- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

Arizona Cardinals special teams coach Hank Kuhlmann knew how to deal with Steve Spurrier, the professional football coach. He remembers from his U.S. Football League days, 1983-85, when Kuhlmann was the offensive coordinator of the Birmingham franchise and used to face Spurrier's Tampa Bay team.

"We used to try to take the ball and run away and hide," Kuhlmann said, laughing.

In other words, the way to beat a Steve Spurrier team is to hold onto the ball as long as possible, because when Spurrier's offense has possession, you can be sure it will result in points.

"You have to outscore him to win, because his teams always score," Kuhlmann said.

Count Kuhlmann among the Spurrier admirers, not detractors. "We're not best friends, but we're acquaintances," Kuhlmann said. "I'd be happy to see him if I didn't have to play against him."Not that the Cardinals are particularly afraid of playing the Redskins, but they have been very respectful in their talk about Spurrier leading up to tomorrow's game. "Spurrier is a very, very smart football coach," Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis said this week, and Kuhlmann concurred. "He's an excellent football coach. I don't see him having any problems adjusting to the NFL."

Right now Steve Spurrier is the NFL. Most of the questions directed at the Cardinals this week were about Spurrier, and whether his success at the University of Florida will carry over into the NFL. Most of the talk in the league is about Spurrier. Talk show host Don Imus has declared the Redskins are his team this season, and when Terry Bradshaw was a guest on his radio show Friday morning and said that he thought Spurrier would be "great," he did so with such emotion that Imus asked him if he was going to cry.

You've got to give Redskins owner Dan Snyder credit. He's got the entire league focused on a team with no stars that went 8-8 last year, all because of Spurrier.

In Orlando — Gator country — WFOL, the Fox affiliate, would normally carry Miami Dolphins games when it can because, supposedly, there are a number of Dolphins fans there. Tomorrow, they are bagging the Dolphins in favor of showing the Redskins-Cardinals. This is Orlando, Fla., mind you, and the Dolphins are considered a Super Bowl contender, with a legitimate star, Ricky Williams, playing in his first game.

But the Dolphins are blacked out in Orlando on account of Spurrier. It's as if Elvis was coaching the Redskins. The only difference is about half of the people interested are rooting for the young Elvis and the other half are hoping that Spurrier turns out to be the bloated, pathetic Elvis.

For every Terry Bradshaw who is nearly moved to tears at the prospect of the excitement Spurrier could bring to the league, there is a Steve Mariucci who is hoping that the ball coach is left crying over the failure of his vaunted "system."

Kuhlmann doubts that Spurrier will fail. "Tell me where he has lost in his career. That answers it," he said. "Football is football. Each level may be a little different or tougher, but look, Duke hasn't won since he left, and he took over a Florida program that hadn't won in awhile and they won. I don't see him having any problems.

"There are some people who are envious of his success," Kuhlmann said. "There are a lot of different personalities in this game. There's no right one or wrong one. The only right way is to judge a person by their accomplishments."

That starts tomorrow at FedEx Field, and if Spurrier is not successful in beating his old USFL buddy, the Dolphins blackout in Orlando may not last long. Next week the Redskins face the Eagles at home, then go on the road to play San Francisco and, after a bye week, travel to Tennessee to play the Titans. Unless Spurrier is even better than advertised, the one game the Redskins have the best chance to win out of their first four games is tomorrow's opener. Otherwise, it could be Elvis 1977, all over again.


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