- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

They played in the snow last weekend in New England. In Chicago, you could see the steam coming out of the players' mouths. And in Pittsburgh, where I was, the conditions were about what you'd expect 21 degrees, with a 50 percent chance of frostbite.
Here's hoping Steve Spurrier noticed this and takes it into account as he formulates his offensive plans for the Redskins. After all, he wasn't given a five-year, $25million contract just to win games in September, October, November and December. He's expected to win in January, too. And the weather this time of year, particularly up north, isn't exactly forward pass-friendly.
Steve ain't in the SEC anymore. He's in the same conference with Green Bay, in the same division with Philadelphia and the New York Giants. It gets cooooold in those places late in the season. Passes bounce off frigid fingertips. Deep balls get rerouted by the wind. Receivers lose their footing and turn perfectly designed plays into interceptions.
Suddenly, your precision passing attack doesn't work like clockwork more like "A Clockwork Orange." So it behooves you to have some balance on offense, a Plan B (unless you want to hit the golf course early, that is).
The Vikings went to New York last January thinking they were going to pass the Giants dizzy and left 41-0 losers. The Chargers reached the AFC Championship game in 1981, but then had to play in sub-zero temperatures in Cincinnati. Adios, Air Coryell. Heck, I remember the Giants winning the coin toss against the Redskins in the '86 NFC title game and electing to kick because the wind was so fierce. Final score: New York 17, Washington 0.
There's never been a game in Spurrier's coaching career where he had to worry about the wind-chill factor. In his 12 years at Florida, the Gators only ventured above the Mason-Dixon Line once in '91, his second season and that was to play Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. All the "northern" trips to Tennessee and Kentucky were traditionally scheduled for September (though Spurrier did tempt fate and go to Vanderbilt in early November).
Florida's big end-of-the-season games Florida State, the SEC championship at the Georgia Dome, the bowls (Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Citrus) were played in near-laboratory conditions. Which makes you wonder: Will Spurrier's offense operate as smoothly when exposed to the elements, or will a lot of the fun go out of the Fun 'n' Gun?
Hey, I'm just asking. Bill Parcells always said he built teams that would be able to win in December and January teams that could slug it out on the ground just in case Mother Nature had a hissy fit the day of the game. Under Parcells, the Giants, Patriots and Jets were prototypical Northeast ballclubs. Also, let's not forget: In Joe Gibbs' first six postseason games, John Riggins rushed for 100 or more yards. It's not always the prettiest way to play football, but in the dead of winter it's what works.
If he's smart and I think he is Spurrier will keep that in mind as he scouts talent at the Senior Bowl this week and the Hula Bowl next. He might want to draft a mudder or two, a receiver who didn't necessarily play his college ball in a tanning bed.
At his induction ceremony last week, Spurrier insisted he isn't as pass-crazed as reputation might suggest. A lot of people, he said, "think all [I do] is throw the ball all over the ballpark, but we also run the ball. … We're going to do what's best for us. If that's running it 40 times [a game] and pitching it 20, then we'll do that."
He's going to need that kind of flexibility if he wants to go deep into the playoffs. (Unless, of course, he plans to put a roof on FedEx Field. And even then …)
Speaking of scouting, can you believe Dan Snyder is thinking of bringing back Vinny Cerrato as player personnel director? In his previous stint with the Redskins, Cerrato had a nasty habit of giving away draft picks for waiver wire-caliber players (Tito Paul, Barron Tanner). Yes, he hit on LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels with the second and third picks of the 2000 draft, but check out his other selections. Lloyd Harrison (third round), Mookie Moore (fourth), Quincy Sanders (fifth), Todd Husak (sixth), Ethan Howell (seventh) yuck. (Del Cowsette, a backup defensive tackle, is the only other pick who's still on the team.)
Vinny was out of the league when the Redskins hired him in '99, and he's been out of the league since Marty Schottenheimer let him go last winter. In other words, he isn't exactly in demand. But he's very good at saying yes, and that's the kind of player personnel director Snyder apparently prefers. Actually, that's the kind of everything Snyder apparently prefers, but sometimes he has to compromise.
Didn't Dan the Man tell us, not too long ago, he planned to hire a first-rate general manager? And now he's splitting the job in two and considering Vinny for the player personnel post. Ai-yi-yi.
Spurrier might be an offensive Einstein, but he still needs players. I mean, look at what happened to the last X's-and-O's oracle when the talent level on his roster dropped. Anyone heard from Mike Shanahan lately?

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