. The Skins identity in '15-'16 was their offense. Without it as a major strength -- and they were third in the NFL in passing yardage last season -- it doesn't matter if their defense is somewhat better, as it appears to be. If that offense falls back to middle-of-the-pack, the Skins -- with a brutal schedule -- will be pressed to go 6-10. And 7-9 would impress me.

That was a poor offensive showing against a good but not exceptional Philly defense. If the Skins, without Jackson and Garcon, without a real quality running back and with more pressure getting to Cousins, end up with the 15th or 20th (shudder) best offense in the NFL, you could see a dismal season and a purge at season's end that includes...every name you can think of. Maybe Vinnie Cerrato is still available. We're still a long way from there. BUT that opening loss, in one of the Skins EASIER games of the year -- because it was at FedEx -- is enough to worry anyone who cares about the Skins. 

The Skins have two clean shots at wins that could be in hand in the 4th quarter vs Rams and 49ers. And there are three or four games where they will probably be in somebody else's hands by the fourth Q. The other 10-or-so games will all be in the same tough category as the Eagles on Sunday, or harder when those games are on the road.

The Nats game was a lovely celebration. But the Skins game was a massive amount of information that I wanted to write about. As we move on, I assume coverage will reflect reader interest and the intrinsic value of the events/teams involved. 

I thought our "play" and coverage of the two stories from Sunday was perfect. I looked at the front page -- Skins at the top and lots of total stories on them inside -- but HUGE visual display for the Nats with an excellent perspective column from Barry. The Skins played an important game that needed lots of analysis. The Nats win was like a 3,00th hit feel-good celebration.

I assume in coming weeks you'll see a lot more Nats and less Skins. And once the post-season starts, if the Nats go at least two rounds, and the Skins have their bye week in that period, too, you may be asking, "Why is everything about the Nats these days?" 

Bos.....as much as fans were calling for Kirk Cousins' head after the game and blasting the poor performance by Terrell Pryor, none of this should have been a surprise with the problems the o-line has had since late last season against good defenses. The right side of the Redskins o-line Moses and Scherff were manhandled by the very talented Eagles front. Both of Cousins' pressures were due to Moses getting beat almost immediately off the ball. I don't see why the Redskins awarded Moses with a huge contract extension when he has struggled so much in pass protection. Scherff, for a Pro Bowl guard, gives up pressure routinely and played poorly against the Eagles Skill players (Garcon and DJax) are hard to replace and I understand the chemistry issues, but absent a strong o-line, is it realistic to have expected much better for 2017? I think the Skins front office greatly overrated the offensive line which appears average at best.

The Eagles have a high-quality defensive front. But they did expose the right side of the Skins O-line. I was surprised at the level of confidence that the Skins showed in the Moses contract. When I rewatch the games, look at slow-mo of line play, he looks OK to me, but not special. 

One big key to the Skins back-to-back winning seasons has been Cousins "perfect attendance record" -- zero injuries. If he gets hit as much as he did against the Eagle in six or eight more games, he's either going to be clobbered enough to get happy feet or else have his first injury since high school. They need to protect Kirk, above all else. But it is hard to do when your running game frequently gets you into second-and-8-or-9 and you have NO DEEP threat. Or at least no deep threat who can follow the flight of the ball in the air or catch it 50 yards downfield in the end zone. Terrelle Pryor made some nice catches over the middle. But his drops were ugly and his inability to track the deep ball on the first Skins snap of the game are troubling. They've been playing 1 p.m. games at FerdEx in the fall for a long time. I don't remember DeSean Jackson saying "never say it" on a long ball in that corner. 

What's more fun for Post sports columnists and writers on Sunday--covering the Nats' win and celebration (yeah!) or the Redskins' game (sigh)? South Capitol Street would be my choice.

People asked me that. They were both very interesting subjects though completely different. Columnists don't think about the "fun" element, at least I don't. Barry and I talked about it at Nats Park during the week. We were both pleased with where we were. HOWEVER, when Strasburg had a shutout through four innings I was joking in the Skins press box that maybe I'd picked the wrong venue.

BTW, that column I wrote about Strasburg a couple of weeks ago with comparisons (by Rizzo) to Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale -- those are good comparisons for the pitcher that Strasburg has become. I watched the tape of the game Sunday night and his work was the proverbial beauty-to-behold. It was like the hitter wasn't there and he was simply enjoying executing one beastly almost-impossible-to-square-up pitch after another. I thought, "He's become exactly the pitcher everyone hoped he would be someday." His problem with cramps in humid weather is real, just like a pitcher who has problems with blisters (like Rich Hill of the Dodgers). It's part of the whole Strasburg package. But if he's healthy and gets rolling in the playoffs, with the pleasant October weather, he could really put on a show. Two weeks ago, Werth, the day he called Strasburg "just a big, scary furry animal out there," also said to me, "Now he needs to bring us home" (in the playoffs). The way he is pitching now is an illustration of why "great pitching stops great hitting" so often in the post-season. The Nats may have 25 players, but, next month, Scherzer and Strasburg matter the most -- by a margin.     

Here we go again. They aren't even "lovable losers". They have a few reasonably ok players. As a whole, however, just losers. Year after year after year.

I was hard on them this a.m. because this was the THIRD straight time that they failed to "show up" for a big game at FedEx -- on top of their miserable defeats to Carolina and the Giants last year, either of which would have meant a playoff spot. If it hadn't been for Kerrigan's INT return TD, they might have fallen behind by something like 20-0 instead of "just" 13-0. 

However, unlike a lot of just-plain-bad Skins teams in the last 25 years, this one has a real QB -- if he has support around him -- and a fine offensive theorist in Gruden. But we'll have to see how good Gruden is at play-calling along with all his other responsibilities.

It always amazes me how some people find ways to limit their enjoyment in sports. OK, Snyder and Allen are straight central casting for people who would turn off fans. But the Skins players are a good enough bunch. A team that wins 6, 7, 8 games isn't a civic misery. Of course the constant self-important crude junior-high-drama around the team is nauseating. My view is just to compartmentalize the Skins -- watch their games, enjoy them to the degree that they are enjoyable -- or even fascinating at times in a morbid kind of way -- but don't get invested in their 10th-rate theater. It's not worth your time. 

Edwin Jackson has been terrific. But no one uses a 5-man rotation in the playoffs. And he appears to have trouble finding his mechanics in his first inning of an outing (based on the recent WaPo article on his rejuvenation and based on first-inning poor results against the Brewers and Cubs and Phillies and Marlins). Sadly, this seems to mean he's not a great playoff roster candidate -- what do you think? Would the Nats carry an extra bullpen arm or an extra bench player? They've been playing with fire by not having a true long-man all season. What SHOULD they do and what do you think they WILL do?

EJax has been a valuable "fix" to the fifth starter problem. But, recently, he has also probably returned to his carer-long useful but not special level. I doubt you need a "long man" in a five-game playoff that includes days off before it begins and TWO days off within the series. For a seven-game NLCS, I'd have to think about whether an innings eater like Jackson, who can be pretty sharp or pretty hittable, would be useful. Interesting. tough call. 

How bad do the Redskins have to get for fans to abandon them en masse? It's amazing to me that people are still willing to pay over $100 to watch this team. I wouldn't take the time to travel to the stadium if someone paid me.

There was a big crowd at FedEx on Sunday and, given the awful play by the Skins in the first 17 minutes, it was patient with them. Beautiful sunny fall-weather  day and Opening Game optimism (in cautious quantities). But the Skins have been shedding fans for years -- hence the gradually reduced seating capacity at FedEx. But 78,685 is a big number. No, it's not ~90,000 anymore.

If the Caps had won the Stanley Cup last year and the Nats had gone to a World Series in '14 or '16, there'd have been even more shifts. Didn't happen. But if the Nats go to the Series this year or next, I doubt that any major city can/would ignore that the Nats have been one of the four or five best-run teams in baseball for years now and the Skins are one of the three or four worst run teams in the NFL for the last 25 years.

That has to have a cumulative effect. Some, we've already seen. And there will be more shift. But the NFL, especially with all the money gambled on it and all the fantasy leagues, isn't going anywhere any time soon no matter how disgusting the moral underbelly of the league/sport.

Sports shift in popularity over decades, not single years. And it works that way in towns, too. The NFL boomed in the '60's and '70s while MLB stagnated in the '60's and up to the '75 World Series between the Red Sox and Reds. Then, MLB had a huge long run back into popularity from '75 through the Strike of '94. Baseball really gave the NFL a run for its money, though the NFL got to No. 1. The Strike just handed the top spot to the NFL by an obvious margin.

What we're seeing now is a reversal of the gap between the NFL and MLB. Baseball will gradually get closer. But, since MLB's appeal is so largely local -- following the home-region teams 162 times, while the NFL is so focused on national games/gambling when people are off on weekends -- it probably won't be recognized/measured as quickly as it should.

For example, the Skins just drew 78K for an opener. This week, the Nats will probably draw about 200,000 fans to six games, even though they have already clinched. And the Dodger games this weekend could be fascinating because they could have such an impact on who would get homefield edge in an NLCS.

The Nats lead the season series 2-1. Say they win 2-of-1 this weekend. That would cut the Dodger lead for homefield from the current four games to three. And the Nats would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. It would still be a longshot for the Nats, who have the 2d-best record in MLB now, to catch the Dodgers. But it's becoming less far-fetched every day.

The Nats need to go 12-7 to win 100 games. To catch the Dodgers and get homefield, potentially, my guess ios they'll need to win 2-of-3 this weekend and end with a 102-60 record to tie the Dodgers. That requires a 14-5 finish. The Nats schedule is soft, except for LA, and Dusty (and the vets) know how important home field can be in a Game 6 and 7.

Pretty good chance that the home-field battles among the Dodgers 92-51, Nats 88-55, Cleveland 87-56 and Astros 86-57 will go to the last weekend. They ALL care about these "seedings."

The two straight set finals matches seemed so different. I suppose it is because Nadal is so familiar to us that we know what his dominant looks like. The 6-0 second of Stevens-Keys is harded to understand: Is Sloan that much better, did Madison lose steam, was her hamstring handicapping her?

For someone who enjoyed and covered tennis for a long time, I'm sad to say that the U.S. Open got squeezed out of my viewing fun -- except for highlights -- by the MLB races, NFL and the start of college football. I apologize.

If I see a chat "question" with a good analysis contained in it, I'll probably give a brief answer so you can read the question.

It would seem Bryce has a little free time on his hands with his injury. On top of that he just got married and seems like he might like to settle down in DC. Why not put the $400 million offer out there and see if he wants to get it done. Bryce likes it here and Ted Lerner is rich and not getting any younger. What's to lose?

And you only want 5 percent off the top for brokering this one, right?

Good luck. (But not a bad idea.)

Was the opening sentence in your latest column a rhetorical question? Or was it a loaded question, along the lines of "When did you stop beating your wife?"

More like "how long are you going to continue beating your fans?"

Boz, Can we stop to appreciate just what Wilmer Difo has accomplished? I was not alone in being pretty skeptical that an underpowered middle infielder with a pretty underwhelming minor league track record would be a long-term piece, but he's now up to .283/.332/.393 on the season and .327/.372/.454 since he started playing every day. He hit 3rd Sunday and *deserved* it. Of course Mike Rizzo believed in him and that's why he's a pro and I'm a punter, but his emergence is nothing less than remarkable nonetheless.

If you were trying to diagnose what ails the Redskins - not just this year, but as a franchise (because there is a disease) - what questions would you ask your "patient" if he took truth serum? If you were to give an armchair diagnosis, without a thorough examination, what would Dr. Boswell conclude?

Dan Snyder is a terrible judge of people. I'm afraid a flaw that bad will never change. He likes "yes" men, flatterers and people who can go out and take the heat for him. Which is exactly what you DON'T need. It's franchise fatal.

Long ago, Super Bowl winning coach Hank Stram told me, "The third man -- the guy between you and the owner -- is the franchise ruiner."

I told this to great Cowboys coach Tom Landry. He said, "Hank said that? Well, is that any different than the rest of corporate America? It's executive-level politics. Our new NFL owners didn't grow up with the game like the old families -- the Halases and Rooneys -- so they frequently need advice. And, you know, the sources of that advice are sometimes unreliable."

They told me that in 1981. Nothing has changed. What did Scot McCloughan call Bruce Allen last week as a one-word description? "Politician."

Dan may own the record for the most incredible run of bad choices in whom to put in the -- figurative -- seat beside him. Pepper Rodgers was a fine college coach and very nice man, but he was WAY past the point when he should have been an unofficial NFL advisor to Snyder in his Dan's early years. Then it was Vinnie Cerrato who had important roles (GM) and influence over a 10 year period. By the standards of Pro Sports Executives I Have Know, he was almost a clown. The FIRST time I met him, I said, "OMG." It was like listening to Heath Shuler's first press conference after he was drafted. You just put your hands over your face. Now, it's Bruce, the ultimate suit. He'd be a plus -- in the proper role. A limited role. Now he's the guy projecting the image of the central person who is holding everything together in Ashburn. Give me a break.

It's not just "Snyder" that is the problem as "Snyder's judgement in choosing his main advisor on the NFL -- meaning evaluations of players and coaches."

That's why so many hoped Scot would save everything. After the way he was run over by the Skins bus as he left -- then the bus backed up and ran over him a few more times -- who is the next true NFL wizard, even a tarnished wizard, who will want to get anywhere near Snyder?

At the Q&A during the Season Ticket holder thingy on Sat, Dusty said he was told he would get an extension by Rizzo, but he knows Rizzo is not the one to sign the checks. He also said we have work to do now...

Sounds right.

You can be a fan of both the Nats and the Redskins. My takeaways from the Philly game: 1) the OL looks to have regressed from a strength last year; 2) the wideouts are not nearly as good as Garcon and Jackson; Cousins may wind up losing a lot of money if it turns out that a very important part of his success was his outstanding receivers and a good OL; 4) the defense may be a bit improved, but still needs work. Is it too early to begin evaluating this season and do you agree with any of this?

I agree with all of it.

Having a local NFL team to follow, even if it is a continuous nervous breakdown in progress, decade after decade, is a kind of fun. So, I enjoy it for what it is worth. But I finally learned, probably with the spectacular Shanahan "burn-and-the-ships" exodus, never to expect too much, even when things, temporarily, look like they are improving.

In those famous words of our time: It is what it is.

If "it" still gives you some enjoyment -- as your analysis shows that it still does for you (and me) -- then go for it.

I think maintaining basic team morale in the face of a relentless schedule will be a huge test for Gruden and the team's leaders, including Cousins who, as the QB, is going to have to show a lot of leadership this year. If the team loses confidence in either or both, look out below. If they are tough enough to keep this team together, it might still have a respectable season. (My own rule, frequently broken: Never tell sports what it can and can't do. Because it will immediately make you look like a dope.)

Mr. B Yes the contrast of yesterday's success and failure is striking. Page one of the Sports section , however, still had the Deadskins at the top and the Nats below, albeit with a bigger headline. Will this town's fixation with the football team ever end ?

Actually, that is a layout that papers use when they want to give HUGE but EQUAL "play" to two stories, and only two stories. (I'm not an editor, but I believe that is roughly correct.) One story gets the top. The other gets the huge visual splash.

I thought it was a knockout D1 layout. Helped by the fact that there was no third story that was being neglected.

it used to be that the skins were great every year while the caps and bullets stunk it up and we had no baseball but the soul-less Baltimore Angelo's. Now the caps, wiz and nats are all really good and fun to watch and the skins stink every year...while i am a die hard skins fan...i would take that trade every time....what say you?

As I've said several times: since I was a kid growing up here I have seen good times, bad times, fabulous times and dismal times in D.C. sports. This is one of the really good times. A parade, or a trip to the finals would make it better.  

Boz, Like a lot of people in DC, I'm a transplant, 21 years here. As a New Englander by birth, it was hard but I switched my allegiances from the Celts, Sox and Bruins to the DC teams, keeping the Pats. But, as a life long football fan, and even as a fan of a team with great success, I just can't get excited about football again. I think the whole idea that watching this game means watching men permanently damage themselves is too disheartening. It seems that football will have to get even more violent (to attract the MMA type fans) or get much less violent to try to get people like me back. Am I looking at this wrong and do you think there are more like me out there?

I think yours is a widespread and sensible view.

However, I've been up close to football for 40+ years and, while CTE hadn't been studied back then, I knew that the NFL was a brutalizing cynical sport with awful injuries where the players were treated like interchangeable pieces of meat. It wasn't a secret. Pete Gent wrote "North Dallas Forty" in '79. I was offered the Skins beat long ago, probably late-'70's or around '80. I turned it down. My problem wasn't with the Skins but with the whole culture of the NFL. I was about 30 then and your professional identity gets linked to the big beats you cover at that age. The combination of "Me" and "NFL" didn't work, even though I was a big football FAN and had played for seven years. It's just that the NFL culture was so much lower than the culture of an average U.S. industry at that time. MLB, for all its faults, was more like a "normal" industry. 

About that time I wrote a piece for the Post magazine called "99 Reasons Why Baseball is Better than Football." Man, has that list grown.

BUT I totally get why so many people enjoy the NFL. Give me a tape, a clicker and 60-to-75 minutes to watch an NFL game that interests me and I'm a mighty happy camper. (I stuff my conscience under the barcalounger that my wife refers to, with curled lip, as my "Skins chair." (When we met, I had a burgundy-and-gold Skins-logo trash can. It was evicted in the interests of romance.)

...you got stuck covering the football team yesterday.

As I've mentioned before, but don't like to underline too often, sportswriters REALLY aren't "fans." Over the years, you develop a distance on what you cover. I have to admit that it came very quickly and naturally to me. Like "instantly." What you want is Great Subject Matter because you are a writer, NOT a fan. Yes, for a fan, the Nats game would have been far more fun than the Skins game. Better game-day experience by miles, uplifting, friendly, celebrating winning a division "flag." But as subject matter, the Skins, especially in a opener when you had absolutely no idea what you would get, and how dramatically the season might come into focus QUICKLY, I thought the football game was a "gimme THAT one, please." But both were "A" story subjects. Just completely different.

Athletes want to win games. Fans want to enjoy those wins. Sportswriters want to write really good stories -- but they don't care WHAT they write about. Because there is a wonderful story in almost everything. You just have to find it.  

After week 1, I think we can safely say Colin Kaepernick is probably one of the best 32 quarterbacks in the NFL and certainly one of the top 64.

I can't define "blackball." But if it looks like one, and walks like one, I think I can recognize it. This sure looks like one. There was no "memo." But this guy practically DEFINES what you want in a BACK-UP QB -- an unorthodox change-of-style player who may be a better runner than passer. As soon as he comes in, whether by necessity or choice, your team's offense is going to change dramatically and instantly. That's what you want in a back-up. Not just a watered down version of your starter. But an alternative. 

Could he be a starter for some teams? Maybe. I'm not a big fan of him as a starting QB. I think the league changed, adapted, since he came into it and his tool set isn't as in touch with current trends. But if you want to describe his situation in sociological (I guess) terms as to whether he's out of the league 100 percent because of his political stand (or kneel), not because of his ability, then I think you have to look at what an excellent (imo) alternative he would provide as a backup QB.

I thought Kent Babb's piece on him recently really drew an in-depth and fair portrait of him.

I'm not really a big believer in "team culture" or "team chemistry," but I do think it applies when it comes to the Redskins. Compare and contrast: the Patriots and the Skins. I suspect Belichick is ticked after their performance against the Chiefs and probably a little worried. But I also suspect every player on that team anticipates he'll offer up solutions or make decisions that will be at least logical. Which means their confidence is surely very high. Here? You've got outsiders, including the media, already speculating on a lost season and whether Cousins is really worth it and if Gruden should keep his job. And I suspect some of that is creeping into the locker room because I sure doubt anybody in power has the credibility to tell the team, "Don't worry, just play" and have them believe it. In fact, I'm waiting for the rumors to start flying out of Redskins Park about Danny's level of happiness. IOW, that was a much more painful loss for the Skins than for the Patriots because they're more attuned to react badly to it. Thoughts?

"Team chemistry" is real. It is important. Sometimes very important. The same people in front offices who study advanced metrics, and improved prevention of injury (and rehab from injury) and defensive shifts (in baseball), are also studying how groups of people interact. It is one of the next "cutting edges" in getting an advantage.

Werth had it backwards in his comments on Sunday about team chemistry when he rpaised its important, but implied that the nerds who study numbers "don't get it" because they can't quantify it. Actually, the nerds (me) would like to know more about how groups interact and what helps them cooperate and function optimally in sports.

FWIW, the Nats seem to have excellent team chemistry. Watching the Dodgers recently, I wonder if they do. (I don't pretend to know.)

That's it for today. Thanks for (far too many) excellent questions. See you next Monday at 11 a.m. -- after the Nats meet the Dodgers three times, and the Skins are "reunited" with Sean McVay! Cheers.

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Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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