- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

For Steve Spurrier, it's all about him, isn't it? It was hard not to come to that conclusion Sunday after watching the Redskins throw pass after ill-advised pass in their 26-7 loss at Jacksonville. Spurrier's strategy seemed less an offensive game plan than an exercise in ego; he decided he was going to throw the ball even though he was up against the 26th-ranked run defense in the league and darned if he didn't do it.

That's twice now at least the Ball Coach has been guilty of obstruction, guilty of letting his own agenda get in the way of winning. In San Francisco, you may recall, on a day when half the 49ers were ill, he went away from Stephen Davis way too early in a 20-10 defeat. Had the Redskins kept handing off to No.48 in the second half, hey, who knows?

You could even make the case (and I did) that Spurrier asked far too much of rookie Patrick Ramsey in the 43-27 loss to New Orleans, came out Funnin' and Gunnin' when he should have come out Runnin' and Runnin' some more. At any rate, it's time past time for the Redskins coach to reign himself in and get back to what the Redskins do best, which is Davis right, Davis left, Davis up the middle.

That is, if he can bring himself to do it. He certainly talked a good game yesterday. "Obviously," he said, "we threw the ball too much [against the Jaguars]. Every time you lose and you throw more than you run, you throw too much."

But does he really mean it, or will the Bad Stevie rear his pass-crazy head again in the nationally televised Turkey Day game at Dallas, perhaps? Me, I'm not convinced he's learned his lesson. Like the fighter pilots in "Top Gun" who had "the need for speed," Spurrier, I think, has the itch to pitch it and sometimes, too many times, just can't help himself.

That kind of came through in another comment he made yesterday. "We actually ran the ball the first four plays of the second half," he pointed out. "Anybody catch that? Only made four yards. But we still should have kept running."

For the record, Kenny Watson made 5 yards on those four carries. But the subtext of the remark was clear: Four yards in four plays! What a waste! Give me an All-Pro quarterback and some decent receivers, and I'll get you 40 yards. Heck, I'll get you 80 yards.

Even when Spurrier says, "Maybe sometimes I have more confidence in our passing attack than I should," which sounds like he's blaming himself, he's really not. What he really means is: Dang it! These plays we're runnin' are perfectly good. Been workin' for me for years. No reason why they shouldn't work in the NFL, too.

And maybe they would with different players running them. But Spurrier has to get past that and see his offense for what it is: a very limited collection of talent that runs the ball better than it does anything else.

In pro football, you see, it isn't about the coach. It's about the team. In college ball, the players come and go in four-year cycles and the coach, if he's successful, remains. The coach becomes the embodiment of the program more visible than the university president, bigger than life.

It doesn't work that way in the NFL. In the NFL, the coaches are as expendable as the players, if not more so. There are no Joe Paternos in pro ball, no Bobby Bowdens and few, even, with the staying power of a Steve Spurrier. Spurrier was at Florida, what, 12 seasons? Well, no current NFL coach has been with his team longer than 11 (Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher). And the next-longest tenure is 8½ (Tennessee's Jeff Fisher).

In the Not For Long league, a coach can get fired after making the playoffs three straight years if the owner feels the club has plateaued (as happened to Tony Dungy in Tampa). It's all about winning and winning big and continuing to win big.

The Redskins were selling out their stadium long before Spurrier arrived on the scene, and they'll be selling it out long after he's gone. Maybe someone should remind him of this. It's not about the X's and O's, it's about the W's; it's about the team.

College icons like Bud Wilkinson and Tom Osborne retire and run for office. The only NFL coach who ever went into politics, as far as I know, was the Lions' Gus Dorais in the '40s. He served a few terms on the Detroit City Council.

Team first, coach second. Try hanging on to a key player like free-agent-to-be Jon Jansen if it's the other way around. Try signing somebody else's free agent if your coach puts his own glorification ahead of the ballclub's. Football is probably the most unselfish of our sports; on any given play you've got six, seven, eight guys sacrificing their bodies for the good of the whole. But it all starts with the coach. He must lead and hope others follow.

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