- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

So long, Ball Coach. It hasn’t been a ball — not nearly.

No longer is it necessary for Redskins fans to worry about the rest of the regular season or the NFC playoffs. Instead, spend Sunday afternoons raking leaves, installing storm windows or doing quality time with your significant other. There must be something, anything, better to do than watching the Little Team That Couldn’t.

For those who regard the local sports scene as Redskins Uber Alles, the only game that matters now is guessing when hapless Steve Spurrier will become eligible for the Redskins Alumni Association.

Will he quit or be fired by impetuous Dan Snyder before this miserable season slinks to a close Dec.27? Will he depart soon after, perhaps by unmutual consent?

I dunno, but you can bet somebody else will be “in charge” — with Snyder’s employees, the quotation marks are always necessary — before the last Christmas tree has been picked up.

In fact, I’m surprised Danny Boy didn’t swing his ax after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, when Spurrier was quoted as saying, “I’m not going to get on my players anymore this season. We are what we are.”

That’s what Snyder is getting for his $25million — a coach who doesn’t intend to boot backsides from now until New Year’s? Unbelievable!

Coaches never deserve as much credit or blame as they get, but the Redskins’ last four nonperformances seem to indicate that Spurrier is in over his head. Look at him on the sideline, with his grimaces and rueful half-grins. His expressions seem to reflect one basic fact, that he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Appearances can be deceiving, of course, but in this case I don’t think so.

Did you notice Bill Parcells’ contrasting demeanor during Sunday’s game? The Tuna stood there calmly for the most part, occasionally encouraging his troops and acting like a man in complete control. Which he undoubtedly was.

Spurrier is hardly the first, nor perhaps the 100th, highly successful college coach to stumble in the NFL. One prime example comes to mind: Bud Wilkinson, who built a dynasty at Oklahoma but later became just another latest failure at trying to turn the Cardinals into winners. Some guys just don’t know when they’re well off.

Yet, another renowned college coach, Jimmy Johnson, made the transition so well that he won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys. You just never know.

Spurrier undoubtedly will return to a campus and weave the same kind of magic he did at Florida. And, hey, wouldn’t it be neat if Bobby Bowden finally stepped down at Florida State and the hated Steve Superior took over in Tallahassee? As changes go in sports, that would be the most dramatic since Leo Durocher switched from the Dodgers to the Giants in 1948.

OK, so the idea is ludicrous — I can dream, can’t I?

As a Redskins watcher for more than half a century, I’ve seen coaches come and go. When it comes to firing ‘em, Snyder has the patience of Job compared with team founder George Preston Marshall, who changed coaches the way most men changed underwear. After 1 seasons, Spurrier’s record of 10-14 ranks him right down there with the team’s loudest losers in its wildly inconsistent 77 seasons in Washington.

And how’s this for a number to boggle your brain: Spurrier’s non-winning percentage of .417 is worse than Norv Turner’s .455 (on a 50-60-1 record)?

Spurrier’s arrival at Redskin Park 22 months ago created more excitement than that of any Redskins coach since St. Vincent Lombardi descended 32 years earlier. The Lombardi story ended tragically after one season with his death from colon cancer, but during that season he improved the team from 6-8 to 7-5-2.

All Spurrier has done is take the Redskins backward. He deserves a chance to resign. If he doesn’t, he should be fired. Dan Snyder is not customarily a sympathetic figure, but in this case it’s proper to feel for him. Considering the results, or lack thereof, he could have kept Terry Robiskie.

Spurrier’s assistants can pack their bags, too. A particular culprit is Kim Helton, who coaches the (very) offensive line. Despite the presence of players like Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, it might not be able to hold off, say, a junior high school defensive rush. One of these days, poor Patrick Ramsey isn’t going to get up from one of those sacks.

You remember the Hogs? These guys are the Piglets.

But not to worry. After all, Spurrier is an offensive genius, right?

That makes it even more distressing that Spurrier is ready to take his place among such undistinguished Redskins coaching alumni as Herman Ball (4-16, 1949-51), Mike Nixon (4-18- 2, 1959-60), Bill McPeak (21-46-3, 1961-65), Otto Graham (17-22-3, 1966-68) and Richie Petitbon (4-12, 1993).

Who woulda thunk it?

So long, Ball Coach.


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