- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CHICAGO — The fate of the Washington Redskins assistant coaches remains cloudy heading into Saturdays final game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Team sources continue to say coach Steve Spurrier has not made any final decisions.

Last week, Spurrier appeared willing to seriously consider staff changes when he clarified an earlier comment in which he defended his staff. After saying Wednesday he hadnt decided to fire any assistants, Spurrier said Thursday he hadnt said he wouldnt fire anyone, either.

After yesterdays 27-24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the coach declined to comment on his impending decisions, saying, “Thats postseason talk.”

A rapidly fading defense certainly doesnt bode well for first-year coordinator George Edwards. His unit yesterday surrendered 429 yards to the Bears, who entered with the NFLs worst offense at just 265 yards a game. Washingtons run defense ranked 27th entering the game and gave up another 191 yards yesterday.

Edwards and offensive line coach Kim Helton are mentioned most frequently as the assistants whose jobs are on the line. Heltons line has played well in the second half of the season despite using two and sometimes three reserves but some in the organization feel its a foregone conclusion he will be fired.

Some in management also would like to see Spurrier part with some of his assistants who have little NFL experience receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., tight ends coach Lawson Holland and outside linebackers coach Jim Collins.

One high-ranking club official said recently that staffing changes arent assured. Asked whether owner Dan Snyder would threaten Spurrier with his job if the coach refused to fire any assistants, the official said Snyder would not. The official speculated that Spurriers upbeat attitude in recent days which continued in yesterdays postgame news conference was because ownership conveyed that fact to the coach.

Spurrier said he will talk about prospective changes after the season. He is scheduled to leave the Washington area late Sunday. He could announce the departure of some assistants in his wrap-up news conference earlier that day, or he could mull his decisions and make an announcement later.

Dolphins want Spurrier?

A Redskins official said the Miami Dolphins had not contacted Washington in pursuit of coach Steve Spurrier. An ESPN report yesterday said Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga internally has discussed the possibility of taking Spurrier, and the remaining three years and $15million on his contract, off the Redskins hands.

A major impediment to any deal would be the plans of Redskins owner Dan Snyder to have Spurrier return in 2004. The owner constructed the offense around Spurriers tastes, and Snyder has given no signs of having evaluated potential replacements for Spurrier. In 2001, Snyder did extensive evaluations of Spurrier as he grew more certain of his parting with then-coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Spurrier, who has been linked to a variety of college openings on the rumor mill this season, declined to comment on ESPNs report.

“Lets not talk about that,” Spurrier said. “Lets talk about the ballgame. Lets talk about the Bears kicking our butts.”

Hasselbeck bounces back

Six passes into yesterdays game, Tim Hasselbeck looked like he was headed for another disastrous afternoon. By the end of the day, the Redskins quarterback had dramatically turned his fortunes around, albeit in a losing effort.

One week after posting a horrendous 0.0 quarterback rating against the Cowboys, Hasselbeck opened yesterdays game with six straight incompletions. Five of his passes werent even close to their intended targets.

But Hasselbeck rebounded with staggering precision, completing 16 of his last 19 attempts to finish with 209 yards, two touchdowns and a sparkling 116.9 rating.

“I didnt let myself get discouraged about it,” Hasselbeck said. “I knew I hadnt completed a pass. I knew I could either feel bad about the situation and wonder what the heck was going wrong, or I could just go out there and keep playing. Thats all I tried to do at that point.”

There might have been other factors at play. The Redskins passing game in the first and third quarters (when they were headed into a stiff Chicago wind) was nonexistent. During that time, Hasselbeck went three of 11 for 30 yards.

When Washington switched directions for the second and fourth quarters, driving with the wind, Hasselbeck was 13 of 14 for 179 yards.

“It was tough conditions,” he said. “But like I said last week, its football, and thats what its going to be like in this league.”

Bad day for Champ

Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey, named to his third straight NFC Pro Bowl team on Thursday, didnt enjoy his weekend in Chicago.

Bailey was beaten by receiver Marty Booker for a 59-yard touchdown on the Bears fifth play of the game. Bailey suffered a deep facial cut and a mild concussion on the play when he tried to make a diving tackle to prevent a Booker from scoring and putting the Bears up 7-3.

Bailey returned for the next couple of series, then left the game before halftime. Baileys injury forced struggling rookie corner Ade Jimoh into the game when the Bears employed sets of three or four wide receivers.

Bailey wasnt available for comment after the game, but he isnt expected to miss what could be the impending free agents final game as a Redskin on Saturday.

Starting safety Ifeanyi Ohalete sprained his left knee and ankle when he was illegally blocked by the Bears Brock Forsey while covering a punt with 5:24 left in the third quarter. Ohalete, who was replaced by Andre Lott, didnt return. Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington was helped off the field with a sprained left knee midway through the second quarter but didnt miss much action.

Gardner the QB

Rod Gardners season as a wide receiver hasnt been quite up to his standards. His season as a quarterback has been nearly perfect.

Called upon twice yesterday to throw the ball on trick plays, Gardner nearly tossed two touchdowns. He found a wide-open Chad Morton for a 36-yard score late in the first quarter.

Only 15 minutes later, Spurrier called Gardners number again, this time on a pass back to Hasselbeck. Gardners throw was a little low, and though Hasselbeck appeared to grab the ball before it hit the ground, an official review deemed it an incomplete pass.

Had the play been ruled a touchdown, Gardners passing stats for the season would have read: 3-for-3, three touchdowns.

“Today I got my opportunity to throw the ball,” he said. “One worked out. The second one was questionable. I thought Tim made a great catch, but they didnt give it to him.”

Smoot robbed?

Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot had the first touchdown of his three-year career called back in the first quarter.

Smoot made a dazzling one-handed interception of a ball that bounced off the hands of Bears receiver Marty Booker at the Chicago 9. Smoot scooted across the goal line, and officials signaled touchdown. Smoot raced the width of the end zone in triumph, but he didnt deliver the histrionics he promised last week when he was asked how he would celebrate a touchdown.

Smoot said he had a bad feeling replays would show Booker touched him before he scored and negate the touchdown, and he was right.

The Redskins, after three incompletions, had to settle for John Halls 27-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead. The reversal of Smoots touchdown cost the Redskins four points in a game they lost by just three.

” collided, but I dont think I had control of the ball at that point,” Smoot said. “They robbed me of my first touchdown. But I had a feeling that the refs werent going to give it to me. You know me. If it hadnt been a tossup, it would have been the greatest celebration in the world.”

200 and counting

Two weeks after passing Reggie White as the all-time leader in sacks, Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith extended the record to an even 200 when he took down Bears rookie Rex Grossman for a 5-yard loss with 2:50 left in the first half.

Smith, whos expected to wind up his 19-year career in Saturdays season finale against Philadelphia, pumped his fist after the sack. However, after the game he wasnt excited about his latest accomplishment.

“We lost so theres nothing to celebrate,” said Smith, wholl be honored on Saturday for breaking the record.

Inactives

The Redskins inactives were running back Sultan McCullough, running back Trung Canidate, safety David Terrell, running back Ladell Betts, tackle Brandon Winey, tight end Byron Chamberlain and wide receiver Taylor Jacobs. Linebacker Clifton Smith was dubbed the third quarterback.

David Elfin, Jody Foldesy, Mark Zuckerman


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