Spurrier's Act Grows Old

Judging from his hasty exit after two terrible seasons as head coach of the Washington Redskins and the jabs he took at Tennessee's football program last week, Steve Spurrier has more audacity than tenacity.

Spurrier sought to deflect negative attention from South Carolina and the dismissal of seven players since he has taken over from Lou Holtz by saying it didn't compare to the problems Tennessee was experiencing.

"If you want to read about some full-blown fights, read about the Tennessee players, not our guys," Spurrier told reporters. "We've not had any knockdown, drag-out fights amongst our players.''

Whether there is any merit to Spurrier's comparison for fighting is debatable. The Gamecocks did engage in an all out brawl following their game against Clemson to end the 2004 campaign that resulted in the loss of a bowl appearance as punishment. It was a black eye for all of college football and six S.C. players were suspended for one game of the 2005 campaign.

True, Spurrier wasn't the head coach then but the players are the same and the problems continued into off the field after the season. And the problems weren't limited to fighting. In January, six players were charged with burglary after a total of $18,000 worth of computer and video equipment and framed photographs were taken from South Carolina's stadium. Defensive end Moe Thompson and tackle Kevin Mainord were later charged with a campus burglary which was followed by the dismissal of running back Demetris Summers for violation of the team's drug policy. So the problems at South Carolina are plenty serious, which makes his swipe at Tennessee seem all the more self-serving and mean spirited.

That's pretty much par for the course of Spurrier's life. The only thing he enjoys more than playing antagonist is playing golf. His lack of work ethic is almost as well publicized as his so-called "genius" as a gridiron strategist.

The matter of his genius is more debatable than his reputation for being less than a dedicated worker. No less authority than Spurrier's wife Jeri affirmed that fact while she was his girlfriend at Florida. "If Steve wasn't playing sports, he was "playing around." Little wonder he ended up making Cs as a physical education major.

Spurrier's reputation as a premiere party animal who didn't take academics or physical training seriously followed him into the NFL even after a highly successful college career in which he was twice named all-American and was the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner.

NFL talent evaluators, thought there was something "missing." Some questioned his attitude. He often appeared cocky and aloof. His mechanics raised eyebrows, too. Steve delivered the ball from every angle, except over the top, and his release was extremely slow.

The suspicions of NFL scouts proved correct as Spurrier, although a first round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers did little to distinguish himself in a 10-year career spent mostly as a backup. To appreciate just how miserable a failure Spurrier was consider his career stats. He appeared in a total of 106 games (most as a punter) and completed 597 passes in 1151 attempts (51.9 percent). He averaged six yards per completion and threw for 40 TDs in 10 years vs. 60 interceptions. He wasn't much better as a punter, averaging a pedestrian 38.7 yards per punt.

Looking at that pathetic production, it's amazing Spurrier had the gall to poke fun at Peyton Manning when he was the starting quarterback was at Tennessee. Manning had 10 more touchdowns last season alone than Spurrier had in his entire NFL career. By the way, Spurrier also has the dubious distinction of being the only NFL QB to go 0-14 as a starter.

No one can deny his success as a college head coach, but that had more to do with talent than it did with some sort of perceived genius. He was twice fired as an assistant coach in college and was cut twice as an NFL player before he took the hint and retired.

What is certain is that Spurrier couldn't match wits with NFL assistants who regularly had his number. Washington struggled to a 12-20 mark over two seasons despite having one of the great defensive minds in Marvin Lewis as his coordinator. In those 32 games the Redskins signal callers tossed a paltry 26 TDs.

NFL coaches are still laughing about Spurrier's offense and use it as the measuring stick for ineptitude. Most humorous was his game of musical QBs with Florida retreads Danny Wuerffel and Steve Matthews and his attempt to justify it.

"I thought it just might change something up," Spurrier said in his halting southern drawl. "I thought we'd give [Wuerffel] a chance. . . . It's the whole team. Let's don't put it all on the quarterbacks. Our offensive line wasn't super. . . . There were a lot of disappointing plays up front. . . . We didn't play real super and they played pretty good, I guess."

Obviously, the quality of genius is strained. For sure, it's not what Daniel Synder expected when he signed Spurrier to a five-year, $25 million contract.

"Steve Spurrier will bring a supercharged, exciting and dynamic brand of football to our great fans," Snyder said at the press conference announcing Spurrier's signing. "His ability to energize players and teams is unprecedented. The Redskins deserve to be back at the Super Bowl and I am immensely confident that Steve is the coach to get us there."

The truth is that Spurrier was never particularly popular with his players and the only thing he supercharged were the D.C. boo birds who heckled his every mishap.

In the last five years Spurrier has had three jobs and sat out another season altogether. On Wednesday, he'll turn 60 years old making him the oldest head coach in the conference and closer to social security eligibility than to his last winning season. Some men become wise with age and mellow over the years. Steve Spurrier seems content to remain a jerk.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories