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Spurrier's State of Affairs

Coach Reflects on Season, Will Be More Hands-On Next Year

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, December 26, 2002; Page D01

As Steve Spurrier wraps up a frustrating first season as an NFL head coach, he says he will be more involved in overseeing the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams as well as their offense next season and beyond. He plans to have input on each roster move that the club makes, and he says that he and other Redskins officials will enter the offseason confident that they can trust Patrick Ramsey as the team's starting quarterback.

It has been a difficult year for Spurrier since being signed in January to a five-year contract worth nearly $25 million by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, but he reiterated during an interview at Redskins Park this week that he will return to the team next season. He said it would take two more similarly disappointing seasons for him to consider walking away from the Redskins, and he indicated that he does not regret his decision to leave the University of Florida after 12 seasons -- and 122 victories -- to jump to the NFL.

"Sure I'm happy I did this," Spurrier said. "I have no desire to be a college coach again. I did that 15 years. Now I need to do this thing and be successful at it. I think we've got a chance."

The Redskins will take a 6-9 record into Sunday's season finale against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field and are assured of their first losing season since 1998. They will miss the playoffs for the ninth time in the 10 seasons since Joe Gibbs retired as their coach following the 1992 season.

Spurrier's offense has sputtered, and he has been criticized at times by fans and media after saying before the season that he expected the Redskins to win the division title this year. But Spurrier, who spent part of Christmas day at Redskins Park preparing for the Cowboys, said the pleasure some of his critics have taken from his losing hasn't bothered him.

Spurrier told ESPN this week that he would give the title of offensive coordinator to one of his assistant coaches, allowing him more freedom to work with the defense and special teams. Spurrier said he would remain the offensive play-caller, however. This season, Spurrier had the titles of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as well as head coach.

Spurrier basically left the defense to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and the special teams to special teams coach Mike Stock.

The Redskins' defense is ranked sixth in the NFL but had problems early in the season. Special teams have struggled all season. Spurrier said he will take a more hands-on approach with the defense and special teams in the future, while still delegating a proper amount of authority to his assistant coaches.

"I need to have a little more interaction with the entire team," Spurrier said. "I plan to be more involved in that area, certainly."

Spurrier often took a backseat last offseason when it came to crafting the team's roster, regularly deferring to the judgment of the members of the club's front office. He said early in the season that would change. This week, he said he doesn't want to make the team's personnel decisions by himself, but he wants to have a significant say along with Snyder, vice president of football operations Joe Mendes and director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato.

"It's just being involved more, not necessarily telling everybody what to do," Spurrier said. "Just being involved and having a say-so in every draft pick and trades and personnel changes. I'll work closely with Joe Mendes and Mr. Snyder and Vinny. As a group, we can make some sound, solid decisions here in the next six, seven months."

The Redskins have been making plans for an offseason overhaul of Spurrier's offense, which ranks 20th in the league. The teams want to add two wide receivers and two guards. But the biggest piece may be already in place, with Spurrier saying he is comfortable with Ramsey as his quarterback.

"He's definitely a guy we can build with," Spurrier said. "Definitely."

Ramsey, scheduled to make his fifth start of the season Sunday, said he's glad to hear that the team can trust him with the starting job entering the offseason.

"I'm just going to continue to try to play well. I would like to say, 'Yeah, I've done it.' But I don't know exactly what they're looking for," said Ramsey, the team's first-round draft choice last season. "This is my first year in the league. I just want to continue to play well, and I hope that will take care of next season. If they bring somebody in to compete, that's what this league is all about. I'll compete with him."

The relationship between Ramsey and Spurrier got off to a rocky start when Ramsey missed the first 16 days of training camp in a contract dispute and nearly was traded to the Chicago Bears. Spurrier shuffled quarterbacks all season, rotating Ramsey with former Florida standouts Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. The Redskins might re-sign Wuerffel but plan to allow Matthews to leave as a free agent.

"He's got a real good chance," Spurrier said of Ramsey. "I really believe he can really improve tremendously with a full offseason of drills, watching tape, correcting some fundamental footwork, things of that nature. He can take the steps and throw it in there as well as anybody. It's just getting in the habit of being fundamentally sound. That's an area where he can really improve. He's got all the talent. He's got courage. He's got smarts, and he can throw the ball. He can make all the throws. Now it's a matter of getting it all together."

Ramsey was shaky in his first two NFL starts in October, but has played well the past two weeks against the Eagles and Houston Texans.

"I feel very good about the fact that I've gotten another opportunity, and I've tried very hard to make the most of that opportunity," Ramsey said. "I know there are a lot of things I can do better, but I feel like I've done okay with the opportunity. I'm never going to be the player I want to be. I'm always going to want to be perfect. But I've done a lot better than I did the first time around, and I think that's because I went in there and saw the speed, saw what happens, and then I watched how Danny and Shane played and reacted to it. And I've been able to learn from that."

Spurrier, echoing comments that he made recently on his television and radio shows, said his plan is to fulfill his five-year contract but he might rethink that if the Redskins aren't on course toward being a Super Bowl contender after two more seasons. He said he realizes there is little patience for long rebuilding projects in the NFL, and he will be facing a coach this weekend -- the Cowboys' Dave Campo -- whose job is in serious jeopardy.

"If we're struggling after three years and we're not competitive as a playoff team, I think another coach deserves a chance," Spurrier said. "If Dallas makes a move there, if they have the same record for three years, heck, we all understand that's part of the business."

But Spurrier said he intends to make that point moot by having a contending team next year and in 2004. And he said that, while the losses have bothered him, the criticism that has come his way this season has not.

"It doesn't faze me," Spurrier said. "If that fazed me, I shouldn't be a coach. I've said that many times. We're not quite as strong a team, coaches and players, as we'd hoped. I thought we'd do a little bit better, but we didn't. We're going to try to do better next year, simple as that."

I like the stuff about Ramsey the best, especially this quote by Ramsey: "If they bring somebody in to compete, that's what this league is all about. I'll compete with him." He's not afraid of Rex Grossman or anyone else.

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