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4 Washington Redskins New coach Steve Spurrier is sure to be the most-watched rookie in the NFL this season

Sept. 02, 2002
Sept. 02, 2002

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Sept. 2, 2002

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4 Washington Redskins New coach Steve Spurrier is sure to be the most-watched rookie in the NFL this season

So what kind of "ball plays" will we see out of Steve Spurrier
this fall when he tries to conquer the only football world left
for him to overrun? Consider that one day during training camp
he summoned cornerback Champ Bailey to the offensive huddle,
pointed to the right flank and said, "Line up over there as a
wide receiver, and run a reverse. We're going to flip it to
[running back] Stephen Davis. He'll flip it to you. You run
around left end. O.K.?" No preparation, no script. Just run the
play as though you were on the playground.

This is an article from the Sept. 2, 2002 issue

"This game is not that complicated," Spurrier says, and he
really means it. That's why in his rookie NFL season, the former
Florida coach will likely throw more changeups at unsuspecting
defenses than he ever threw in college. He'll spring a few
surprises, such as putting a fast defensive player like Bailey
in on offense. And he'll attack downfield as no other team
except St. Louis does. "We've looked quite a bit at the Rams,"
Spurrier says, "and I've found some new little ball plays. I
like what [St. Louis coach] Mike Martz does."

Says Redskins quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who helped Spurrier
win a national championship at Florida, "If we're playing a team
with a strong middle linebacker, he will use plays to try to
make that middle linebacker run around like a free safety.
People might be surprised that he won't go in with one game plan
each week. He'll try to neutralize the best players on the other
side. His offense is always evolving."

When SI asked veteran football people around the league to name
the biggest adjustment Spurrier would have to make in the pros,
two answers stood out: curbing his ego and realizing the
complexity of NFL defenses.

"There's no question about it," says Denver coach Mike Shanahan.
"When you win at Duke and when you win at the rate that he did
at Florida, you're something special. You can coach anywhere.
There won't be a big difference between coaching offense at
Florida and coaching offense at Washington. The big difference
is that sometimes you have to rein in your ego. You have to
learn to win 17-10 or 13-9, and enjoy it. One thing I've learned
in this league is that it's not an entertainment game, it's a
winning game."

Martz, who knows a thing or two about winning with a wide-open
offense in the NFL, says, "The thing that's as important as the
receivers' running great routes and being great athletes is the
quarterback's protection. That's what we work on harder than
anything--keeping rushers off Kurt Warner. You might not notice
that from watching us make big plays, but believe me, it's a lot
harder perfecting that than it is running the routes. Spurrier's
linemen and his backs are going to have to really elevate their
games."

It seems that everyone except Spurrier is worried about the
Redskins' inexperienced quarterbacks. As camp broke, Wuerffel
was leading the race to be the starter, even though four other
teams had tossed him aside in the last three years, citing poor
arm strength and lead feet. Was the rest of the league wrong
about him? "I watched Danny play for four years at Florida,"
Spurrier says, talking down his nose to the media, "and he won
every year, and he became the highest-rated quarterback in the
history of college football. Unless someone has passed him, I
figure he still is. Everyone mentions his arm strength. From
what I see, his passes seem to get there."

"When Coach Spurrier got this job," says Wuerffel, "I was happy
for him, for the challenge, and for the NFL because everyone
will love his brand of football. And I was happy for me because
I thought if I could get here somehow, I'd have a chance to
compete."

The league awaits the results of Spurrierball. As Giants
co-owner Wellington Mara says, "He seems like a very smart
person. I think he'll adjust to our game--or he'll make us
adjust to his." --P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES Wuerffel hasn't thrown a pass in the NFL since 1999, but Spurrier's still sold on him.COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS TROTTER

NEW TWIST

When the Redskins imported free-agent Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie
Armstead to play over the tight end, the move freed LaVar
Arrington to be more of a pass-rushing threat than he was last
year, when he had only half a sack. Look for new defensive
coordinator Marvin Lewis to cut Arrington loose on passing downs
early and often.

ENEMY LINES an opposing team's scout sizes up the Redskins

"Shane Matthews can throw it downfield better than Danny
Wuerffel, but it's obvious that Steve Spurrier wants Wuerffel to
play. After Coach Visor had Wuerffel with the first-team
offensive line in the second half of the first preseason game,
the fix was in.... Stephen Davis will never be a great back
because he puts the ball on the ground too much, but he gets an
extra yard between the tackles all the time.... I love their
tackles, Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, but their guards and
center could kill them. I see strong defensive tackles
collapsing their pocket easily.... Rod Gardner needs to be
tougher, but a 6'2" receiver who can run, in Spurrier's system?
He'll be a big star.... They'll regret signing defensive tackle
Daryl Gardener because of his attitude and his bad back.... I
don't know how they couldn't find the money to keep Kenard Lang
or Marco Coleman, especially when their defense really needs a
good end. They can't count on Bruce Smith to be anywhere near an
every-down end anymore.... The linebacker group will be great if
Jessie Armstead and Jeremiah Trotter stay healthy. Armstead
seems as if he's starting to hit the wall.... Safety Sam Shade
is better than I thought, aggressive and a good man cover guy.
One knock on corner Champ Bailey: You can get him to gamble too
much because he's so desperate to make plays."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 8 ARIZONA
16 PHILADELPHIA (Mon.)
22 at San Francisco
29 Open date
Oct. 6 at Tennessee
13 NEW ORLEANS
20 at Green Bay
27 INDIANAPOLIS
Nov. 3 at Seattle
10 at Jacksonville
17 at N.Y. Giants
24 ST. LOUIS
28 at Dallas (Thurs.)
Dec. 8 N.Y. GIANTS
15 at Philadelphia
22 HOUSTON
29 DALLAS

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 9
Opponents' 2001 winning percentage: .525
Games against playoff teams: 5

Projected Lineup with 2001 statistics

COACH: Steve Spurrier; first season with Washington (0-0 in NFL)
2001 RECORD: 8-8 (second in NFC East)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 8/30/28; defense 20/6/10

OFFENSIVE BACKS PVR*

QB Danny Wuerffel 79
48 att. 22 comp. 45.8% 191 yds. 0 TDs 3 int. 30.8 rtg.

RB Stephen Davis 38
356 att. 1,432 yds. 4.0 avg. 28 rec. 205 yds. 7.3 avg. 5 TDs

RB Ladell Betts (R) 242
222 att. 1,060 yds. 4.8 avg. 15 rec. 137 yds. 9.1 avg. 11 TDs

FB Bryan Johnson 321
0 att. 0 yds. no avg. 9 rec. 129 yds. 14.3 avg. 0 TDs

RECEIVERS, SPECIALISTS, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

[PVR*]

WR Rod Gardner 48 46 rec. 741 yds. 4 TDs
WR Jacquez Green [N] 142 36 rec. 402 yds. 1 TD
WR Chris Doehring [N,1] 219 3 rec. 22 yds. 0 TDs
TE Walter Rasby 197 10 rec. 128 yds. 2 TDs
K Brett Conway 223 22/22 XPs 26/33 FGs 100 pts.
PR Kevin Lockett 221 5 ret. 2.8 avg. 0 TDs
KR Robert Gillespie (R)[N] 410 2 ret. 31.0 avg. 0 TDs

LT Chris Samuels 6'5" 303 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Brenden Stai [N] 6'4" 312 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Larry Moore [N] 6'2" 302 lbs. 16 games 11 starts
RG Ross Tucker 6'4" 305 lbs. 3 games 0 starts
RT Jon Jansen 6'6" 311 lbs. 16 games 16 starts

DEFENSE

LE Renaldo Wynn [N] 29 tackles 5 sacks
LT Dan Wilkinson 19 tackles 4 sacks
RT Daryl Gardener [N] 17 tackles 4 sacks
RE Bruce Smith 30 tackles 5 sacks
OLB Jessie Armstead [N] 62 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
MLB Jeremiah Trotter [N] 93 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
OLB LaVar Arrington 82 tackles 1/2 sack
CB Champ Bailey 48 tackles 3 int.
SS Sam Shade 75 tackles 2 int.
FS David Terrell 66 tackles 2 int.
CB Fred Smoot 30 tackles 5 int.
P Bryan Barker 90 punts 41.6 avg.

[N] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 98)
[1] 1999 statistics

"You can get Champ Bailey to gamble too much because he's so
desperate to make plays."