- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002


Don't make the mistake of doubting Coach Pitch-and-Catch.
Apparently, the Newtonian law stating that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction also applies to football fandom. Because it seems that for every overzealous Redskins fan ready to raise the Lombardi Trophy after just two preseason games there is also one brooding Beltway skeptic.
You've heard the naysaying cries from these pessimists who fancy themselves realists. A decade of post-Gibbs mediocrity has made them wary of success, and they prefer to question the Spurrier regime rather than embrace it.
They scoff at Washington's two preseason victories, smugly circling the team's regular-season opener (Sept.8 vs. Arizona) and suspiciously remarking, "We'll see."
They are quick to point out that potential first-string quarterback Danny Wuerffel hasn't completed a regular-season pass in three years, dismissing his preseason efforts (24-for-36 for 371 yards and four touchdowns) as the meaningless riddling of backup defenders.
They lament Washington's no-name corps of receivers.
And most of all, they question Steve Spurrier and his trigger-happy system.
"Sure he won at Florida, but this is the NFL," one concerned family member told this space after the Redskins dismantled San Francisco 38-7 in Osaka, Japan. "We're not in college anymore, Toto."
Nope, and we suspect Spurrier couldn't be happier.
College meant recruiting and compliance officers and 18-year-old kids with 25-year-old bodies. College meant a 10-2 season was disappointing. College meant trying to run an audible-centric offense without microphones amid the din of 110,000-seat Neyland Stadium.
Compared to that, do you really think Spurrier is sweating going to considerably quieter stadiums like the Meadowlands with a mature quarterback wearing a headset in his helmet? Please. The pro game was made for Spurrier, who exercises his unique gift in the 15 seconds or so his team stands at the ready at the line of scrimmage. The man works in audibles and mismatches the way Frank Lloyd Wright worked in steel and glass.
How can you doubt him or his system? Forget the two preseason games, which were more impressive offensively than anything Marty Schottenheimer accomplished all of last season. Spurrier has won everywhere everywhere he has been, from the USFL (35-19) to Duke (20-13-1) to Florida (122-27-1).
And of course his success is more a product of his system than his personnel, because he's always won with unheralded guys like Wuerffel and Derrius Thompson. Name one player off his Tampa Bay Bandits teams. While you're thinking, consider that he won an ACC title in 1989 with the where-are-they-now quarterback-to-receiver tandem of Dave Brown and Clarkston Hines. Name a QB or WR from Spurrier's 12 years at Florida who went on to be a Pro Bowler. There isn't one.
Now, of course Spurrier's offense would look ever better with, say, Kurt Warner at the helm. But don't think it can't succeed with noodle-armed Hair Club candidate Wuerffel at the controls.
The point is that you have to give Spurrier the benefit of the doubt until he does something to merit skepticism. After all, nobody questioned Marvin Lewis after his depth-less defense gave up 30 points to the Carolina Cadavers.
Nobody questioned Darrell Green's ability when he was stiff-armed all the way to Raleigh by a rookie Saturday night.
Why? Because both men have a proven history of success.
And those who would claim Spurrier's 20 years of success don't count because they didn't take place in the NFL simply haven't followed his career very closely.
As for predictions, consider the fact that Marty and Co. punted their way to an 8-8 campaign last season. Anybody who doesn't think Spurrier is at least a two-game upgrade over Schottenheimer, regardless of the schedule, needs to immediately report to the nearest white coat.
Spurrier isn't a savior, yet, but there's absolutely no reason to think he can't become one. Until he proves otherwise, we're quite content to sing "Hail to the Redskin."

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