- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

After a 4-1 preseason during which Washington's pass-happy attack led the NFL in scoring and passing, it's time for the Redskins' Fun 'n' Gun to show what it can really do.

"We haven't proved anything yet," said Redskins coach Steve Spurrier. "Practice games are practice games. We've got confidence that we can play [but] we're going to find out if we can or not. Preseason games are fun, but these are more fun. They count."

Since even a gambler like Spurrier doesn't show much of his hand during preseason, Sunday's opener against Arizona will be the first time to see how the Fun 'n' Gun which terrorized the SEC the past 12 seasons truly works against sophisticated NFL defenses.

"I know the offense is going to work as long as we execute it properly," said quarterback Shane Matthews, who deftly ran Spurrier's system at Florida from 1990 to 1992. "We didn't gameplan for anyone in preseason and they didn't gameplan for us. At times we didn't play well, but you can't score every time you touch the ball. Everybody's tired of the preseason and ready to get the real show started."

Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis is excited about being the first to take on the Fun 'n' Gun for real.

"As soon as Steve got the job even before I knew who we were going to open up with I started looking at Florida film," McGinnis said. "He has a proven track record in that offense, not only at Florida but during the preseason. He knows how to dial 'em up and with the scheme that he has, we're going to have to dial up some different things ourselves. Hopefully we can keep the ball and score some so he doesn't get a chance to dial 'em all up. We've got a heck a task ahead of us. [But] I love opening up there. It's fun. If you don't like those type of challenges, you're in the wrong business."

Unlike some veteran NFL coaches, McGinnis likes Spurrier's brash approach.

"I love his attitude," McGinnis said. "I like it that he puts it out there 'here's what I'm going to do, I'm confident in what I'm doing.' He conveys that confidence to his team and he goes out and does it. To me, that's coaching ball. I respect the fact that he has been successful wherever he has been. His teams are very well-coached."

Like most Redskins, right tackle Jon Jansen is only in his first year in Spurrier's scheme, but he's equally confident about its effectiveness even though the first-stringers managed just 19 points in roughly two games of work against starting defenses in preseason.

"It will be smoother with the starters in there for four quarters," Jansen said. "There's a lot of hype about the offense, but nobody has more expectations for this game than the people in this building."

Left tackle Chris Samuels got used to watching the Fun 'n' Gun while he played at Alabama, one of Florida's chief SEC rivals.

"Coach Spurrier and the defenses were both holding back in preseason," Samuels said. "Starting Sunday, they'll throw everything at us and we'll throw everything at them. I'm excited about it. I saw this offense in college quite a few times and every time defenses blitzed, he burned them deep. I think we can score a lot of points."

Receiver Rod Gardner, who led all NFC rookies with 46 catches in 2001, expects big things against the Cardinals.

"We know that they'll be prepared for us because every defense in the league is geared up to stop the Spurrier offense so they can say, 'I told you it wouldn't work in the NFL,'" Gardner said. "But we only showed about half of what we can do during the preseason. We learn a little something more about it every day, but we're very comfortable with the offense now. Sometimes we know what the play's going to be before they call it."

Of course much of what sets this offense apart is Spurrier's bold play-calling.

"Where a lot of teams like to play ball-control, not make mistakes and move the chains, [Spurrier] likes to take chances," said Matthews, who played in a very conservative offense in Chicago the last three seasons. "But at times, you've got to sling it down the field. Whether you complete it or not, it still keeps the DBs off your receivers. It's kind of like playing in your backyard. When teams try to blitz us, we'll try to get a huge play out of it. A lot of other coaches want you to dink and dunk and if your No.1 guy's open, you throw it even if it's only a 2-yard completion. Coach Spurrier wants you to throw it down the field. If you complete it, great. If you don't, it's still going to work out for us. Teams are going to be gunning for us, but I kind of like that."

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