- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

ORLANDO, Fla. The early morning Florida sun was too bright for him, so he had to switch seats even though he was wearing sunglasses. His voice was unusually raspy. But Steve Spurrier was clear about his hopes for his first year as coach of the Washington Redskins.
At times brash, at times reserved, Spurrier was clearly the star as the NFL's annual spring meeting ended yesterday. Although the other 15 NFC coaches also were available, several reporters spent the entire one-hour breakfast session at Spurrier's table.
"I know the people in the area really do love the Redskins," Spurrier said. "We've got a band that plays 'Hail to the Redskins!' when we score. Hopefully, we can get it played a lot.
"It's not like I'm coming to a team that has been highly successful recently. They've made the playoffs just once in the last nine years [in 1999, followed by a pair of 8-8 seasons]. Our expectations are to do better. We'll try to win the division, try to make the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, we'll try to win the conference. I think we have a pretty decent team. We have some holes to fill. We need to get a couple of guards, maybe a couple of defensive linemen, maybe another wide receiver.
"[I like] the challenge, and I also like being in Washington, D.C., amongst those critics, guys who've never seen my teams play. I can't respond to all the critics who are looking for reasons why we won't be successful. Check the track record. People say, 'His receivers in college were mostly wide open, but in the NFL, they won't be.' It intrigues me and a lot of people to see if we can do that."
Spurrier hesitated while trying to name all five starters the Redskins have lost to free agency this month, but he knew what would play well for the folks back home. Asked if the archrival Dallas Cowboys who have beaten the Redskins nine straight times would play Florida State to Washington's Florida, Spurrier replied, "Hopefully, our Georgia." His Gators beat the Bulldogs 11 of 12 years, including a 52-17 victory in 1995 that marked the first time a visitor had scored 50 points in Athens.
"When we got [to Florida], all of you media experts said, 'Spurrier and that Duke offense didn't have a chance [in the Southeastern Conference]. You have to run the ball and play defense,'" recalled Spurrier, who had turned the previously moribund Duke program into an ACC contender from 1987 to 1989.
"That was the way teams won in the SEC before '90. But they were winning at other places in college football by throwing the ball and still playing excellent defense." I brought my Duke coaches down there and they said, 'Golly. He's bringing these doggone Duke coaches. He needs to get some SEC boys.'"
All Spurrier did at Florida was go 122-27-1, plus winning seven SEC titles and the 1996 national championship the latter with the help of three players he recently added to the Redskins: quarterback Danny Wuerffel and receivers Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green, all of whom figure to compete for starting jobs in Washington despite spotty NFL resumes.
"I think Danny's the highest-rated passer in the history of college football," Spurrier said. "He's the winningest quarterback in the history of the SEC. When he warms up before the game, sometimes he's not all that impressive, but when the games start, that's when he's at his best. He's hung around for four or five years. Sometimes survival is pretty good in this league.
"You've got to remember that I've seen him play very well. I watched him throw six touchdowns against Alabama when they were No.1 in the nation in pass defense. They had [cornerback] Fernando Bryant, a first-round draft pick, trying to cover Quezzie Green. Quezzie ran right by him. Reidel ran right by him. Now are you all telling me that Reidel, Quezzie and Danny can't play? I believe they all can."
Spurrier said that while the Redskins are still considering trading for New Orleans free agent quarterback Jeff Blake or Chicago's Shane Matthews (another ex-Gator), usually free-spending owner Dan Snyder is fine with the coach's decision not to try to bring veteran Super Bowl passers Drew Bledsoe or Chris Chandler to Washington. In fact, Spurrier said he doesn't anticipate a clash of egos with Snyder, who has forced out more than 150 employees in less than three years and who fired three coaches in 13 months.
"I talked to [2001 quarterbacks coach] Brian Schottenheimer [about Snyder before taking the job] and Brian said, 'He's a nice guy. My dad [2001 coach Marty Schottenheimer] and he just didn't get along,'" Spurrier said. "I've really never had any trouble working for anyone, and I don't anticipate any major disagreements."
Although Spurrier spent the past 15 seasons coaching college football, he said he'll defer to front office chief Joe Mendes on draft day if he doesn't have a strong feeling about a particular player.
"Your whole organization is so important in the NFL, the way you spend your money," Spurrier said. "The Redskins didn't spend it wisely two or three years ago, so now we're paying for that a little bit [being unable to try to sign top free agents]."
Although Marty Schottenheimer had total control, Spurrier isn't planning on getting involved with the defense much beyond encouraging new coordinator Marvin Lewis and the troops. But then Spurrier, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1966, is famous for keeping relatively normal hours in a business full of workaholics one of whom, Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, often spent nights in the office that Spurrier now occupies.
"There's that perception that since I play golf and work out six days a week on the treadmill for 25 to 30 minutes that I don't work hard," said Spurrier, who was hoping to play with golf immortal Arnold Palmer yesterday and raved about being able to zip out of Redskin Park for a quick nine holes.
"I may work harder than a lot of people think. All coaches have to prepare the way they're comfortable. If you've got a good game plan and your players are ready, you can sit there and watch tape for four or five more hours or you can go home and be with your family. Do you think we would have done better at Florida if the coaches stayed until midnight? I don't think so. You can overdo it. It'll be a challenge to see if our style of coaching will work in the NFL. I'm really looking forward to it."


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