Spotlight on Spurrier - Seattle

StevieBall?<br> Who was that guy on the Redskins sidelines yesterday? Yeah, the head coach who was playing it close to the vest, playing not to lose and letting his defense win the game? George Allen? Marty Schottenheimer?

No, it was the Ballcoach himself.

Steve Spurrier's new, right-of-center philosophy was on display early. The Redskins took the opening kickoff and drove smartly to the Seattle 34, where they faced fourth and five. Spurrier had three options:

--Go for the first down. He had done this in similar situations, and even more challenging ones, earlier in the year with some success.

--Try a 51-yard field goal. James Tuthill is one of one from that range and it would be a great boost to grab a lead on the road.

--The third, and, one would think, the least likely option was to punt. That's exactly what Spurrier did. Bryan Barker did his job and plopped the punt at the three and the first blow of the battle of defense and field position was struck.

Seattle went three and out and punted to their own 41. The Redskins drove for a touchdown. Somewhere, Allen was smiling.

For the third straight week—and the second straight victorious week—the Redskins called about as many runs as passes. No attempts at fourth-down conversions, not passes in inches-to-go situations.

In contrast, opposing coach Mike Holmgren looked like the Mad Professor, with an emphasis on the mad. Seattle had 17 seconds left in the first half, fourth and goal outside the two, trailing by eleven. Do the math; a field goal puts Seattle within a touchdown and an extra point. The Redskins hadn't done much offensively since scoring to make it 14-3 early in the second quarter. With the score the same with 2:41 left to play, Holmgren decided to go for it on fourth and four at the Washington 15, despite the fact that the Seahawks had all three of their time outs left. On both of the fourth-down plays, the Redskins sacked Matt Hasselbeck to take possession.

Did someone kidnap Spurrier and Holmgren and switch their brains, with SOS assuming the mindset of the old-school, take-no-chances NFL establishment coach while The Walrus suddenly became the riverboat gambler who didn't know any better?

Well, if there was some kind of diabolical plot at work, the effects had worn off by the time Spurrier had his Monday afternoon press conference. He did not like the mediocre offensive output.

``We weren't real good throwing and catching,'' Spurrier said Monday. ``It's disappointing because we threw the ball better the first preseason game in Osaka. It's just not working real well right now, but we'll keep practicing with our guys and try to get it going. I don't have any real answers.''

Although quarterback Shane Matthews reflected the view of many players in saying that "a win is a win," Spurrier indicated that there is work to do.

``I believe you try to play the best you can every time out, and even though you win the game, you don't sit around and pat yourself on the back for a very average performance,'' he said. ``To me, that's what coaching is all about - trying to get the most out of your players every game and try to improve as you go through the season.''

While some may complain that Spurrier still is living in the days when his teams had to pile up big wins to impress the pollsters, his approach makes sense. Fourteen points might be enough to beat the Seahawks of the league, especially when they have a coach bent on self destruction, but such offensive output won't beat the better teams in the league, let alone the elites.

``We feel fortunate to be .500,'' Spurrier said. ``I think the talent's here to certainly win more than we lose, and we'll certainly have an opportunity to do that as we go down the stretch.''

Certainly, they will have that opportunity as the remaining schedule includes just one 2001 playoff participant, the Philadelphia Eagles, which also is the only team left on the slate that currently sports a winning record.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. To find out more about this unique book, which chronicles every game the Washington Redskins have ever played, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com


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