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Sun Tzu Week 2: Eagles Over the Valley

By Eric Johnson | September 18th, 2002

Ah, Shaolin Redskins fans, it is with a heavy heart that I write this week. It is raining outside my little hut–a gray, misty rain, to match my mood.

The Ball Coach has drawn more wisdom from Master Sun Tzu; unfortunately, this week he is on the receiving end of the lessons. Let us take a look:


Sun Tzu said:
“Therefore, against those skilled in attack, an enemy does not know
where to defend; against experts in defense, the enemy does not know
where to attack.”

The issue Sun Tzu is discussing here–skill and how to match it–is truly about preparation and execution. Coaches recognize this approach and preach it daily. This is the mantra for a well-run team.

Unfortunately, the Redskins were unsure how best to attack the Eagles, and they certainly weren’t sure how to defend against them. It appeared that Donovan McNabb was able to move the ball at will; conversely, the Redskins seemed to be constantly throwing into double coverage or getting caught behind the line of scrimage. The Eagles were a puzzle they could not solve.


Sun Tzu said:
“The momentum of one skilled in war is overwhelming, and his attack
precisely regulated.”

Momentum is the key to this game–the Eagles came out firing early and got two quick ones, and that took the wind out of the sails of the Redskins. After that, they could just sit back and pick apart the weakening Redskins defense.

Anybody who has played organized sports recognizes the cascade of errors that swept over the Redskins once the Eagles got their momentum. It all becomes reaction, with no proaction. Little errors become magnified, reads by offense and defense are increasingly wrong; pretty soon, the team can basically do no right. It happens to the best of teams–the question is, how will the team respond?


Sun Tzu said:
“Order or disorder depends on organization; courage or cowardice on
circumstances; strength or weakness on dispositions.”

Such is the way with last night’s game. This is the broad lesson for Steve Spurrier to take from the experience of being pummeled by an opponent. Sun Tzu is echoing the points made earlier: to be successful, a team must be well organized. It must react well to circumstances. It must approach the challenge at hand with the right game plan.

Discipline, execution, and planning–the keys to success.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Eric Johnson

Categories Posted In | Archive: Sun Tzu | Washington Commanders |