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NFL

No offense, Steve, but you failed because of you

By GARY SHELTON
Published December 31, 2003

Steve Spurrier quit Tuesday.

Like everything else between Spurrier and the NFL lifetime, it turned out to be a tangled mess.

Faulty communication. Lousy coordination. Embarrassing conclusion. And that was just his resignation.

The Redskins said Spurrier quit. Spurrier said he didn't. Later, he said he had, but only after hearing it from his agent. Oh.

If you want to sum up the two frustrating, miserable seasons of Spurrier, Redskins coach, that about does it.

On his final day, like every day beforehand, the brief affair between Spurrier and the Redskins looked ugly, smelled funny and felt embarrassing.

By midafternoon, you were hoping the reports about Spurrier's surrender were true because it felt like the merciful thing. This was a franchise and a coach bent on making each other suffer.

Final score: No fun, no gun, and he's done.

Spurrier's stay as an NFL coach wasn't long, and it didn't add up to much. He lost 20 games in two seasons. His vaunted offense finished 20th last season and 23rd this season. He made a lot of money, but he had to trade in a lot of his reputation, and he left Washington faster than any man since Nixon.

To those of us who watched Spurrier coach at Florida, to those of us who were convinced he would succeed in the pros because, by golly, he knew the proper directions to the end zone, Spurrier's lack of success with the Redskins was staggering. It was like watching a great artist who suddenly forgot how to paint.

Had you seen Spurrier on the sideline over the past few weeks? He made no effort to hide how awful this experience was on him. Every closeup, Spurrier looked like Winona's mug shot.

Why did Spurrier fail?

Start with his own naivete.

From the first day, Spurrier seemed convinced that the same playbook he had used at Florida would leave opponents gasping in the pros, too.

Frankly, Spurrier wasn't that impressed with what he saw of coaching in the NFL when he was at Florida. He'd ask about this pro team or that one, and when he got an answer, he'd just shrug and say, "Well, you gotta coach 'em up."

Spurrier laughed at the long hours some pro coaches kept. He poked fun at coaches who said they wanted to be close in the fourth quarter, saying he preferred to be ahead by four touchdowns.

Well, oops.

Why did Spurrier fail?

Misguided loyalty, for another thing.

Spurrier was convinced the same players who starred for him against Georgia would be just dandy against Dallas. So he went out to rescue the careers of Danny Wuerffel and Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green, players who had proven they couldn't play in the NFL. And they failed all over again.

Why did Spurrier fail?

Because of his stubbornness.

When Spurrier signed with the Redskins, a lot of people - including me - were convinced he would succeed. Oh, he ran one offense at Florida, but he talked a lot about other offenses. Surely he would adapt to the NFL, wouldn't he?

Turns out, he didn't. Because of his blocking schemes, his quarterbacks absorbed savage beatings. He didn't seem to care as much for the NFL ideas of scripting practice. He had his own ideas of how to deal with a blitz. And his players didn't exactly find him to be a motivating force.

Why did Spurrier fail?

Because millionaires are different from college kids.

Spurrier never seemed to reach his team, which is strange, because evidently, the Redskins spent a lot of time on their cell phones. By the end of the season, even the Redskins players were pleading for discipline.

Spurrier had said he planned to be tougher next season. Translated, that means he wasn't tough this season.

Oh, there were other factors. There always are.

For instance, you can make a joke if you wish about how the proper response of Bucs fans is: Whew! After all, Tampa Bay chased him twice.

Spurrier would have had a better chance here. He would have had less meddlesome owners than Danny Snyder (the worst possible boss for Spurrier) and a stronger front office that would have insisted on a more veteran coaching staff.

Spurrier should have known that. In Washington, he never had a chance. Because of it, the Redskins didn't.

Why did Spurrier fail?

Because of Spurrier.

Spurrier wasn't disciplined enough. He wasn't creative enough. He wasn't special enough.

Look, there are pro coaches and college coaches. Maybe Spurrier was meant for college ball. Maybe he should have learned his lesson from his playing days, where he was a Heisman-winning whiz kid in college and nary a blip as a pro.

So what happens now? Does Spurrier return to Gainesville to work on his short game? That doesn't sound right, not with Spurrier hiring a new agent.

Maybe Spurrier makes a run at the Nebraska job, just so he can show the Cornhusker nation what the forward pass is all about.

Maybe he waits for Nick Saban to bail on the LSU job, just so he can get back into the SEC.

Maybe he goes to the house for a year to sit on the porch and let his shadow fall across Ron Zook's office. There couldn't be any more than five or six rumors a week, tops, regarding a possible return to the Gators.

Wherever it is, I'd like to see Spurrier take over another college program.

I don't know about you, but I miss the old arrogance. I'd love to hear him chide Ray Goff one more time. I'd love to know if he's heard any new FSU jokes.

Who knows? Maybe he could fling his visor. Just once, for old time's sake.

[Last modified December 31, 2003, 02:01:14]


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Bill Maxwell: A citizen's duty is to ferret out the truth
Ernest Hooper: Partying with a wishful twist
Gary Shelton: No offense, Steve, but you failed because of you
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