- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Despite their best efforts to turn their attention to Sunday’s game against Seattle, the Washington Redskins can’t escape the ever-present questions about their four-game losing streak and the future of coach Steve Spurrier.

Yesterday, for the first time, Spurrier’s frustration with the subject spilled out. Asked yet again whether he plans to stay in Washington beyond this season, the Ball Coach turned sour.

“You know, I’ve answered that how many times? Let’s talk about Seattle,” he said. “You know, we’re not the only team in the league that’s 3-5. We’re struggling a little bit, and we’re going to try to get better. Let’s just worry about the Seattle game. I’m tired of it. You ask that every week. I’ve got the same answer every week.”

Spurrier has maintained all along that he intends to complete at least the first three seasons of his five-year, $25million contract. With 1 seasons under his belt, his future is being questioned by observers nationwide.

In addition to the daily criticisms from local reporters, the Redskins are hammered by national media outlets. The abuse reaches new heights every day, with the latest bashing coming from a New York Post gossip column, of all places.

In yesterday’s editions of the Post, Page Six columnist Cindy Adams claimed that Washington owner Dan Snyder “has already definitely even as we speak offered [Spurriers] job to another person,” adding that a former coach said, “If he didn’t have such a good contract, he’d have been fired already!”

Professional athletes are used to being criticized by sports media outlets, whether in the local paper or on ESPN. But rarely does the bashing transcend the sports page and join the Ben-and-Jennifer drivel of the gossip column — and certainly not in a paper from another city.

“That’s expected,” Spurrier said of the national beating his team is taking. “When it goes bad, I’m probably an easy target. I don’t listen to many of them, I don’t read many newspapers. Hopefully, it’s not affecting me — that’s about all I can say. … Gossip could be true, it could be wrong, who knows?”

Try as they might to ignore the rumors and criticisms and focus on football, the Redskins can’t escape the spotlight.

Some thought the bashing had peaked two weeks ago following the 24-7 loss at Buffalo when Spurrier questioned his players’ effort. Others thought it would be over after the tumultuous bye week. And certainly everyone figured the story had run its course after last Sunday’s 21-14 loss to Dallas, with Washington’s players seemingly conceding the 2003 season as a lost cause.

Instead, the Redskins continue to be a national punchline, and that’s not sitting well.

“I hate it to death,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “The Bengals have the same record we have, but everyone says they’re turning things around. I hate it. I don’t want to become a franchise like that.”

For what it’s worth, all the abuse seems to be bringing Washington’s players closer. One of the most common sentiments expressed in recent weeks has been, “We’re all we’ve got.”

“We’ve got guys with a lot of heart and great character,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “That makes it easier. Guys aren’t going to turn their backs on each other. They’re going to keep fighting and hopefully use this losing streak to get closer to each other. That’s all you can do.”

There was discussion of a players-only meeting earlier this week, but as of yesterday evening, no such gathering had been called.

“Maybe it’ll get done, or maybe most people won’t feel it’s necessary,” Bailey said. “It’s got to be mutual agreement. If you’ve got people that don’t want to go, then there’s no reason to do it.”

Despite the growing evidence of Spurrier losing his players, many Redskins insist they still have confidence in the coaching staff and believe in the offensive and defensive systems in place.

“We started out [3-1] for a reason,” safety Matt Bowen said. “We started out well because of good coaching and good players. And we can still finish well because of good coaching and good players. There’s a lot of talented teams in the league that don’t finish as well as they should, and we don’t want to be one of those teams. We have a lot of talent, and we want to finish strong.”

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