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Spurrier's State of The Union


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Spurrier's State of The Union

Coach Discusses Redskins, Owner

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, October 24, 2003; Page A01

Facing the biggest challenge of his 21-month tenure as a National Football League coach, Steve Spurrier said yesterday he has decided to return to the flashy, pass-happy offense that led Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to offer him a $5 million-per-year contract.

Dismissing talk of a rift with Snyder, Spurrier said he remains committed to coaching the team at least through the end of next season, despite a string of disappointing losses after which the coach has seemed increasingly downtrodden.

Spurrier acknowledged he was unhappy with Snyder over the decision just before the season to release quarterback Danny Wuerffel over Spurrier's objection, and that he and the team's hard-charging owner have had their disagreements. But he said he and Snyder have patched up their relationship. Snyder has had four head coaches since buying the team for $800 million in 1999.

"Dan and I are cool, as they say," Spurrier said. "He and I are okay right now. We had our differences. I'm an honest person."

Spurrier said he will stop paying attention to those who have been lecturing him about how he must run the ball more and pass it less to succeed in the NFL, and that he will try to get his wayward team back on course by throwing footballs far down the field on a regular basis, the way he did on his way to 122 victories in 12 seasons at the University of Florida.

"I sort of got NFL-ized, I guess you'd call it, the last two or three weeks," Spurrier said in an interview at the Redskins' training facility in Ashburn. "I almost got to where I was believing it half the time because of the frustrations we were having. All I can say is that I'm going to try to coach the way I've coached in the past. And if it ends up not being good enough, then so be it."

It has been a tumultuous week at Redskins Park. A season of high hopes for the Redskins has degenerated into players questioning their teammates' commitment to winning and the club's decision-makers searching for answers. Three straight losses have left the Redskins with a record of 3-4, and there have been reports that Spurrier is disenchanted about working for Snyder and coaching in the NFL and could quit after the season to return to the college ranks.

Indeed, since joining the Redksins, Spurrier, 58, has demonstrated only flashes of the swagger that characterized his college coaching career. In the interview, Spurrier was eager to talk candidly about his tenure with the team, and he came across as more resolute and energized than he has appeared in weeks.

Spurrier said he wants to succeed in the NFL and has told his friends who have begun to put out feelers about a possible return to college coaching that he is not interested. He said he plans on staying with the Redskins at least through the end of the 2004 season. Spurrier's five-year contract runs through the end of the 2006 season.

He said that he and his assistant coaches will be more vibrant and demanding of the players when they return to work next week to prepare for the Redskins' next game, at Dallas on Nov. 2. And the team will go back to playing Spurrier-style football, he vowed.

"We're going to try to get back to playing our style of offense," Spurrier said. "That's what we've got to do. We've got to protect. We've got to avoid penalties and things of that nature. We know what we need to do. . . . I've been frustrated because as people say, 'You're not coaching your offense the way you used to.' And I say, 'You're right.' " When the Redskins went 7-9 last year in Spurrier's first season as an NFL coach, his critics asserted that he didn't run the ball often enough and wasn't willing to make the sacrifices necessary -- by keeping more players in to block and sending fewer out to catch passes -- to protect his quarterback. This year, Snyder gave Spurrier better players with an offseason spending spree that brought free agents such as wide receiver Laveranues Coles and guard Randy Thomas. Strong-armed quarterback Patrick Ramsey was put in charge of Spurrier's offense.

But Ramsey, in his second pro season, has been battered by defenses. He hasn't been able to finish the Redskins' last two games. The Redskins have been plagued by penalties and confusion when Ramsey has tried to change play-calls at the line of scrimmage with audibles -- a staple of Spurrier's offense until, under mounting criticism, he cut back on them the past two games.

Spurrier promised that his return to his coaching roots doesn't mean abandoning the running game. Spurrier's best teams at Florida blended passing plays and running plays well, and the Redskins used tailbacks Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts effectively during their 3-1 beginning this season. But he said he also wants to attack defenses with long passes rather than using short dump-offs to Coles and fellow wide receiver Rod Gardner. Spurrier insisted that the style of play can work in the NFL, citing the St. Louis Rams as his model.

Spurrier questioned his players' effort level immediately after last Sunday's 24-7 defeat at Buffalo. He backtracked a bit on Monday. But Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington took over, saying in a radio interview Monday that he agreed with Spurrier's assessment and telling reporters on Wednesday that some of his teammates don't care enough about winning. Meantime, Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice president of football operations, solicited suggestions this week from a pair of coaching consultants: Joe Bugel, the retired offensive line coach for two Super Bowl-winning Redskins teams under former coach Joe Gibbs, and Foge Fazio, a part-time scout for the Redskins who was the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator last season.

But Spurrier said during the week that if his assistant coaches were offended by the organization seeking input from Bugel and Fazio, they shouldn't have been, based on the team's recently pitiable play. And Spurrier said yesterday that he has no problem with Snyder.

Spurrier said that Snyder even has given him permission to re-sign Wuerffel, who won a Heisman Trophy and a national championship while playing for Spurrier at Florida and shared the Redskins' starting quarterback job last season with fellow ex-Gator Shane Matthews and Ramsey. Before the season, Snyder sided with Cerrato that Ramsey and Rob Johnson should be the only quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. On Wednesday, Johnson became the third Redskins reserve to be released this week, as the Redskins signed Tim Hasselbeck to back up Ramsey.

Of his relationship with Snyder, Spurrier said: "We had our differences when they somehow or another -- I don't know if he was convinced that I'd put Danny Wuerffel in if Patrick struggled. I certainly would not have. Danny was strictly going to be the backup quarterback. . . . But that's history now. Dan Snyder has said, 'If you want to sign Danny Wuerffel, you can go sign him.' He's given me the green light to sign anybody we want. So we get along fine now. We had a little disagreement back then, but that's history.''

Snyder said yesterday he remains fully supportive of Spurrier and believes that the coach will find a way to turn around the club's season.

Spurrier said it's "pretty simple'' that he should tell Snyder to find a new coach if the team still isn't any better by the end of next season. But he won't be exiting after this season for a college job, he said.

"I don't see that happening,'' Spurrier said"This is the challenge that I have not succeeded in yet, and I'm going to try my best to succeed at this level."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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Absolutely right Skeletor.

I wrote about Spurrier just not being himself. That he seemed afraid to be himself. We can't win that way. This team has to have Spurrier at his arrogant best to have a chance. Spurrier isn't one of the adaptive coaches in the league. He's a system guy. He's a style guy. It's got to be his way for us to win with him as the coach. And if that fails, it fails.

But I think we've seen precious little of the real Spurrier in recent weeks. With this coaching staff our best chance is to have Spurrier get back to who he is in his heart. If this is a true change he's talking about it will be a boon at least for a week or two as teams adjust again. And Spurrier will have to hope it is enough to hold the team together which may well be on the verge of collapse.

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I am glad to see this. My guess is that Spurrier will either show that he has what it takes to get this done or that we will be dismal for the remainder of the season and he will be gone. No more 7-9 or 8-8. Instead it will be 4-12 or 11-5.

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Sound like Spurrier has had his moment. Being somewhat young yet, I havn't had mine......but Spurrier has reached that moment in his career where he has said this what I'm doing and this is how I'm going to do it.....if you don't like, you don't like it, if it fails it fails......but its the only way I know how.

Most of us on this board are way to quick to judge everthing Spurrier does by the past, and thats not fair. Gibbs might have won 3 superbowls and be a legend.....but Spurrier isn't Gibbs and can't pretend to be him. He also isn't responsible for a decade of losing. He is responsable for the here and now. If he fails to get this team where he intends to get them.....then that is life...but he has to be able to say he did it his way....not the way everyone says it should be done.

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"He who dares wins." motto of the SAS

Oh man what a great article!!! Got me fired up big time again!

Spurrier has metaphorically stepped into the abyss and seen that the only demons that lurk there are the ones that prey on fear and indecision. He has been reborn samarai.

Failure and success are relative terms designed for feeble minds. Be yourself, live your life your way, suck the marrow out of existence and when it is your time to die by god and heaven die hard. That's the stuff of life.

"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield."

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Yeah. Baby! This is what I hae been waiting to hear. First of all Snyder and Spurrier had to squash the rumor machine. And Spurrier needs to be Spurrier.

I want to see a max protect scheme that forces defenses to choose between extremes. Do you defend the run or the deep pass? That's what I call extremeskins!


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I think what I like best about this article is there are actual quotes from Spurrier and not just "Front Office personnel" or sources from around the league.

And I liked what Wicked Wop said about Spurrier not being Gibbs. Gibbs has moved on.

Honestly, I don't care who the head coach is just so long as we can play some entertaining football. I can even take the losses somewhat if the team looks good and plays hard.

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i with the rest of you..this article really gave me a sense of relief...it seems spurrier's backbone has grown again and said "if i dont win my way i aint winning at all then"....this could be the turning point in which the OBC takes the reigns and really runs with this team.....man i cant wait until next week to see them let all these horses we have run....:)

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wow, i LOVE it

i didn't think Spurrier was being Spurrier even when we WERE winning..

we will now find out the answer to "Can he succeed in the NFL?" because before now, the coach we've been watching hasn't been Spurrier

this made my day.. i am VERY anxious to see us play.. although, i was anxious the last 2 weeks as well, and where did that get me?

Spurrier be Spurrier, win or lose, and that's all we can ask for..

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