- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

The aftermath of the Washington Redskins’ disappointing season began yesterday with coach Steve Spurrier criticizing personnel moves, key players citing the team’s lack of discipline, and a two-minute meeting between Spurrier and the players that might have been their last.

In short, the Redskins resolved none of their major issues — most importantly, whether Spurrier will return for 2004 — and continued to battle the controversy that plagued them during the just-completed 5-11 season, their worst since 1994.

Spurrier said his announcements will come within the next two weeks. A team source said the coach’s decision to stay or go would be made in about a week. Other notifications, if Spurrier returns, will include any firings on his staff of assistants and other changes he thinks will get the club turned around.

For now, the fractures in the organization are laid bare, particularly the divide between Spurrier and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato.

Signs of the Spurrier-Cerrato split grew more apparent as the season progressed. Most notable was the refusal of Spurrier to play several high-profile players signed by the club — namely tight end Byron Chamberlain and defensive tackle Darrell Russell.

“Looking back, there were some mistakes made in personnel,” Spurrier said yesterday. “I don’t want to go into individuals, but obviously we made some mistakes on some guys. We picked up some good guys, too.”

Spurrier is thought to be seeking greater say in personnel decisions for the upcoming offseason. He was particularly disappointed when owner Dan Snyder sided with Mr. Cerrato in the preseason and cut quarterback Danny Wuerrfel.

One club official was optimistic that Spurrier and Mr. Cerrato could reconcile their differences and work together productively. The official added Spurrier and his staff didn’t always show the greatest interest in personnel, indicating that they shouldn’t blame others if they didn’t like the players signed.

Mr. Cerrato said he thinks his relationship with Spurrier is fine, and of Spurrier’s criticism, he added, “Most of [this years signings] turned out to be what we thought they would be. Some didn’t.”

Mr. Cerrato also added that Russell would not be re-signed.

Meanwhile, Redskins players said they are unhappy with the team’s lack of discipline, a problem they attributed to themselves as much as to the coaches.

Players revealed a variety of details on the lack of professionalism, including tardiness to team functions and having cell phones ring during team meetings.

The first indication of serious discipline problems came last week when three players violated team rules and were suspended for the Philadelphia Eagles game. Yesterday, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter called the lack of professionalism at times “mind-boggling.”

“[Fixing] that should be our number-one goal, more so than worrying about turnovers or penalties,” Trotter said. “There has got to be discipline. And it’s not just on the football field. Our problem goes way beyond the field. It starts with guys being on time, walking in late, cell phones ringing, all that stuff.”

Said linebacker LaVar Arrington: “I hate treading on dangerous ground, but there probably does [need to be more discipline]. I don’t know if guys will like it, but who cares? I’m trying to win, and I know there are a lot of guys within this organization trying to win.”

Spurrier denied the team had a chronic problem with off-field discipline, but he did make it clear that he no longer planned to tolerate on-field mistakes, like blown assignments.

“We probably should have benched some guys for undisciplined play,” Spurrier said.

But neither that subject nor any others of substance came up in the final team meeting. Doors to the Redskin Park auditorium closed just before 11 a.m. Perhaps fittingly, running back Ladell Betts came in about a minute later. By 11:01 a.m., players, coaches and assorted other team staff streamed out.

“It was a short meeting, basically just to tell us when the off-season program starts,” tackle Jon Jansen said. “That was about it.”

And that was about it for the Redskins’ season. Spurrier scheduled no meeting with Mr. Snyder and apparently didn’t inform his assistants of any impending changes. The owner and everyone else, it seemed, remained in a holding pattern, waiting for the coach to figure out his next move.

“Everybody’s going to take a few days off, see where we are, try to get rejuvenated, and go from there,” Spurrier said.

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