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AJ-C: Spurrier, take 2


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Pro Football 2003: week 2, Sept. 14: Spurrier, take 2

Free spending on free agents could boost his sophomore year

Al Levine - Staff

Sunday, August 24, 2003

http://www.ajc.com/print/content/epaper/editions/sunday/sports_f384b63a4109407b008f.html

Steve Spurrier expected to teach the NFL a thing or two last season. Instead, he played the student as rookie coach of the Washington Redskins.

"What I learned last season," Spurrier said, "is that you lose in the NFL the same way you lose in college, high school and Pop Warner. If you have more turnovers than the other team, your chances aren't very good."

Part of his NFL orientation also was learning a bit of humility. He expected his team to win the NFC East; it finished 7-9, representing Spurrier's first losing season since he was at Duke in 1987.

Now, he's a bit more realistic in his appraisal.

"The most work we need," Spurrier said, "is everywhere."

Apparently he took the same approach with talent.

"What we all learned, and thankfully Mr. Snyder agreed, is that we needed to go out and get some better players at a few positions than what we had last year," Spurrier said.

Indeed, team owner Daniel Snyder spared no expense in attempting to help Spurrier fix an offense that ranked 20th in the NFL. Record signing bonuses were paid to wide receiver Laveranues Coles ($13 million) and guard Randy Thomas ($7 million) --- among four free agents lured away from the Jets --- in the most active offseason in Washington's 70-year history.

Even a somewhat unspectacular kicker cashed in. The team signed John Hall to a five-year deal worth about $7 million to try to stop a revolving door of kickers. The team has used 11 kickers in regular-season games over the past eight years.

"When you're struggling, you go out and get better coaches or you get better players," Spurrier said. "Mr. Snyder says we need to go out and get some better players, and he did it. He's done his part, and now it's up to the coaches and players to prove that he's right and show him we can get the job done here."

This year, Spurrier is so serious about cutting down on errors that a fumble or offsides in practice results in a small fine.

"Obviously, at this time last year, we thought we had a real good team. It ended up it wasn't near as good as maybe we thought," he said.

"We strengthened our team. We've added some guards, receivers, running backs, a few defensive players here and there. But we'll only know when the season starts if we have [improved] or not."

The Redskins have had 14 starting quarterbacks over the past 10 seasons and hope that second-year man Patrick Ramsey, with only nine NFL games of experience, can bring stability to the position.

"We're starting to understand where to go, and Patrick is learning where to throw it, when to throw it, how to throw it. Try to get a little better plays than the ones sent in, so we're making progress," Spurrier said.

"Still making mistakes, which we need to do at this time. We need to make mistakes, learn from them and try not to make them again."

QUICK HIT

> For those keeping score, Spurrier's QB rotation last season went Shane Matthews to Danny Wuerffel to Patrick Ramsey to Matthews to Wuerffel to Ramsey. He promises to stick with Ramsey this season.

KEY MATCHUPS

All games Sunday except when noted

Tennessee at Indianapolis

1 p.m.; RCA Dome

> An early pop quiz on who's up to speed in the AFC South. Tony Dungy must feel like he's coaching in Bizarro World: Ex-Bucs boss now has an offense that reaps points, but his defense is sickly.

San Francisco at St. Louis

1 p.m.; Edward Jones Dome

> New 49ers coach Dennis Erickson might feel like he's still in the Pac-10. One of these teams could score 30 and still lose.

Washington at Atlanta

1 p.m. Fox; Georgia Dome

> Finally, Georgia fans could see a local team beat Steve Spurrier. Mike Vick's injury means the ol' ball coach gets to try to stop his old Gators quarterback Doug Johnson.

New England at Philadelphia

4:15 p.m., CBS; Lincoln Financial Field

> A slow start a year ago eventually cost the Patriots a playoff spot. Two in a row on the road (Buffalo's first) is not conducive to a fast start. Philly, after opening with the world champs, doesn't want to hear it

Miami at N.Y. Jets

1 p.m.; Giants Stadium.

> The Tortoise vs. Hare series continues. The Dolphins tear out of the gate every September, while the Jets under Herm Edwards usually don't get going until October.

OTHER GAMES

Sunday

> Buffalo at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

> Cleveland at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

> Detroit at Green Bay, 1 p.m.

> Houston at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

> Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

> Carolina at Tampa Bay, 4:05 p.m.

> Seattle at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

> Cincinnati at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.

> Denver at San Diego, 4:15 p.m.

> Chicago at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Monday

> Dallas at N.Y. Giants, 9 p.m. ABC

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