[caption id="attachment_1731" align="aligncenter" width="325" caption="Does Zorn have the right stuff?"][/caption]
The Washington Redskins do not lack talent. Individually, they have as much size and speed and ability as any other NFL team. They are better in some areas and worse in others but they don't lack good football players.
The team does not lack physical toughness. We saw Albert Haynesworth barely being able to walk back onto the field just after halftime. He went back into the lineup. They have both take and dealt out some hard hits in their three games this year.
What this team lacks is mental toughness.
When the going got tough, these guys didn't circle the wagons, they folded their tents.
After a week of essentially having their collective manhood challenged by their fans and by media near and far, the Redskins went out and proved all of the critics right.
When Jim Zorn expressed confidence in his defense, supposedly the team's pillar of strength, by going for it on fourth down at the one, they let him down by letting the Lions drive into scoring territory. The fact that a couple of offside penalties helped the Lions get out of the hole is a sign of mental weakness.
When he again challenged them to come up big after accepting a penalty instead of setting up a fourth down field goal attempt, the D let him down again. They gave up the third and 13 conversion and, shortly after that, a touchdown.
(Not that I'm defending either of Zorn's calls here. The first wasn't that bad a decision but a horrid, back-to-the-well-too-often play call. The second was indefensible. Did he think he'd need a shutout to win?)
In the first half, the Redskins had the ball with a chance to cut into the Lions' 7-0 lead. A third down pass from Jason Campbell to Santana Moss came up less than a yard shy of a first down. On Washington's next possession with the score a very manageable 10-0 Chris Cooley runs his third-down pattern just short of the sticks. That's not smart football.
In the second half after the Redskins had pulled to with 13-7 on their first possession, they had four possessions to take the lead. The first ended in an interception, the second stalled when Campbell fumbled and recovered for a loss of eight. The third crumbled when a holding penalty negated a Devin Thomas reception at the Detroit 34. The final chance ended meekly when Campbell went to Santana Moss for two yards on fourth and five.
(By the way, why in the world did the zebras pick up the flag on that play? Moss' head clearly turned when his face mask was grabbed, the zebra that threw the flag was right. That would have been a first down at the Detroit 29.)
Maybe a mentally tough team eventually loses this game anyway. But such a team does not self destruct when the other team is trying to let you get back into the game. A mentally tough team does not fold up when the coach expresses confidence.
To clarify, I don't equate mental toughness with being dumb. When challenged, however, a lack of mental toughness can lead a player to do dumb things. That may be a distinction without a difference but I don't believe that, overall, the team is lacking in football IQ points.
The good news is that mental toughness, to an extent, can be developed. The bad news is that Jim Zorn may not be the guy that can do it.