Picking Splinters: Into October’s Mailbag

It’s that time of month again. Into the magic mailbag we go.

It’s that time of month again. Into the magic mailbag we go:


The Redskins are tied for first in the NFC East. Is it time to believe in this team?

Joe G.

Ah, ever the loyal pen pal, Joe. Appreciate the note. It’s been my experience that the talent level of the Redskins has never dissuaded a fan base that always expects a Super Bowl ring. I think the better question is: Are the expectations of the Redskins’ overzealous fan base, for once, reasonable?

While I’m happy the ‘Skins have turned their season around, I still don’t think this is a playoff team just yet.

The Washington Post wrote Wednesday that the team believes strongly in QB Donovan McNabb and head coach Mike Shanahan, particularly in close games. They should. Those two are old pros who bring the one quality that both former QB Jason Campbell and former coach Jim Zorn lacked: Intelligent decision making.

But they are not infallible. Yes, Washington is coming off two big wins over two Super Bowl contenders – the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. But let’s not forget the profound choke job against the Houston Texans or the smackdown the ‘Skins received from the St. Louis Rams. And near as I can tell, that’s the same Rams team that just got clobbered by the Detroit Lions. Playoff teams don’t lose to teams that lose to the Lions. Period.

Washington still has some big blemishes. For starters, the ‘Skins have only crested the 20-point plateau once this season (in that soul-crushing loss to Houston). The team has only converted on 16 first downs, the second worst percentage in the league, and is 25th in time of possession. Washington’s defense has been great, but if the Redskins keep leaving that unit on the field for the majority of the game, they’re going to get burned. I’ll believe in this team once Shanahan and McNabb get the offense in order.


Do you think the Islanders’ James Wisniewski should have been suspended for 2 games for gesturing to Sean Avery?

Gary B.

Absolutely. Without a doubt.

For those that don’t know, Wisniewski lewdly gestured at Rangers pest Sean Aver during a Columbus Day NHL matinee in Nassau Coliseum. By way of description, let’s just say Wisniewski could have been showing Avery how to get the hard-to-reach-plaque off his back molars. (He probably wasn’t.)

Avery is terrific in his role as an agitator. Give him enough time and I’m pretty sure he could coax a single-finger salute out of the Pope. But Wisniewski should have known better. There were plenty of kids in the crowd at that game and there were multiple TV cameras capturing the moment. It was an embarrassment for the NHL and they were right to sideline him for the incident.


The NBA Eastern Conference is never strong. Could the Wizards actually have a shot at making the playoffs?

Gil A.

I don’t think so, and I don’t think they want to be. This team needs to rebuild in a bad way. And with new owner Ted Leonsis at the helm, I expect the Wiz to follow in the footsteps of his other franchise: The Washington Capitals.

The Caps unloaded all of their top talent for draft picks (and it’s since paid off handsomely). I believe the Wiz will try to do the same and slowly build through the draft.

I think that Gilbert Arenas will get traded at some point this season. Washington will get pennies on the dollar for him, but just dropping his massive contract and salary cap hit would be a huge help.

The Wizards will be bad. But if that results in a lottery pick to pair with John Wall, bad will be a very good thing.

Mike Hume may be emailed at