JUDGE: All eyes are on Spurrier

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Clark Judge

The topic on the table is Washington Coach Steve Spurrier and how reasonable it is to expect him to duplicate the success he had at the University of Florida now that he¿s in the pros. A preseason poll of NFL coaches and players indicates that most believe he will win ... but not as much as his owner or Washington¿s fans expect. And I bet you know why. ¿It would take a magician to win with those quarterbacks,¿ said one NFC assistant. He¿s talking, of course, about and — former Gators who should split the quarterbacking this year. Matthews is the starter for now, but that'll last only as long as the first unprotected hit or the first Spurrier visor toss — whichever comes first. Spurrier likes Matthews and Wuerffel because they demonstrated they can operate his system, and the system demonstrated it works. Spurrier had 10 or more wins in nine of 12 seasons at the University of Florida; led Duke to its first ACC championship in 24 years and made the playoffs two of three years in the USFL, where he coached the Tampa Bay Bandits. ¿Steve Spurrier has a feel for the game,¿ said Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who opposed him in the USFL. ¿He was always putting pressure on the defense. I remember he had a running back named , and before people are doing now he had him outside as a wide receiver. You were always guessing: Was he a receiver or a running back? Well, if you put a linebacker on him he¿d kill you, and if you put a safety over there pretty soon you wouldn¿t have enough people in the box and he¿d run the ball. Steve was ahead of stuff back then.¿ 'Skins owner Daniel Snyder¿s betting $5 million he¿s still ahead of the curve. Only it¿s best to exercise caution here, folks: Spurrier¿s only as a good as his quarterbacks, and there¿s a divided house on what he has now. There¿s Spurrier over here, pumping up passers that nobody wants, and virtually everyone else over there with Spurrier¿s critics. Spurrier believes he can and will win with Matthews and Wuerffel, and he offers John Reaves as Exhibit A. Reaves was his quarterback for three years with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL, where Spurrier was 35-19 and where his 1984 team was the first in pro football history to produce a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Reaves played at Florida. He languished in the NFL. He flourished under Spurrier. ¿Anybody who underestimates Steve Spurrier¿s abilities as a coach is headed down the wrong road,¿ said San Diego Coach Marty Schottenheimer. ¿He¿s a very talented guy.¿ Schottenheimer should know. His son, Brian, played for Spurrier at Florida, backing up (who else?) on the Gators¿ national championship squad. Father and son have enormous respect for what Spurrier does, but at least one member of the family sees potential potholes ahead. ¿Clearly, in our league you have to have the horses,¿ said Schottenheimer. ¿If they can resolve favorably the quarterback situation he has a chance to be successful.¿ The implication is clear. Schottenheimer isn¿t sold on what Spurrier has behind center, and he¿s in the majority here. But there¿s a catch: Schottenheimer coached in Washington last year with as his quarterback and went 8-3 down the stretch. That isn¿t good; it¿s worthy of Coach of the Year consideration. But Schottenheimer¿s success was predicated on defense, a minimum of mistakes and the legs of ; Spurrier¿s ego won¿t allow him to follow the same path. He¿s a gambler who loves to throw the ball and take chances, and that¿s dangerous when you consider who¿s doing the throwing. ¿Stephen Davis is their bread and butter,¿ said Philadelphia defensive end . ¿I can¿t see them deviating from him carrying the rock because is a beast.¿ I guess he hasn¿t read Spurrier¿s resume. The man loves to throw the rock downfield, which means can take a seat. ¿I don¿t know about that,¿ said Douglas. ¿You¿ve got grown-ass men over there trying to feed their families, and there¿s only so much pass protecting you can do for a whole game.¿ Which brings up another problem. Spurrier doesn¿t have any guards, either. That means a push up the middle, which means pressure in the faces of his quarterbacks, which could mean turnovers and a short field for opponents. The way most of our respondents see it, all of that adds up to little more than seven or eight wins, and that¿s based largely on a talented defense that will keep the in games. ¿It¿s still going to come down to the quarterbacks,¿ said Schottenheimer. And that¿s trouble. As one AFC coach said, ¿the whole league couldn¿t have been wrong about these guys. There¿s a reason nobody wanted them.¿ Uh-huh, and there¿s a reason Spurrier did. Now we¿ll see who knows what he¿s talking about. ¿Everyone said the same thing about him in college,¿ said Tennessee defensive end , who played for Spurrier at Florida. ¿But he¿s been more right about his philosophy, his system, than everyone else has been right about him. He throws caution to the wind, but he wins.¿ Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address:

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