Sun Tzu Week 3: The Candlestick Flickers

Archive: Sun Tzu Washington Commanders

Greetings, Shaolin Redskins fans. As I sit today beside the flowing waters of the reed-lined river, a butterfly flits by. A sign of change? Of rebirth? Indeed, contrary to the sun which weaves in and out of the clouds, a sign of hope?


Sun Tzu said:

“An army that does not suffer from countless diseases is said to be
certain of victory.”

Quite. But the corollary “An army that suffers from countless diseases is said to be certain of defeat,” is apparently not true.


Sun Tzu said:

“If orders which are consistently effective are used in instructing the
troops, they will be obedient. If orders which are not consistently
effective are used in instructing them, they will be disobedient.”

Sun Tzu is concentrating here on the need to “go with what works.” Much attention has been paid to the defense, which was expected to be a strength of the team this year (with 22 Pro Bowl appearances among its 11 starters, along with new defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis). But the team is still trying to learn Lewis’ new system.

Perhaps they should simplify the approach. There was evidence that the team improved last year when the defense was made more basic, and likely the same is true this year. Defensive players need to react instinctively, not while trying to remember a complex array of assignments. Much the same argument can be made on offense–“going with what works” will involve concentrating on feeding Stephen Davis the ball while the air game works out its kinks.


Sun Tzu said:

“By taking into account the favorable factors, the wise general makes
his plan feasible; by taking into account the unfavorable, he may
resolve the difficulties.”

The bye week has truly come at the perfect time for the Redskins. They’ve played three games, have a sense of where the deficiencies are, and now must figure out how to fix them. But they’ve still got thirteen games ahead of them. Imagine if they had played like this for six or eight weeks before the bye; the season would in all likelihood be over.

Coaches love to use the phrase “we have to build on the good things,” and that’s exactly what Sun Tzu is saying to do here. Yet the master is going on to say that Spurrier shouldn’t ignore the bad things, for it is in determining with open eyes what we have both as strengths and as weaknesses that a truly workable plan may be formulated. There is still a solid chance to get this righted yet, this year.

If anything gives Steve Spurrier joy, it is building a winner–not merely *having* one, but *building* one. Now is the time to see what kind of Ball Coach we have.

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

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