Like a Real Pro
With his Redskins showing a balanced but opportunistic offense, Steve Spurrier bagged his first NFL win
Last Friday, two days before he coached his first NFL game, Steve Spurrier walked off the practice field at Redskin Park and pondered a comment that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had made this summer. Shanahan said that the NFL newcomer, known in the college ranks for his fun-'n'-gun aerial show, might have to learn that the pro game is about winning, not entertaining. Spurrier shook his head, a hint of disbelief in his eyes. "Believe me," he said, "it's all about winning for me. Nothing else."
In his much-anticipated debut Spurrier proved that he does know what the NFL game is about. We saw the offensive swagger, his instinct for when to take the shots downfield. Against a suspect secondary, he called for six passes of 20 yards or longer, and two hit pay dirt: a 26-yard strike to Kevin Lockett in the second quarter and a perfect 43-yard throw to Rod Gardner in the third.
We saw a balanced attack, more so than expected. Spurrier ran bullish back Stephen Davis into the line five times in the first five minutes, 26 times overall for 104 clock-eating yards.
We saw Washington rip off yardage in chunks and score a bunch of points. With plenty of time to throw, journeyman Shane Matthews completed 70% of his passes (28 of 40) for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-23 win over the Cardinals.
The scoring pass to Gardner was vintage Coach Visor, who called all of the plays on Sunday. From the Arizona 43, Gardner, lined up in the right slot, sprinted straight downfield with the Cardinals' best corner, Duane Starks, glued to him. Matthews threw it up anyway. "I'm not comparing us to the Rams by any means," Matthews said, "but Kurt Warner takes chances downfield. Sometimes he hits 'em. Sometimes he doesn't. We want to take chances and let our big receivers go get the ball. I was hoping Rod would body him, and he did." The physical Gardner and Starks leaped, and both got their hands on the ball. Gardner fell into the end zone with it in his possession.
Walking to his office after the victory, Spurrier said that little surprised him in his first game. Though he is as calculating as the day is long, there is something very basic about him. While most coaches prepare dense play sheets on a computer and have them printed out and laminated for game day, Spurrier held three handwritten sheets with plays so elementary you would have thought he was calling a high school jayvee game. ARIZONA PLAYS was scribbled atop one sheet. GOOD RUNS came next and included a simplistic Slot 15/16 Toss Right.
"I usually have two sheets, but today I had three," he said. "Don't know why. Once I got `on the field, I looked at those sheets maybe two minutes total. I usually know what I'm going to do when I get out there."
It was only one game, and the Eagles and the 49ers will be eager to put Spurrier in his place the next two weeks, but he knows what the NFL game is about. "Last week I told him I had a tee time at Caves Valley," said former Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, now the team's radio voice, referring to a highly regarded course not far from Redskin Park. "He said, 'No thanks. Not during the season.' "
Williams's Dolphins Debut
Off on the Right Foot in Miami