- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2004

The $5 million-per-year “ball coach” took his pigskin and went home — to his beloved golf courses in Florida. Appropriately, it was from the links in the Sunshine State that Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, in a sea of confusing and contradictory statements, finally confirmed Tuesday that he had in fact tendered his resignation. His replacement will become the fifth head coach in the stormy five-year tenure of Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the last four seasons of which the team has failed to make the postseason playoffs. Most telling of all, perhaps, is the disastrous 2-10 record compiled in the National Football Conference East during the last two years. While the Redskins’ earnings before interest and taxes are estimated to be $70 million this year, the team’s 5-11 record in 2003 qualified as the franchise’s worst performance during the Snyder era.

Spurrier arrived in Washington before the 2002 season brimming with self confidence. His supporters argued that the “ball coach’s” unrivaled self-assurance was a natural byproduct of his 122 victories in 12 seasons at the University of Florida, including a national title. The Fun ‘n’ Gun offense, which wreaked havoc throughout the collegiate defenses that his Florida teams routinely destroyed, would revolutionize the National Football League, his admirers, including this page, fervently hoped upon his arrival. But the Fun ‘n’ Gun sputtered.

Even by the abysmal standards of recent Washington-area professional teams, the descents during the Spurrier regime were steep. The “ball coach” peaked twice: first, during the 2002 pre-season, when the team finished 4-1 after scoring a record 164 points; then, at the beginning of the 2003 regular season, when it compiled a 3-1 record. The 2002 team eventually finished 7-9, which was all the more disappointing considering that Marty Schottenheimer’s 2001 team won eight of its last 11 games. This year, following the 3-1 debut, the team collapsed, losing 10 of its last 12 games. Two years after the heralded arrival of Fun ‘n’ Gun, the Redskins’ offense finished 23rd in the 32-team league. Its average of 17.9 points per game was the fifth worst in the league. After ranking fifth in the league in 2002, the Redskins’ defense tumbled to 25th in 2003. With Spurrier’s departure, the Redskins now face the prospect of hiring their sixth defensive coordinator during the Snyder era.

After Fun ‘n’ Gun’s inauspicious 2002 debut, the early 2003 release of running back Stephen Davis, the only Washington back to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, seemed to be a mistake. Sure enough, Davis went on to rush for nearly 1,500 yards this year for the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers, while the Redskins’ top back managed 600 yards on the ground.

As an article by Mark Zuckerman of The Washington Times noted Wednesday, the five-season tenure of Dan Snyder has — so far and still counting — produced four head coaches, five personnel directors, five defensive coordinators, four offensive coordinators and one winning season. Clearly, notwithstanding the record-setting standard of Spurrier’s salary, the team’s problems can be traced to a level above the pay grade of the “ball coach.”

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