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Redskins.com: Overall, Redskins Have Upgraded Their Talent

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Nothing new, comparisons to Joe Gibbs. Stuff we've already covered.


Overall, Redskins Have Upgraded Their Talent



Analysis by Steve Butchock

Redskins Insider Correspondent

Steve Spurrier learned full well from first-hand experience as a rookie coach what it takes to win in the NFL. Some ideas that worked in college don't work in the NFL. Some players who were college stars struggle in the NFL. Some plays that went for big yardage fizzle in the NFL.

The NFL, simply put, is a whole different ball game. It's been this way for years, of course.

Look back a couple of decades, back to the beginning years of the Joe Gibbs Era in the early 1980s, when the NFL became universally recognized as not only the league for well-conditioned superior athletes, but also one to emphasize preparation. Hard work, attention to detail and smart football became part of the winning protocol.

Players didn't come to camp to get in physical condition anymore. They had to get in shape in the offseason and be prepared to compete for roster berths on the first day of practice.

Some of what's been observed in Spurrier, a high-profile college coach, is similar to what surfaced with Gibbs, a virtually unknown assistant in college. Each is a master strategist when it comes to offense.

Each calls the plays. Each is a motivator, in his own way. The noticeable difference is Spurrier enjoys air strikes, while Gibbs favored ball control. Each is a players' coach, willing to shoulder the blame when there's adversity, but willing to parcel out the credit when there's success.

In this, Spurrier's second season as Redskins coach, he has indicated he will take a more detailed approach, now that he knows the league better. Rather than total reliance on his assistant coaches, he said he intends to monitor more thoroughly all phases of the team, including defense and special teams.

Already there are differences from a year ago. Spurrier participated significantly in the college draft. He kept aboard the core of his coaching staff, promoting two assistants to coordinators. George Edwards was named defensive coordinator and Hue Jackson offensive coordinator. Mike Stock returns as special teams coach.

The common thread among these three is they are knowledgeable of the system and schemes and well respected by the players. It should help continue team efficiency and be a positive factor for team chemistry.

Spurrier has made the point that for this team to go far this season, second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey will have to excel, just as Joe Theismann did for Gibbs.

At the teaching sessions in June, Spurrier said, "The players' attitudes have been very good." On the field, there is no alternative for attitude. Just watch how LaVar Arrington plays the game.

Also, there was virtually full participation at the sessions by almost everyone on the roster. The tempo was very upbeat. Togetherness was evident.

Spurrier, a coaching legend at Florida, finished 7-9 in his rookie season. Nonetheless, it was not as traumatic as was the first season for Gibbs in 1981. Gibbs started 0-5, felt he might get fired before winning a game, then used a strong turnaround to finish 8-8. For Gibbs, the glory years then unfolded.

As he prepares to enter Training Camp 2003 at Redskins Park, Spurrier faces some key decisions, as do all NFL head coaches at this time of year.

For example, Trung Canidate appears to have emerged as the leader to replace Stephen Davis at running back. But also competing for playing time will be Ladell Betts, Chad Morton and Kenny Watson.

Like the players, Spurrier and his staff have prepared themselves for a big year, even though there have been no bold claims emerging from Redskins Park.

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