- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

Travis Taylor, who plays for Brian Billick in Baltimore and played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, says the coaches are similar in style. The two face each other tonight when the Ravens come to FedEx Field to take on the Redskins in a preseason game.

“They’re actually not too far apart,” Taylor told reporters earlier this week at Ravens practice. “Both of them are very confident coaches, are confident in their abilities, what their teams can do, which you have to have as a coach.”

There are some differences that seem to stand out, at least to me. One of them is more delusional than the other.

Which one? Here’s a clue. Billick once thought Stoney Case could play quarterback in the NFL. When it was obvious that he couldn’t, Billick didn’t bring him back for another run.

Spurrier once thought Danny Wuerffel could play quarterback in the NFL. When it was obvious last season that he couldn’t, Spurrier brought him back this year.

Here’s another difference: While both of them were heralded as offensive geniuses, one of them didn’t feel the need to impose his square peg of an offensive philosophy into the round hole that was his team.

When Billick came to Baltimore, he inherited a team with a strong defense but a weak offense, with no star quarterback to implement the scoring machine that Billick helped create in Minnesota. So he worked with what he had, and it brought him a Super Bowl ring. He may have an ego equal to that of Spurrier’s — maybe even greater — but he didn’t feel the need to stroke it by creating a team in his image, at the cost of winning. He was smart enough to let Ray Lewis make him a genius.

Spurrier inherited a team with a decent defense — on the verge of improving with the presence of Marvin Lewis as defensive coordinator — but a very limited offense. Yet Spurrier ignored the defense and tried to run the offense as if its potential was limitless, because that would be a validation of Steve Spurrier. And, to be fair to him, that was why he was hired.

But if he was the genius that all of his friends and supporters have claimed he is, Spurrier would have recognized the hand he was dealt — a strong defense with a good running game and an inexperienced quarterback. He would have been smart enough to let running back Stephen Davis validate his genius — and take some of the pressure off the young and untested quarterback, Patrick Ramsey.

Speaking of pressure on Ramsey, tonight’s game could take its place among the many nightmare games Redskins fans have seen since FedEx Field opened in 1997. When the Ravens left the field last Saturday in Atlanta, they had broken Michael Vick, who is difficult to grab. What do you think Ray Lewis and Co. will do tonight against Ramsey, who doesn’t move as well as Vick with a broken leg, who is unprotected by a weakened offensive line?

Vick’s backup, former Gator Doug Johnson — who apparently didn’t get along very well with Spurrier at Florida — led the Falcons to their biggest win of the year last season when he played in place of Vick and completed 19 of 25 passes for 257 yards in a 17-10 win over the New York Giants.

“Doug could start for any team in this league,” said Falcons safety Keion Carpenter.

Can you imagine anyone on the Redskins saying that about Wuerffel?

The only thing left of Ramsey on the field may be that bruised knuckle on his right index finger that he was nursing this week.

It may be a preseason game, but we are talking about two organizations with a history of bad blood and petty transgressions that don’t like each other. This will be retirement-bound Art Modell’s last shot to slap around Danny Snyder. Plus, it is Billick vs. Spurrier, an ego supernova. There is enough baggage surrounding this game to give it a little more intensity than normal.

Spurrier is already concerned about his quarterback’s safety, indicating that Ramsey may not be out there as long as the rest of the first-team offense. “He needs to play, but he needs to be healthy,” Spurrier said. “So it doesn’t make sense to put him out there to get hit a whole bunch.”

That, my friends, is true genius.

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