Balance needed, again

A player wandered over to a friend outside the locker room and, when asked how he was doing, the player said, ''I'll be better when he mixes it up a little bit.'' In other words, when Steve Spurrier starts calling a more balanced attack.

Early in the season, I criticized Spurrier for failing to run the ball more. But he appeared to learn his lesson, thanks to losses against Philadelphia, San Francisco and New Orleans. He had started to learn that, to win in the NFL, you must use your talent the right way. And, for three games, Spurrier had done that.

Maybe he had turned a corner.

But we knew better. All week before Sunday's 26-7 loss to Jacksonville, Spurrier squirmed whenever his offense was discussed. He poked fun at it, saying they only ran draws and off-tackle runs when asked if receiver Kevin Lockett might help Jacksonville with his knowledge of the passing game.

Spurrier just couldn't stop himself. He had to throw, and he called for 54 passes to 15 runs--against a team that ranked 26th against the run and lost starting defensive tackle John Henderson in the first quarter to a concussion.

It's what he knows best. But coaches are supposed to put their players in position to win games. I've seen bad game plans before, but, in my nine seasons, I'm not sure I've seen a worse unraveling of a game plan than Sunday's debacle.

Spurrier latched onto the pass and never let go. Jacksonville knew this and, frankly, couldn't believe it.

''That's Spurrier,'' Jaguars corner Fernando Bryant said. ''I was a little surprised [the Redskins stopped running] because of the way they won [two straight] with a good running game.''

The Jaguars adjusted by playing cover two zones and sticking their linebackers much closer to the line of scrimmage, enabling them to stop the run with ease. That is, if the Redskins ever ran.

To win in the NFL, coaches must adjust. Spurrier didn't come to the NFL to see if he could win. He came to see if his system could win. The answer to that is no. Not without better talent. But could Spurrier win now? Yes, but not without a better game plan. And a lot of patience.

The players know what must be done. One offensive player asked how many times they ran the ball afterward, then, after he was told, mouthed a couple words in shock to a teammate. The players believe in Spurrier. They know his track record and are confident he'll succeed. At some point, though, he must show he's committed to winning, and not just proving that his system can work.


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