- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Tuesday's release of wide receiver Jacquez Green by the Washington Redskins was merely the latest indication that Steve Spurrier's Gators-fueled offense is running and passing on empty.

The Redskins rank 21st among 32 NFL offenses in total yards, 22nd in passing and 26th in scoring a humbling drop from the head-spinning numbers Spurrier's teams posted in a dozen seasons at Florida. Spurrier's Gators averaged more than 35 points and 460 yards, including 310 through the air.

With the Redskins, Spurrier ceded control of personnel to the front office except for the key skill positions on offense, quarterback and receiver. And it's in that domain that the Redskins' deficiencies have been most obvious this season.

Not coincidentally, those are the only positions on the Redskins held by Spurrier's former players. Spurrier figured that adding a few handpicked Gators to an offense that already had Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis, promising receiver Rod Gardner and the excellent young tackle tandem of Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen would produce Florida-type success in Washington.

So the Redskins signed receivers Reidel Anthony, Chris Doering and Green (the biggest contract at $600,000) and quarterback Shane Matthews and traded for quarterback Danny Wuerffel, all of whom had starred for Spurrier in Gainesville.

"The passing game is kind of Coach Spurrier's deal," Doering said. "Coming into this situation, quarterback and receiver were the most important positions where he needed guys who knew what to do. We were brought here not only to run the offense, but to help the other guys learn it."

In the offseason, Spurrier passed over such proven quarterbacks as Drew Bledsoe, Chris Chandler, Trent Dilfer, Jim Miller and Jeff Blake in favor of Matthews and Wuerffel. Matthews had started 15 games in his eight NFL seasons and Wuerffel six in five years.

When asked this summer why he settled on Matthews and Wuerffel, Spurrier joked that they were "cheap and available."

Cheap, yes. Matthews and Wuerffel make $1.033 million between them. But the quarterbacks have not been effective.

Matthews ranks 28th in the quarterback ratings and 30th among 34 quarterbacks in completion percentage. Matthews has not been able to win games on arm strength, but he usually doesn't lose them with poor decisions and has been able to avoid sacks and turnovers.

Wuerffel played spectacularly in preseason against the backups on opposing defenses but was awful in three brief appearances during the regular season, posting a 34.5 quarterback rating. He was sidelined by a sprained shoulder in his only start.

Spurrier at first had planned to play the season with Wuerffel, Sage Rosenfels and Dameyune Craig at quarterback. Rosenfels later was traded to Miami, and Craig was cut before training camp. Matthews was signed April 29 after being cut by the Bears.

The story is much the same with the wide receivers, who, if anything, have been even less effective.

Spurrier passed over proven wideouts such as Antonio Freeman, Keenan McCardell, Bill Schroeder, Az Hakim, Germane Crowell and Jerome Pathon.

Instead, the Redskins signed Anthony, who started for three years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but played little the previous two seasons. Anthony was cut in August.

Green caught only five passes, returned three kickoffs (none further than 22 yards) and averaged 5.3 yards on his 17 punt returns before being cut this week. Green did return a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in Week2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"If you bring in one of your former players, you've got to be willing to cut one of your former players," Spurrier said. "Coaches can't look out for their old players forever. You give them a little more of a chance than maybe other coaches would because you know them and you've got to have somebody to start with, but after that, you just try to be fair as you possibly can. Once they become Redskins, we're all Redskins."

Doering is the only former Gator who has produced more than was expected. Doering has 11 catches for 135 yards and one touchdown, the first of his career, with the Redskins. He had caught just six passes in parts of three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos and did not play at all the past two years.

"Cheap and available doesn't bother me at all," Doering said with a grin. "That's what got me a job, and now I've shown I can play in this league. You've got to come from somewhere. Everybody's probably cheap and available at some point."

The lack of production by the Florida players even has filtered down to receiver Willie Jackson, who was signed off waivers from Atlanta on Halloween. Jackson, who caught 81 passes for New Orleans last year, has a lone 3-yard catch and two kickoffs for 33 yards in brief duty during two games with Washington.

"It's not about one guy," said the Giants' Jim Fassel, the NFC's senior coach. "It takes a good scheme, good players, execution. People get caught up with something like Steve runs maybe the best offense in college and [think] he'll come to Washington like there's some magical dust you sprinkle. There's no magical dust in this league."

Not even from a coach with a magical track record.

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