Mettle tester: Redskins meet Marino in Miami

MIAMI — MIAMI -- The Washington Redskins haven't lost the habit of getting off to slow starts they picked up under former coach Joe Gibbs.

Even though they went to four Super Bowls under Gibbs and won three of them, they spent much of his regime digging out of holes: 0-5 record in 1981, 1-3 in 1985, 0-2 in 1984 and 1989 and 2-2 in 1988 and last year.


The Redskins made the playoffs only twice in those six years and lost two of their three playoff games.

They've already dug themselves into a hole in coach Richie Petitbon's first year at 1-2, and it could get deeper when they play the Miami Dolphins tonight at Joe Robbie Stadium.


Forget that they're only 4 1/2 -point underdogs. That's a tribute to their reputation.

Instead, look at the Redskins' Monday night record: 7-14 on the road, 3-6 against the AFC and 22-19 overall.

The Dolphins are 27-17 on Monday night and 22-9 at home on Monday night. They're also 60-17 in interconference games, including 33-4 at home. They are 10-0 in Miami against NFC East teams and 10-0 against NFC teams since moving to Joe Robbie Stadium in 1987.

They're also pitting Petitbon, who's won one game as a head coach, and quarterback Cary Conklin, who's started one NFL game, against Miami coach Don Shula, who's won 320 games, and quarterback Dan Marino, who's started 143 straight games, is third in all-time passing yards with 40,306 and is 19-9 on Monday nights.

The Redskins also go in with a rookie, Tom Carter, starting at cornerback, another rookie, Reggie Brooks, at running back and without two of their starting defensive linemen, Charles Mann, who'll have arthroscopic knee surgery today, and Eric Williams.

The Redskins have faced Marino three times (they're 1-2 against him), but they have a lot of respect for him. Even when the Redskins won the Super Bowl in the 1987 season, they lost their second-to-last regular-season game in Miami, 23-21.

"All quarterbacks are measured against Dan Marino," Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said. "When Troy Aikman came out, everybody said he's a Dan Marino. Well, here's Dan Marino."

So what's the positive side for the Redskins? Well, the Dolphins could have a letdown after an emotional win at Buffalo last Sunday, and the Redskins have had two weeks to heal their injuries because of the bye week. Two offensive linemen, Moe Elewonibi and Mark Schlereth, will return to the starting lineup.


And they're a tough, veteran team that has overcome a lot of adversity. "There's no panic or anything like that," Green said.

The Petitbon regime wants to prove it can come back the way the Gibbs teams often did. Despite the six bad starts, the Redskins had only one losing season, 7-9 in 1988, under Gibbs.

"I think the leadership here is, generally speaking, the same leadership that battled [back in the past]," Green said. "It wasn't just Joe Gibbs. It was all of us and all of them on the coaching staff.

"It's not a comfortable, easy place to be, but we're mature about it, and we understand that the way you overcome that is that you work hard, focus and you fix what's wrong. The good thing is, we've seen it in the past, and, hopefully, that's going to be a positive for us.

"Dealing with adversity doesn't change," Green said. "You have to go back to basics. Joe Gibbs would say that, and any other coach would say that. I can't guarantee we'll overcome this. I couldn't guarantee it if Joe Gibbs were here tomorrow that we would overcome it. We're still just plugging away."

There's no sign that Petitbon is fretting about the situation.


"I don't think getting bothered is going to help anything," Petitbon said. "You have to do what you know is right. You keep doing it, and things will work out."

When Petitbon was asked if he still thinks this a very good team, he said, "It's a very good team when we're healthy."