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PBP:Spurrier's offense just doesn't seem same


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Spurrier's offense just doesn't seem same

By Joe Schad, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, November 23, 2003

DAVIE -- Dolphins defensive coordinator Jim Bates laughed out loud when asked to relay one of his favorite Steve Spurrier memories.

Bates grinned for about 10 seconds as countless flashes of his longtime friend tossing visors, running up scores, teasing opponents and almost always passing up and down the field with ease flickered through his mind.

"There are so many," Bates said, excusing himself. "But let's just leave it at that."

Things are different now and perhaps it wouldn't be appropriate.

It's been 13 years since Bates was Spurrier's defensive coordinator at Florida.

It's been longer since Bates faced Spurrier as an assistant at Tennessee and longer still since they faced each other as USFL head coaches.

Now Bates' defense is one of the best in the NFL and Spurrier's offense is one of the most disappointing. Spurrier's Washington Redskins (4-6) visit Pro Player Stadium and the Dolphins (6-4) tonight.

And to Bates, this Spurrier offense seems different.

"When I was up at Florida, we threw it 75 percent of the time," Bates said. "You're seeing a lot more runs than what I saw at Florida."

Spurrier and his Fun 'n' Gun offense were humbled in his rookie season and hasn't fared much better in Year 2, mostly because of awful pass protection.

"Anytime in this league a weakness is discovered, it will be exploited until that weakness is cleaned up," said Bates, whose defense will attack tonight.

Why hasn't the wide-open offense flied at the highest level?

"It takes players and it takes time," Bates said. "It takes execution and guys all thinking the same way. He has had to adjust some because of the speed of the game. There is more sophistication in the pros. You have a lot more time to prepare, as far as the off-season and mini-camps and quarterback schools. So there's been a little adjustment for Steve. But he is such a darn good offensive mind... "

Such a darn good offensive mind that Spurrier's flustered. After relinquishing play-calling responsibilities to coordinator Hue Jackson last week, he'll take them tonight.

Two Dolphins defenders who faced Spurrier's Gators in college say the playing field has been leveled, which is the ol' ballcoach's biggest problem.

"Well, you've got the same amount of talent on each side of the ball," former South Carolina linebacker Corey Jenkins said. "I'm not saying his style doesn't work, but when you go against people of equal talent or maybe a little more or you've got coaches that have the same knowledge you have or maybe a little bit more, that kind of changes the game a little bit."

Said cornerback Patrick Surtain: "Some of Spurrier's marquee routes he still runs with the Redskins. It's kind of the same, but the athletes are different. And that's what makes the offense work, great athletes."

Former Florida State cornerback Terrell Buckley said Spurrier can be solved.

"He has a sound understanding of what he wants to do and there are only so many defenses you can run, so many matchups you can have," Buckley said. "It's built into his system. If you come out in Cover 2, he'll throw here. If you come out in Cover 3, he'll throw there. If you come out in man, he'll throw here. If you have a clear understanding of that you'll be successful."

Spurrier sounded downtrodden in a teleconference this week.

"We're trying to find a few plays we can make some yards against Jim Bates' defense," he said. "They're good. They've got good players all the way around and very well-coached."

In a USFL game in 1984, Spurrier's Tampa Bay Bandits defeated Bates' San Antonio Gunslingers. In 1989, Bates' Tennessee team beat Spurrier's Duke team.

"They moved it in between the 20s, but had a rough time scoring touchdowns," Bates said. "You know we had great players at Tennessee."

Bates would love to see Spurrier succeed in the NFL, but not this week.

The Dolphins need a victory tonight just as much as Spurrier.

Noteworthy: Receiver J.R. Tolver (shoulder) was added to Miami's injury report as probable.


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