- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

The most valuable Redskin never threw a block or a pass yesterday, never caught a ball, made a tackle or even played one down.

If the Washington Redskins gave out only one game ball after yesterday’s 27-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, it would go to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

First, the 38-year-old assistant fired up the players with a motivational speech at Saturday night’s team meeting made at coach Steve Spurrier’s request. Then, Jackson came down from the coaches’ box yesterday and did what no assistant has done in Spurrier’s 20 years as a head coach: call the plays for the Ol’ Ball Coach.

The stunning change in responsibility was a result of the first four-game losing streak endured by Spurrier since he was trying to revive Duke’s downtrodden program in 1987. It also was a product of a chat Spurrier had with Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, a fellow “offensive genius” and former Florida Gator.

“Mike said, ‘I did about all of it for a couple of years and then I gave it to [offensive coordinator Gary] Kubiak and all of a sudden we won a couple of Super Bowls,’” Spurrier said. “What we had been doing lately hadn’t been working very well. [I thought], ‘Maybe I’m struggling calling plays right now. If I have to bench the playcaller, I can do that.’

“It felt awkward at first, but we were struggling on offense and I’ll try anything to get us over the hump. Hue volunteered to jump in there, and we went with it.”

The Redskins’ first four drives netted just 41 yards and three points. The offense took off from there, finishing with 379 yards and 27 points. The 4-5 Redskins hadn’t produced so many yards since Week 3 or so many points since Week 2.

“Hue and I put the script together, but one guy has to be the main guy,” Spurrier said. “He’d ask every now and then, ‘Do you have anything you like?’ But, basically, he called most of it. Hue did an excellent job. We were much better offensively.”

Jackson, in typical assistant fashion, deflected the credit.

“I give Coach all the credit in the world because he said, ‘Hey, you take a run at it,’” said Jackson, in his first year as an NFL coordinator. “A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. I’m not going to say it was a reflection of anything other than, ‘this is what we thought we needed to do to win.’ No call that was made was totally my call.”

However, the players know how critical Jackson was to the tailspin-ending victory.

“Hue called a great game,” said receiver Rod Gardner, whose eight catches for 81 yards were more than half his totals during the previous four games combined. “He gave us an opportunity to get in a rhythm.”

Jackson accomplished that mission with help from an inexplicable lack of blitzing from Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, who filled that role with the Redskins in 2001. Unlike most of the Redskins’ opponents, the Seahawks rarely came after quarterback Patrick Ramsey with any pass rushers except their front four. He wasn’t sacked for the first time all season.

“My goal was to make sure Patrick stayed healthy throughout the game,” Jackson said.

Jackson also kept the NFC West-leading Seahawks honest with a 32-33 run-pass ratio, the Redskins’ most-balanced approach since their victory over the New England Patriots on Sept.28 — their last win before yesterday.

Jackson’s first speech to the entire team was as effective as his playcalling.

“Hue said a lot of people have turned their backs on us, talking bad about us and that we’re all we’ve got,” offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. “It motivated us.”

Unlike former assistant Terry Robiskie’s frequent fire and brimstone addresses, Jackson’s was more low-key but apparently struck the right chords.

“You don’t have to yell or cuss or be real fiery,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “Hue let us know it was do or die. A lot of players took heed to it. I know I did.”

Defensive end Bruce Smith, a 19-year veteran and sure Hall of Famer, showed his appreciation by playfully rubbing Jackson’s head as the coordinator spoke to the media.

“It was nothing out of the ordinary,” Jackson claimed. “I’m not going to take credit for any of that. I was just glad the guys responded. They believe in what we do.”

Jackson’s not sure when he’ll make such a speech again, but you can bet he’ll be calling the plays when the Redskins face the Carolina Panthers, the NFC South leader, on the road on Sunday.

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