- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

A good 20 hours had passed since the Washington Redskins' second straight win, and coach Steve Spurrier still couldn't work up any enthusiasm.

He kept saying things like "we were fortunate to have won" Sunday's 14-3 decision at Seattle, that his team left "a lot of room for improvement" and that it failed to "throw it all over the place like hopefully we can someday." At one point he even grew wistful about the Aug.3 preseason-opening win in Osaka, Japan.

All because of his beloved offense.

The Fun'n'Gun isn't running the way Spurrier expected. Instead of heaving the ball with abandon, Washington is leaning on the run. The team has rushed more often than passed in the past three games a possible first such streak for Spurrier, he said. Against the Seahawks, quarterback Shane Matthews completed just 10 of 27 while backup running back Kenny Watson rushed for 110 yards.

None of that would matter to most NFL types or many Redskins players as long as their team kept winning. After all, a win's a win. But Spurrier, considering comments late Sunday and then again yesterday, apparently won't rest until this offense once again resembles his offense.

"We need to throw it and catch it," Spurrier said yesterday. "When you have some success throwing, you keep doing it. And when you don't, you sort of have to back away and try something else. So we need to gain some confidence."

Those close to Spurrier cite two reasons for his frustration even as Washington (4-4) positions itself for a run at the playoffs:

First, he is more than a head coach he is an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and receivers coach. To imagine Spurrier's perspective, think of how a defensive backs coach might feel if his team won but the secondary played poorly.

Second, at the college level a win isn't always the key goal. For Spurrier's powerhouse Florida program, winning was assumed in as many as half the games each season. Thus his eye became trained to focus on and critically evaluate each victory's nuances.

Regarding the first point, Spurrier clearly views games differently than most head coaches. It's not unusual for him to mispronounce the name of one of his rarely used players or to have no idea what a player's injury might be. But at yesterday's news conference he rattled off Matthews' statistics from the Gators' spring game in 1990.

"Shane played about a half," Spurrier recalled. "We had four quarterbacks in that contest. I know he threw two touchdown passes in his half of play. I think he was seven of 11 or nine of 12, 13, something like that. But he had a good game."

As for the second point, the coach pretty much supported it.

"I don't believe [a wins a win]," Spurrier said. "I believe you try to play the best you can every time out. And even though you win the game, you don't sit around and pat yourself on the back for a very average performance.

"Oh, we're happy to win don't get me wrong. We'd rather win and play average than play super and lose. Winning is the first priority, but playing your best each time out is certainly what we try to do."

The Redskins' next opportunity to meet Spurrier's expectations comes Sunday at Jacksonville (3-5), the second in a three-game road swing against beatable opponents. As Washington's run game, defense and special teams try to maintain Sunday's fairly high level of play, Matthews will try to regroup from his admittedly poor performance.

"I don't think I've ever been as frustrated during the course of a game as I was [Sunday]," said Matthews, who had two early touchdown passes but passed for only 114 yards. "I just couldn't throw it where I wanted to throw it."

But the ninth-year veteran was quick to use the "win's a win" line, saying, "Two or three weeks from now, nobody's going to remember how ugly we played against Seattle. All they're going to know is, we won the football game."

Perhaps that's a perspective Spurrier might one day adopt. But for now, he can't stop thinking about the unsightliness in Seattle.

"We, as coaches, feel this team is capable of playing extremely well," Spurrier said. "We haven't played extremely well."

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