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Wannstedt Quits; Spurrier: No Interest

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page D04

The resignation of Dave Wannstedt means the Miami Dolphins will be looking for a new coach after the season ends, but former Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday that he has no interest in pursuing that or any other NFL vacancy.

"If I get back in [coaching], it would most likely be at the college level," Spurrier said in a telephone interview. "It just seems like I'm more suited for college ball. I think the Dolphins need to get an NFL guy who's been in the league for 10 or 20 years."

Saying that "someone has to accept the responsibility," Dave Wannstedt announces his resignation as coach of the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday. (Shannon Stapleton - Reuters)

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At a news conference at the Dolphins' training facility yesterday, team President Eddie Jones announced that Jim Bates, the team's defensive coordinator, will be the interim coach. He also said "we have had no conversations with coach Spurrier and we don't intend to have any."

In response, Spurrier said: "No, I don't think they'll call me. I guess you could say we aren't pursuing each other."

However, Spurrier indicated that "I've started to get interested in coaching again." He and his family still live in the Leesburg area and his youngest son, Scottie, has played football this season for Loudoun County High School.

Spurrier's name likely will be mentioned whenever a major college coaching vacancy opens up and he said, "It appears the college game is the best place for me."

Spurrier left the Redskins with a 12-20 record, despite having three years remaining on his five-year, $25 million contract. He has been out of coaching and last week informed University of Florida officials he was not interested in coaching the team in 2005. Spurrier's replacement, Ron Zook, will not return next year.

"I'll wait and see what happens. It's hard to say right now because there are not a lot of openings, but a lot can happen. . . . The idea of going back [to Florida] doesn't work out for most coaches. When I left after 12 years, I felt I'd done everything that I could there."

As for the NFL, he said: "I just don't think I'm fitted for it, the style of coaching. . . . To be good at it, you have to do it over and over and over. We never seemed to find that right balance. In the NFL, you almost have to have a mind-set that if I can just go 6-5, that's pretty darned good. I don't have any excuses. Anything I tried to say would sound like an excuse. Maybe the way I've coached in the past just didn't fit in the NFL.

"It wasn't the hours. College coaches put in a lot of time, too. A friend of mine called me and said [USC head coach] Pete Carroll loves college ball more than the NFL. Of course, he does. He's winning. That's what's fun. But he went back to college ball. Al Groh at Virginia left the NFL [New York Jets] to go back to college. If something in the South came along, maybe I'd be interested. Otherwise I'll amuse myself some other way."

In south Florida, Wannstedt's departure was not unexpected nor was the timing at the start of the bye week and with the team off to a 1-8 start that is tied for the worst in franchise history. It also marked the NFL's first in-season coaching change this year, a league rarity.

"As you might imagine, this was not a very easy decision from a personal standpoint, but I believe it is a proper decision at this time for being a professional," Wannstedt said. "Somebody has to accept the responsibility. I am the head coach and that falls on me."

With Spurrier out of the picture, there was immediate speculation about potential replacements, including LSU Coach Nick Saban, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferenz, former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

Miami owner Wayne Huizenga may also be looking to overhaul the entire organization. Jones, the team president, had planned to retire after this season and General Manager Rick Spielman has come under heavy criticism. Longtime NFL executive Jim Steeg has been mentioned as a possible successor to Jones. The Dolphins may also be interested in talking to Scott Pioli, New England's vice president of personnel, about coming in as president and general manager.

Wannstedt met Monday evening at the team's training facility with Huizenga and was told by the owner that a coaching change would be made at the end of the season, a team source confirmed, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Still, Jones said he and Huizenga tried to change Wannstedt's mind about quitting, but the coach made the case that his departure would be best for the team.

The Dolphins were crippled by the abrupt retirement of tailback Ricky Williams just before the start of training camp. The offense was built around Williams and the running game, and Miami never recovered from his absence. The Dolphins started 0-6 and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

Wannstedt appeared in jeopardy of being fired at the end of last season, but Huizenga extended his contract through the 2006 season. Huizenga stripped him of his authority over personnel issues as part of a restructuring in which he gave Spielman the GM title and temporarily hired Dan Marino as senior vice president of football operations.

But after accepting the job, Marino resigned before he even started. Wannstedt, 43-33 in Miami (1-2 in the playoffs), was only the fourth coach in franchise history and had the second-longest tenure, behind Don Shula. He was in his fifth season since taking over for Jimmy Johnson and averaged 10 victories over the previous four years.

In the offseason, he changed offensive coordinators twice after losing Norv Turner to the Oakland Raiders. Wide receiver David Boston suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp after being obtained in a trade with San Diego. The Dolphins never found a productive starting quarterback after acquiring A.J. Feeley in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to go with Jay Fiedler, and the team was clearly split into camps supporting each player.

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