SPOTLIGHT ON SPURRIER

<B>Spurrier vs. Mariucci</B> It's the grudge match of the century with some spilling of bad blood virtually guaranteed. Several weeks back, humiliation followed by angry words, followed by threats to get even. No apology offered, none accepted in the intervening time. Surely, some ugliness is about to unfold. Or, well, maybe not.

The whole thing started when Spurrier's Redskins beat Mariucci's 49ers 38-7 in the preseason opener in Osaka Japan. Spurrier went against the conventional NFL thinking by playing some of his starters in the second half and by being aggressive in his play calling late in the game. In the fourth quarter Spurrier had the Redskins go for it on fourth down at the San Francisco 31. The result was a touchdown pass from Danny Wuerffel to Derrius Thompson. That and a final Wuerffel touchdown pass to Darnerien McCants seemed to rankle Mariucci.

There were reports of Mariucci angrily saying, "We'll see you in seven weeks," to members of the Washington coaching staff, referring to this Sunday's game in San Francisco. During the following week, he did nothing to refute the notion that his comment was a thinly-veiled threat.

Now, Mooch is backing off. He stopped short of saying that he was shocked, shocked to find that his remarks were interpreted as a laying down of the gauntlet, but not too far short. Mariucci says that he was talking to one of his former assistants at Cal, Hue Jackson, the Redskins' running backs coach.

``I said something like, `See ya in a few weeks,' and I said it cordially,'' Mariucci said Monday. ``Somebody must have been eavesdropping on our conversation, and you saw what was written. It was in headlines the next day, and every network and newspaper picked it up, and without anybody asking me if that was what I said or who did I say that to.''

For his part, the Ballcoach has not said anything this week about the Osaka game. In the week following the game Spurrier defended his play calling, saying that he had to see what his second- and third-team skill players could do. He added that it's not his responsibility to stop his team from scoring; that is up to the other team's coaching staff

Perhaps Mariucci has realized that there was some merit to what Spurrier said and that it was, after all, just an exhibition game. Or maybe he's still steaming at the Redskins and has decided to sugar coat it so as not to provide any bulletin-board material.

The guess here is that the former scenario is more likely. However, if the Niners are up big against the Redskins in the late going and have a shot at a field goal, as the Eagles did on Monday night, it's unlikely that Mariucci will follow Andy Reid's lead and forgo the opportunity to tack a few more points on the Ballcoach.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. To learn more about this unique book about the history of the Redskins, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com


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