With the Redskins coming off a 36-0 loss to the New York Giants, Joe Gibbs met with reporters on Monday afternoon for his usual day-after press conference. This time, though, the media session turned into an impromptu, mid-season analysis of his team.
Perhaps that's appropriate as the Redskins get set to face the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning NFC champions, in a nationally televised, prime time matchup this Sunday at FedExField. For the last four years, the Eagles have been a measuring stick of sorts for the other NFC East teams.
Approaching the midpoint of the 2005 season, Philadelphia and Washington have identical 4-3 records and trail the 5-2 Giants and 5-3 Dallas Cowboys in the division. The Eagles are coming off a 49-21 loss to the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High.
"We have to be ready for Philadelphia," Gibbs said. "They're coming in and they're going to be mad after losing the way they did to Denver. They know what this is all about. I'm just thankful to be here in front of our fans. That'll lift us up. Right now I think we need a lot of that."
Gibbs said he encouraged his players to spend their off-day on Tuesday reflecting on their performance against the Giants and what they hope to accomplish this season. Turnovers and penalties have been re-occurring problems for the team this season. Missed tackles and dropped passes were added to the mix on Sunday.
Simply put, it's gut-check time.
"Really and truly, the best thing is telling them exactly the way it is," Gibbs said. "For me, I spent Sunday night thinking it over. You have to ask yourself, 'Are we good enough to play real good football?'" Gibbs said. "If you go over the seven games we played, I'd say in six of them we were good enough. We were physical, we won the time of possession and we matched up against some very good teams. We won four of them.
"But in this one game, we didn't do any of those things. So what does that mean? That means if we play our guts out and we play as hard as we can and as well as we can, we're probably capable of beating just about anybody. But it also means anybody can beat us. That's the way it is up here. That's a good analysis of our football team."
Sunday's loss to the Giants was a performance that caught everyone off guard, including Gibbs, who is normally nervous about every game.
"I would not have expected we would have gone up there and play like we did," Gibbs said. "I would not have guessed that in a million years. For me, I thought we had good preparation and that our guys had a serious attitude. We all knew what was at stake.
"That to me is the game that all coaches dread. It was all across the board. It was the kind of game that was a nightmare that you never want to have."
Just as the Redskins' Week 2 win over Dallas seemed to give the team confidence and momentum, the 36-0 defeat at the hands of the Giants has the potential to be a turning point as well.
It's how the players respond that could determine whether this team can reach its goal: the playoffs.
How does Gibbs get past a game like this?
"My approach is preparation," he said. "The NFL is about being ready every week."
-- PRACTICE SQUAD ROSTER MOVES
The Redskins continue to tweak their practice squad. The team signed linebacker Nick McNeil and offensive lineman Ikechuku Ndukwe on Tuesday.
McNeil spent time on the Redskins' practice squad earlier this season. The 6-2 and 245 pounder is a first-year player out of Western Carolina. He spent part of last season on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad. He was also a member of the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe in spring 2005.
Ndukwe spent time on the New Orleans Saints' practice squad earlier this season. The 6-4, 320-pounder was a left guard at Northwestern and started the last two years.
To make room for McNeil and Ndukwe, the Redskins released linebacker Zak Keasey and defensive lineman Lynn McGruder.