- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Some people mull their next vacation or stock portfolio before they fall asleep. Some simply leaf through a novel. Hue Jackson used to imagine ways he could set up defenses, attack weaknesses and dial up key plays.

“Every night,” the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator recounted yesterday, he found time to envision what it would be like to call offensive plays in an NFL game, a responsibility he finally received Sunday in the Washington Redskins’ 27-20 upset of the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field.

“You just go through that [thought process] if that’s something that you enjoy doing,” Jackson said. “Everybody doesn’t like that pressure and that stress of having to make the right decision time after time. Everybody’s just not built that way. But it’s something I’ve always liked to do.”

With Jackson calling the plays, the Redskins offense broke a five-game slump and racked up its third-highest yardage total (379) and second-highest point total (27) of the season. Further confirmation of the experiment’s success came yesterday, when Spurrier called Jackson’s performance “excellent” and said the setup would continue next weekend at Carolina.

“We’re like a lot of teams: We have a lot of things scripted up,” Spurrier said. “But still play calling is the ability to make quick decisions, and Hue is very good at that. He got them in there quickly, and our assistant coaches got the personnel teams in, so that worked smoothly.”

Under Jackson, the Redskins ran a balanced attack that established the ability to gain small chunks of yardage and protect quarterback Patrick Ramsey, then took some deep shots to make Seattle pay for cheating. There were few audibles; Washington deviated from Spurrier’s traditional format and generally ran what was called in the huddle.

Spurrier took over in several crucial instances, including a late fourth-and-1 at the Redskins 25 in which they went for it and made it. Ultimately, there might be a good mix of tendencies with Jackson’s foundation of calls and Spurrier’s gutsy interjection, but the assistant stressed Spurrier ultimately is the alpha and omega when it comes to the Fun ‘n’ Gun.

“This is Coach’s offense,” Jackson said. “This is his system, this is his terminology, and these are his football players. My ability to facilitate his offense comes directly from Coach. We’re all tied in this thing together.”

Jackson joined Marty Schottenheimer’s Redskins staff in 2001 as running backs coach, and he was one of two coaches (with special teams coach Mike Stock) to stay on when Schottenheimer was fired and Spurrier was hired in January 2002. At the end of the 2002 season, Spurrier shifted some of his attention to the team as a whole and gave Jackson the role of coordinator.

The NFL opportunities followed four years as Southern California’s offensive coordinator, including 1998 to 2000 under Paul Hackett, now the New York Jets’ coordinator. Before that, Jackson worked under Steve Mariucci in 1996 at California, a season he cites as the last time an offensive-minded coach had the trust to allow Jackson to run his offense.

“I’ve worked with a lot of good men, and there’s only been one other guy in a situation like this who turned over his offense, and that was Steve Mariucci,” Jackson said. “I give true credit to Coach. He didn’t have to do it. He didn’t have to say, ‘Hue, take the keys to my vehicle and go drive for awhile.’”

Of course, Sunday’s game plan was the result of a week of preparation by the entire offensive staff, and there clearly were different fundamentals to the scheme. Ramsey, who was sacked 26 times the first eight games, was asked to focus on short, quick completions and at times to roll out — a tactic he executed with mixed success, leading to one interception.

The strategy was designed with the expectation of Seattle blitzing frequently, as Buffalo and Dallas did in recent wins over Washington. But the Seahawks didn’t, and Ramsey was hit only three occasions. Yesterday he was fresh and energetic, happily describing his lack of injuries and how he was up at 6:30 a.m. to walk his dogs. And teammates were just as pleased to have protected him.

“I’ll tell you, it’s been hard on us,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “We’ve been taking a lot of heat from a lot of different people. For us to go out there and keep him clean pretty much the whole night, it was a good thing for us.”

The upcoming matchup will be far more difficult. Carolina has one of the NFL’s most respected front sevens, with ends Mike Rucker (NFL-high 11 sacks) and Julius Peppers (two sacks) leading the pass rush and a greater reputation for blitzing than Seattle. Jackson, however, said he actually wanted the Seahawks to come with more pressure.

“I wish they would have,” Jackson said. “I say that for the simple fact that everybody else has. At some point in time, we’re going to have to prove to someone that we can beat the blitz.”

That challenge seems manageable, though, with the dour mood at Redskin Park finally lifted for the first time since late September. No one was ready to proclaim the club back in playoff contention, but a functioning offense and a bit of momentum gave everyone a renewed sense of hope.

“There’s no feeling of ‘here we go,’” Jackson said soberly. “We know there’s a lot of work ahead. I know there’s a lot of work ahead. And I think our players understand that. That was just a step in getting the good feeling back.”

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