Marty fired, Spurrier hired

When Dan Snyder hired Marty Schottenheimer, he handed him all the power. A year later, Snyder wanted it back. He got it, but it cost him $7.5 million. But Snyder also got something he wanted: Steve Spurrier. Snyder fired Schottenheimer on Sunday, ending a week full of speculation, rumors and uncertainty.

Schottenheimer guided the Redskins to an 8-8 finish, after a disastrous 0-5 start. However, his reluctance to part with any of his power in the organization ultimately cost him his job. Snyder had wanted to hire a general manager.

''Our decision was a difficult one,'' Snyder said in a statement, ''and was based on philosophical management issues, not on coaching ability.'' In the statement, Snyder said the only change that was requested was control over final decisions in the event of a disagreement.

Then Snyder ended any suspense on who would replace Schottenheimer when he agreed to a deal with Spurrier. The former Florida coach signed a five-year, $25 million deal to succeed Schottenheimer.

Spurrier also has no problems with a powerful general manager, something Schottenheimer didn't want. Bobby Beathard, a general manager with Washington from 1978-88, and Ron Wolf, who built a Super Bowl champion in Green Bay, appear to be the leading contenders. Carolina had also pursued Spurrier and was considered a front-runner.

However, Spurrier told friends that he liked Washington because it had better talent. He also told them that he liked the Redskins' fan base, especially compared to Carolina's. In Spurrier, Washington gets a coach with pizazz who knows how to score points and irritate opponents. At Florida, he often referred to rival Florida State as Free Shoes University, mocking a scandal that hit the FSU program during 1994. And he ribbed Tennessee during the late 1990s, when the big SEC game of the season matched these teams. The SEC runner-up would earn a trip to the Citrus Bowl. Because Florida usually beat Tennesse, Spurrier chided the Vols, saying, ''You can't spell Citrus without U.T.'' Other coaches derisively dubbed him Coach Superior.

''Call me arrogant, cocky, crybaby whiner or whatever names you like,'' Spurrier said in an interview with The Miami Herald before an Orange Bowl win over Maryland. ''At least they're not calling [Florida] losers anymore. If people like you too much, it's probably because they're beating you.

''If you aren't a Gator and we're scoring a lot and I'm calling the plays, you aren't going to like me. Winners admire other winners, and losers resent winners.''

He's also not afraid to irk his own players. After a 16-10 win at Alabama in 1998, Spurrier said his team played ''like a bunch of losers.'' That might not sit well with professional players. And at least one Spurrier friend doesn't expect him to alter his ways. ''He's not capable of change,'' this friend said. ''When you've screwed up, he'll say you screwed up. He's always honest about his players. But it's never mean or malicious.''

Redskins free agent defensive lineman Kenard Lang said last week, ''He's one of them love 'em, hate 'em kind of guys. He wants to do things his way. If he wants to put some points on somebody and embarrass them, he's going to do it. He's not arrogant, but he's real, real, real confident.

''But he has to realize he has men he's coaching instead of little boys who were just leaving their mommy and daddy and have their little old pacifiers in their mouth.''

One former Gator now with Carolina, center Jeff Mitchell, isn't sure how Spurrier will do in the NFL. ''I think it might be tough,'' Mitchell told the Gainesville Sun. ''One of the things he does with quarterbacks is mold them, work with them right down to their throwing mechanics. I don't know if stuff like that would fly in the NFL. The other thing would be the way he likes to throw it 60 times a game. That is tough [to block for], trust me.''

Spurrier has spent the past 12 seasons coaching the Gators, leading them to one national title and six SEC titles, after winning none in the previous 83 years. He coached three seasons at Duke, where he went 20-13-1 and led the Blue Devils to its first ACC title since 1962.

As coach of the USFL's Florida Bandits, Spurrier went 35-19 in three seasons--and his team often drew more fans than the NFL's Buccaneers.

Spurrier rejected an overture from Snyder last year, but those close to Spurrier said it was because he simply wasn't ready to coach in the NFL.

But over the past year Spurrier said he started to wonder more about how his offense would work in the NFL. And he doesn't appear to be worried about working for the impatient Snyder, now on his fourth coach in 14 months. But sources close to Spurrier say he believes he's strong enough to deal with Snyder.

Plus, Spurrier isn't demanding total control over the football operation like Schottenheimer had. Spurrier has made it clear he wants a strong general manager, which is also what Snyder wants.

The Redskins aren't built for the type of passing game Spurrier fancies. His system has produced few NFL stars, but it has won lots of college games. Spurrier's passing attack is described as simple, but based on timing and precision.

''I've studied his offense a lot and picked up a few things from it,'' Florida State coach Bobby Bowden told the Orlando Sentinel last week. ''It's not that it's so complicated, but he is brilliant with the passing game. It's the timing, execution and rhythm of his offense that is so good. He's been successful at the professional level before and I think he would be successful wherever he is.''

For Schottenheimer, the end comes after a season in which he said he truly enjoyed coaching again. His season started rocky, with players grumbling about intense training camp workouts followed by an 0-5 start.

''If anyone would have said they liked Marty during that time, they would have been lying,'' one Redskins veteran said.

But that changed when the team started to win. Redskins receiver Kevin Lockett, who played for him in Kansas City, said Schottenheimer was more relaxed than he'd ever seen him.

And, by the end, most of the players wanted him back. One respected veteran said ''95 percent of the players'' wanted him back. They stressed stability and most felt they were close to being a strong team.

''It will mess our time frame up a bit if we bring in a different staff,'' Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said last week. ''But this is the NFL so you've got to adapt and adjust to the situation that presents itself.''

Among the two who didn't Schottenheimer back: end Bruce Smith and corner Darrell Green.

But, in the end, it was Schottenheimer's personnel decisions that cost him. Not his coaching. Team sources say Snyder wanted to be more involved, which is why he wanted to hire a general manager.

Snyder reportedly was upset by two moves: fullback Larry Centers release last spring and the inability to find a suitable backup to quarterback Jeff George until mid-August.

But Schottenheimer also brought in players such as guards Dave Szott and Ben Coleman and linebacker Robert Jones. He also drafted corner Fred Smoot in the second round and receiver Rod Gardner in the first round. Both had solid seasons with Smoot establishing himself as one of the game's top rookies.

The Redskins' defense, which finished 10th this past season, has a solid young nucleus in Arrington, Smoot and corner Champ Bailey. Offensively, the Redskins have major decisions to make at quarterback, wide receiver and in the interior of the line.

Schottenheimer could not be immediately reached for comment.

Like Schottenheimer did last year, Spurrier is expected to go with familiar names when choosing assistants, opting for several who worked for him at Florida: Jim Collins, Lawson Holland, John Hunt, Noah Brindise and Ricky Hunley. Brindise declined a chance to stay at Florida so he could stay with Spurrier.

This story also appeared in The Journal Newspapers. John Keim has covered the Redskins for The Journal for eight seasons. To read more of his work in The Journal, log onto www.jrnl.com.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories