- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

Steve Spurrier has become one of the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead,” going through this half-state of existence as he stumbles toward those who have barricaded themselves inside the farmhouse.

His pupils are not contracting. There is no hint of wholeness in his beaten form. His slow, halting manner is disconcerting.

His words are robotic, as if retrieved from a microchip embedded in his brain.

He might as well be saying, “You’ve got mail.”

His upper torso might as well come with a string attached to it. Pull the string to see which abject phrase of failure comes from this sad, sallow, sapless figure teetering before Washington.

Spurrier has fallen into the abyss and can’t get out.

His confidence has died and gone to the purgatory of 12-20.

He is so yesteryear now, so 2003, way out of his element.

He could not lead his players to the front row of a burlesque show.

He would shrug his shoulders and say, “We have to do a better job of teaching our players the principles of the G-string.”

This is assuming the players could hear his message above the cacophony of their cell phones.

Spurrier has come to live by the glum look, the slumped shoulders, the sunken chest. He has come to be the 98-pound weakling at the beach, an object both pitied and mocked. His is the incredible shrinking presence. It hurts to look in his direction. There should be a mercy rule.

If Washington could put a title to his tenure, it would be: “Searching for Steve Spurrier.”

He is the play-calling wonk who has descended into the netherworld of trap doors, secret passages and fire-breathing creatures.

Spurrier has completed the second season of a five-season affliction, the terms still negotiable if the Ball Coach ever recovers from his massive dose of Prozac and comes to his SEC senses. This experiment is a bust. There is nowhere to go with it.

Spurrier is thinking it over this week, the quality of the process uncertain. He has not scored high on the NFL’s tests of cognitive ability since Osaka, Japan.

His players have checked out with contempt in their words, as if the opinions of players with a 5-11 record and a cell phone growing out of their ears can be valued.

Spurrier has never been in the position of being a total, utter lemon. The development has overtaken his being. He is showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. He could use a good couch, a qualified therapist and a soft pillow in which to bury his head and sob.

If he could bare his soul to the masses, the first word out of his mouth would be, “Help.”

His form of motivation appears to be sympathy. He tugs on his cap. He scrunches up his face in pain and sorrow. If you look real hard, you can see the faint outline of a tear rolling down his cheek.

At his best, as it has come to be, he has the droopy countenance of a sleepy-headed bloodhound bound to a porch on a lazy summer day. He looks miserable, as if some mysterious force has overtaken his body and left only pieces of his former self.

In his dark world, the sun no longer rises the next day. He functions amid a perpetual solar eclipse, in blackness, forever pawing the walls in search of a light switch.

He is up against a decision to stay or go, with no compelling reason to stay unless he has become addicted to torment.

The team is up for its usual flurry of stop-the-presses personnel changes, spin-doctoring proclamations and breathtaking marketing plans, as orchestrated by a shrewd businessman but lousy football owner.

Spurrier can come along for the $5 million ride again, if he figures the money is worth the assault on his well-being.

Otherwise, the fundamental nature of the franchise is not apt to change. The team goes down like cotton candy. It is sweet but empty.

Given the parity-minded dictates of the NFL, the Redskins are liable to fall into a 10-6 season one of these years. The difference between a 10-6 team and 6-10 team is slight, after all.

A 10-6 season is not likely to occur with Spurrier on the sidelines, however. He has lost the team, if he ever had it. Worse, he has lost himself.


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