Spotlight on Spurrier

Steve Spurrier didn't have to look at the films or confer with his assistant coaches. He didn't have closed-door meetings with Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, agonize over his decision for a couple of days and then have a grand press conference to announce who would be starting at quarterback for the Redskins to open the regular season.

Seconds after the exhibition finale against New England, Spurrier had made up his mind and wasn't going to hold back. In response to a question as he came off the field, he said, "I think we're going to go ahead and let Shane start the first game."

And that was that.

Going into the game the general view was that the job was Wuerffel's to lose. He lost it. "Danny really struggled tonight," the Ballcoach said, and that was an understatement.

Wuerffel went seven for 13 for 58 yards. He was sacked five times, some because he held the ball too long, some because the offensive line struggled, particularly rookie left tackle Reggie Coleman. The ball popped loose during three of those sacks, and it was fortunate that Redskin lineman fell on all three of the fumbles.

The inability to put a good drive together, combined with New England's ball control offense, did not make for very many opportunities for creative play calling. During the second quarter, while the Patriots were scoring 21 unanswered points, Washington went three and out on three straight possessions.

Spurrier was visibly struggling to find something that would work on offense. At one point during the second period he was on the sideline on one knee, flipping the laminated card that has the plays on it over and over as if looking for something that might work. A few minutes later he had donned his reading glasses and was looking the play card over with an assistant coach, as if the answer might be there but the Ballcoach couldn't see it. Finally, shortly after that, Spurrier threw the card onto the ground in disgust, perhaps realizing that it didn't matter what he called if there was no blocking and his quarterback couldn't hold on to the ball.

At the half, Spurrier said, "I did a lousy job."

It's amazing how a hot quarterback can make a coach look much better. Matthews came in and went four for four, alternating between dumpoffs to backs and mid-range patterns to move quickly to the Patriot 20. Matthews went cold at that moment, throwing an ugly interception to end the drive.

That would be the only pass that Matthews didn't complete. He went four for four during an 84-yard drive to the Redskins' first score. The TD came on a nice pass to Darniern McCants, who had a couple of steps on his defender.

That would be it for Matthews as Spurrier inserted Patrick Ramsey at signal caller in the fourth quarter. The rookie threw a touchdown pass to Chris Doering with a little over two minutes to go.

All that was left was for Spurrier to announce his starting quarterback.

Wuerffel expressed his disappointment, but did not at all dispute the decision.

Matthews, familiar with Spurrier's penchant for pulling quarterbacks with the slightest provocation, treated his ascension to the starting job more as an interim appointment than a coronation saying, "The way Coach Spurrier is with quarterbacks, I could be out of there after the first series against Arizona."


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