- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Fun ‘n’ Gun has come under attack before, Steve Spurrier insisted. Back in 1999, when he was still coaching at the University of Florida, Spurrier heard all kinds of criticism from those who didn’t think his intricate offense was working with its two-headed quarterback of Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer.

“We were in a little slump there,” Spurrier recalled yesterday, “and everybody wrote that everybody’s got this offense down now.”

Florida’s record at the time was 9-1. The Gators’ offense was ranked 13th in the nation. In those parts, that qualified as a slump.

Spurrier would kill for his Washington Redskins to be in the same predicament right now. With a 3-5 record and the NFL’s 22nd-ranked offense, the Ball Coach’s vaunted system is struggling to produce like never before.

And in the wake of Sunday’s 21-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Washington’s fourth straight defeat, plenty of people are wondering whether the Fun ‘n’ Gun ever will be successful in the NFL.

Has the entire league figured out Spurrier’s offense?

“Certainly it appears they do,” the coach said. “It certainly appears that they can blitz guys and we can’t block them. It appears they can rush four guys sometimes and we have trouble blocking them. We’re struggling a little bit right now. Do we need to make some adjustments? Sure, we’ve got to make some adjustments here and there. Early in the year, we were moving the ball a lot better. But these last two games, the blitzes and the hits on the quarterbacks are something we’ve really got to concern ourselves with.”

Perhaps most disturbing to Spurrier supporters is the fact that the Redskins knew what to expect out of the Cowboys on Sunday. They had two full weeks to prepare for it, and they still came up flat.

Washington had a scant 124 net passing yards against Dallas, and most of those came late in the fourth quarter, with the game already well out of hand. At halftime, the Redskins had minus-11 net yards through the air.

The problem? The Cowboys frequently blitzed multiple linebackers and safeties, overwhelming Washington’s much-maligned offensive line and forcing quarterback Patrick Ramsey into premature, poorly executed passes.

When Ramsey did decide to hold on to the ball for a few more seconds to buy time, he was routinely pelted into the artificial turf at Texas Stadium, getting sacked four times and getting hit countless more.

Afterward, the second-year quarterback admitted he knows exactly what defenses are doing “They’re blitzing, and we’re not beating it” but sounded helpless when trying to figure out how to overcome it.

“Until we beat it, they’re going to do it,” he said.

The Redskins spent a good portion of their bye week working out the kinks in their pass protection schemes. They even called in former offensive line coaching great Joe Bugel for a day to analyze tapes and offer recommendations.

Whatever plan Washington came up with to combat the problem failed miserably. The four sacks surrendered Sunday brought the Redskins’ season total to 29, most in the NFL.

The Cowboys clearly went after Ramsey from the get-go, at times sending as many as eight defenders to rush the quarterback.

“They brought a whole lot of guys, more than all the other teams we’ve played,” tackle Chris Samuels said. “They brought everything but the kitchen sink.”

Washington had no answer for the onslaught.

“Those guys schemed the [heck] out of us,” guard Randy Thomas said.

Easily overlooked among all the passing foibles was that the Redskins actually ran the ball with a high level of success against the league’s top-ranked defense. Despite playing without its two top tailbacks, Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts, Washington averaged 5.6 yards a carry.

The problem? Spurrier called only 16 running plays compared to 33 passes. Some of that was attributable to the second-half deficit the Redskins faced, but even Spurrier admitted yesterday “in hindsight, we should have run more.”

Despite all the call for changes in recent weeks, Spurrier remains defiantly true to the Fun ‘n’ Gun. Asked yesterday whether all a defensive coordinator needs to do to stop the offense is regularly call for all-out blitzes, Spurrier retorted, “I’ve been coaching 20 years. That’s not the first time we’ve seen blitzes.”

Spurrier maintains that if executed properly, the Fun ‘n’ Gun is designed to produce plays like the 19-yard touchdown from Ramsey to rookie Taylor Jacobs that cut Dallas’ lead to 21-14 late in the fourth quarter. On the play, the Cowboys blitzed heavily, but the Redskins’ blockers picked it up and gave Ramsey enough time to find Jacobs down the field in man-to-man coverage.

“You can go back there and try to throw it quickly, or you can try to go back and do what we did to Taylor Jacobs. It’s as simple as that,” Spurrier said. “But you’ve got to block them. If you want to throw it a little bit downfield, you’ve got to block them.”

Though Spurrier said he is open to making changes, neither he nor anyone else associated with the Redskins offense seemed to have any concrete ideas yesterday to reverse the downward trend.

And with future opponents sure to study and mimic Dallas’ plan of attack from Sunday’s game, Washington could find itself in a never-ending cycle the rest of the season.

“Any time something like that happens, other teams are going to watch films and try to do the same things,” Samuels said.

Added Thomas: “If we’re not going to find a way to stop it, they’re going to keep doing it.”


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