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ESPN: 'Skins have more talent, but plenty of concerns


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http://espn.go.com/nfl/preview03/columns/pasquarelli_len/1602399.html

Another assassination piece by Jabba the Len

By Len Pasquarelli

ESPN.com

Given his record of incredible success in the college ranks, not to mention the size of his undeniable ego, many confidants of Steve Spurrier always assumed that the temptation to test himself against his peers at the highest level of the game would eventually lure him to the NFL.

Now here's the irony: Only 19 months after Spurrier finally took the leap, signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Washington Redskins that made him the league's highest paid coach at the time, some people wonder just how long he will stick around.

Patience is not a virtue Spurrier possesses in even a modicum quantity. And despite yet another offseason spending spree by owner Daniel Snyder, aimed at quickly catapulting his franchise back to respectability and into the playoffs, the revamping of the Redskins might still turn out to be an endurance test of sorts.

As the characteristically impertinent rookie coach in 2002, when he now acknowledges his public bravado was ill-advised, Spurrier once suggested he would be disappointed if he didn't steward Washington to a Super Bowl berth in three seasons.

So what happens if "The Ol' Ball Coach" falls shy of that goal? How might Spurrier react if the "Fun 'N' Gun" offense, a year from now, is still being operated by a gang that couldn't shoot straight? Or if his defense can't stop the run?

"I expect (Spurrier) to be here for all five years of his contract and even beyond that," Snyder said during training camp. "And I expect Steve, and the Redskins to be successful, obviously. He'll get it done."

Certainly his track record indicates that Spurrier is capable of completing a makeover faster than the folks on Trading Spaces. No doubt the comeuppance he received in 2002, when he allows he was "humbled" by a 7-9 record and the failures of systems he could all but take for granted at the college level, will make Spurrier an even better coach in his sophomore campaign.

What remains to be seen is if Spurrier, who has delineated more responsibility but at the same time become increasingly involved in facets of the game he once all but ignored, can make Washington a better team.

Less than two weeks removed from the Redskins' prime time opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 4, that remains a difficult prognostication to make, since Washington has been inconsistent in preseason play and suffered key injuries and defections. Snyder doled out between $25 million-$30 million in first-year compensation to newcomers and, unlike his ill-fated splurge of 2000, acquired players either in their prime or emerging as legitimate stars.

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles has demonstrated in preseason that his breakout year with the Jets in 2002 was not a fluke, and he might prove worth the $13 million signing bonus he received. Guard Randy Thomas, another former Jets starter, is clearly a Pro Bowl caliber blocker. And in the past two games, tailback Trung Canidate, a better fit in the Spurrier-designed offense than he would be in most blueprints, has displayed some of the toughness his critics claimed he didn't have.

The defense remains a question mark, principally because the Redskins are without either of their two starting tackles of a year ago, and are still scrambling to add inside depth. But the linebacker corps is very good, the cornerbacks top-shelf and the safety position a lot better than it was in 2002.

“ Those guys will all help me be better. But, hey, I've played quarterback my entire football career. I know it's on me. ”

—QB Patrick Ramsey, on the Redskins' offseason additions

One unexpected advantage upon which Spurrier and the Redskins could not have counted when camp began: Both of their first two opponents, the Jets and then the Atlanta Falcons (Sept. 14), have lost their starting quarterbacks to injuries. At least on paper, the fast start that Snyder has suggested is imperative for his team now looks infinitely easier than just a couple weeks ago, right?

That said, this is still a franchise fraught with irony in many ways, both for the short- and the long-term.

Even with all the new weaponry, for instance, offensive advances will still be measured by the progress of a guy who was already on-hand. The Redskins' fortunes figure to rise and fall on the play of second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey, still a virtual rookie in terms of experience, and a player who will be prone to streaks of inconsistency. Ramsey will be an excellent player in time but, in 2003, Washington likely will be only as good as he permits it to be.

"Yeah, there's definitely some irony there, since it's mostly the new guys who've gotten the majority of the attention," Ramsey said. "Those guys will all help me be better. But, hey, I've played quarterback my entire football career. I know it's on me."

The long-term irony: Snyder is generally viewed as a man who demands to have instant gratification, the guy who fired Marty Schottenheimer after just one season, despite the fact the Redskins won eight of their last 11 games under his guidance. One might assume that it will be Snyder who ultimately decides whether the Spurrier Experiment is success or failure. But the smart money says that, if Washington doesn't win big in the next few years, it will be Spurrier who decides when to pull the plug.

"Haven't even thought about anything like that," Spurrier insisted last month. "All we're doing is trying to coach football and win some games. That's all that we're interested in around here."

Which begs the question: No matter how hard Spurrier coaches, if the Redskins don't win, how long will he maintain that interest?

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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i'm so tired of ESPN's pet blob... tell us something new jacko. Like it's not different for any other team that if the coach doesn't win he'll be gone. Real research was done on that one.

Can't wait for the regular season to start so they have something of merit to write about. Till then they should just throw breadsticks at 'ol pasta-belly until sept forth... jacko...

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Redskins won't get respect unless they go 4-0. Most critics aren't going to give respect if we start 2-0 because of the Vick/Pennington factor, so after that we have the Giants/Patriots, and even if we only lose ONE of those two games, I bet the won game is overlooked and word on NFL Countdown is: See guys, The Skins can't beat the good teams.

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Why should the Skins get the respect from the media? All they have done over the last 3 years is spend a lot of money and hover at mediocrity.

Len's article wasn't even bad-mouthing the Skins like CNNSI and sportsline love to do. He was praising the Coles, Thomas and Canidate signings. All he questioned was if Spurrier, who's known for his impatience, would lose interest if he doesn't experience success. I think many of us are wondering the same thing.

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I never said ESPN should be nice to the Skins. Hell I never even said we should be picked as a sleeper team, but I also do see how ESPN jumps on&off of bandwagons on the merits of a game or two. in 2001, after we got to 5-5, two members of the ESPN Panel for NFL Countdown, said, "skins show heart blah blah blah....that is why they will be my pick for a wildcard team" Then like 3 games later when we are still mathmatically in it, everyone suddenly goes silent on that BOLD prediction said just a couple of weeks prior.

ESPN opinion-monguls are just to wishy-washy for my liking. They are entertaining, but I don't really take anything they give an opinion on, to the bank.

As far as my earlier post. I guarantee if the Cowboys or Bengals started 2-0, all this BS, "Genious coach, tough team, Wild Card....etc." hype will start up LIKE ALWAYS, then a few weeks later when the same team is 2-5, they will just store those comments away in some locked safe and pretend they never said what they said. Happens every year.

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By Len Pasquarelli

ESPN.com

Given his record of incredible success in the college ranks, not to mention the size of his undeniable ego, many confidants of Steve Spurrier always assumed that the temptation to test himself against his peers at the highest level of the game would eventually lure him to the NFL.

Now here's the irony: Only 19 months after Spurrier finally took the leap, signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Washington Redskins that made him the league's highest paid coach at the time, some people wonder just how long he will stick around.

Patience is not a virtue Spurrier possesses in even a modicum quantity. And despite yet another offseason spending spree by owner Daniel Snyder, aimed at quickly catapulting his franchise back to respectability and into the playoffs, the revamping of the Redskins might still turn out to be an endurance test of sorts.

Spurrier expects to do less head-scratching and more celebrating in 2003.

As the characteristically impertinent rookie coach in 2002, when he now acknowledges his public bravado was ill-advised, Spurrier once suggested he would be disappointed if he didn't steward Washington to a Super Bowl berth in three seasons.

So what happens if "The Ol' Ball Coach" falls shy of that goal? How might Spurrier react if the "Fun 'N' Gun" offense, a year from now, is still being operated by a gang that couldn't shoot straight? Or if his defense can't stop the run?

"I expect (Spurrier) to be here for all five years of his contract and even beyond that," Snyder said during training camp. "And I expect Steve, and the Redskins to be successful, obviously. He'll get it done."

Certainly his track record indicates that Spurrier is capable of completing a makeover faster than the folks on Trading Spaces. No doubt the comeuppance he received in 2002, when he allows he was "humbled" by a 7-9 record and the failures of systems he could all but take for granted at the college level, will make Spurrier an even better coach in his sophomore campaign.

What remains to be seen is if Spurrier, who has delineated more responsibility but at the same time become increasingly involved in facets of the game he once all but ignored, can make Washington a better team.

Less than two weeks removed from the Redskins' prime time opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 4, that remains a difficult prognostication to make, since Washington has been inconsistent in preseason play and suffered key injuries and defections. Snyder doled out between $25 million-$30 million in first-year compensation to newcomers and, unlike his ill-fated splurge of 2000, acquired players either in their prime or emerging as legitimate stars.

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles has demonstrated in preseason that his breakout year with the Jets in 2002 was not a fluke, and he might prove worth the $13 million signing bonus he received. Guard Randy Thomas, another former Jets starter, is clearly a Pro Bowl caliber blocker. And in the past two games, tailback Trung Canidate, a better fit in the Spurrier-designed offense than he would be in most blueprints, has displayed some of the toughness his critics claimed he didn't have.

The defense remains a question mark, principally because the Redskins are without either of their two starting tackles of a year ago, and are still scrambling to add inside depth. But the linebacker corps is very good, the cornerbacks top-shelf and the safety position a lot better than it was in 2002.

“ Those guys will all help me be better. But, hey, I've played quarterback my entire football career. I know it's on me. ”

—QB Patrick Ramsey, on the Redskins' offseason additions

One unexpected advantage upon which Spurrier and the Redskins could not have counted when camp began: Both of their first two opponents, the Jets and then the Atlanta Falcons (Sept. 14), have lost their starting quarterbacks to injuries. At least on paper, the fast start that Snyder has suggested is imperative for his team now looks infinitely easier than just a couple weeks ago, right?

That said, this is still a franchise fraught with irony in many ways, both for the short- and the long-term.

Even with all the new weaponry, for instance, offensive advances will still be measured by the progress of a guy who was already on-hand. The Redskins' fortunes figure to rise and fall on the play of second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey, still a virtual rookie in terms of experience, and a player who will be prone to streaks of inconsistency. Ramsey will be an excellent player in time but, in 2003, Washington likely will be only as good as he permits it to be.

"Yeah, there's definitely some irony there, since it's mostly the new guys who've gotten the majority of the attention," Ramsey said. "Those guys will all help me be better. But, hey, I've played quarterback my entire football career. I know it's on me."

The long-term irony: Snyder is generally viewed as a man who demands to have instant gratification, the guy who fired Marty Schottenheimer after just one season, despite the fact the Redskins won eight of their last 11 games under his guidance. One might assume that it will be Snyder who ultimately decides whether the Spurrier Experiment is success or failure. But the smart money says that, if Washington doesn't win big in the next few years, it will be Spurrier who decides when to pull the plug.

"Haven't even thought about anything like that," Spurrier insisted last month. "All we're doing is trying to coach football and win some games. That's all that we're interested in around here."

Which begs the question: No matter how hard Spurrier coaches, if the Redskins don't win, how long will he maintain that interest?

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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Coles might have been the best offseason move in the free agent market by any team.

Cleary this team was missing a deep threat and consistent producer on the outside and Coles may be just starting his prime years. Those 89 catches last year might have been just an inkling of the kinds of numbers he is capable of in a pass oriented attack like the Redskins now have.

Canidate is not going to get the 300 carries that Curtis Martin did in NY.

There is a good chance Coles will be at 110 catches in 2003.

You don't see 100 catch players switch teams very often.

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