He hasn't karate-chopped a block of wood in front of his players to try to motivate them. He hasn't challenged Cowboys Coach Dave Campo to a fistfight at midfield. At least not yet.
But already, Steve Spurrier has fueled his team's rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys in a way rarely seen from a Washington Redskins coach since George Allen in the 1970s, and people in both cities have taken notice.
"As soon as Spurrier got there, the comments that he made let you know what kind of rivalry this is," Cowboys wide receiver Joey Galloway said this week. "It's motivation. It lets you know how important the game is."
In his introductory news conference at Redskins Park in January, Spurrier said he would give a game ball to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder the first time he beat the Cowboys. When he was asked during the offseason whether the Cowboys would be his new version of Florida State, the former University of Florida coach said he hoped Dallas would be the equivalent of Georgia -- a reference to a prime Southeastern Conference rival that his Gators beat on an almost-annual basis.
When the Redskins players gathered on Monday for their team meeting to begin preparations for today's game at Texas Stadium, Spurrier was quick to remind them that they had lost nine straight meetings to the Cowboys.
"What I do appreciate is, there's a real commitment to embrace the rivalry," said cornerback Darrell Green, who is in his 20th season with the Redskins. "I think that's pretty healthy. You owe it to the community. . . . That's football. That's the NFC East. That's Redskins-Dallas."
Spurrier's approach has warmed veteran Redskins observers who watched Allen, the late Hall of Fame coach, breathe passion into the rivalry after he arrived in Washington for the 1971 season.
"I love it," said Bubba Tyer, the longtime Redskins' trainer who joined the organization the same year as Allen and remains in the club's front office for Spurrier. "He has a sense of history, and I appreciate that. He relayed that to the team [Monday] in the meeting. He'll be a good one, and he'll be good for the rivalry."
This is not the glamorous matchup that it has been at times though the years. The Redskins, with a record of 5-6, are playing to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. The Cowboys are 4-7 and all but eliminated from postseason contention. But Spurrier doesn't want to waste any time giving Snyder his first triumph over the Cowboys since he purchased the franchise prior to the 1999 season. The Redskins last beat the Cowboys on Oct. 13, 1997. They never have beaten the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, going 0-5.
"This is the game that Redskin fans want to win more than the others, it seems like," Spurrier said. "They've beaten us nine straight. It's a team we need to beat, there's no question about it. We need to beat the Cowboys. It should be a pretty evenly matched game. We're looking forward to it. I'm sure they're looking forward to it."
Spurrier still has a ways to go before he matches Allen's zeal for beating the Cowboys.
"To George, the schedule was divided into two phases -- the Cowboys and everybody else," said Houston Texans General Manager Charley Casserly, the former Redskins' GM whose first NFL job was working for Allen as an unpaid intern.
Casserly recalls once being told by Allen to go on a scouting trip to see two college games, Texas Christian against Southern Methodist, and Baylor against North Texas State. Allen told him, Casserly remembers, to fly into the "damn Fort Worth airport."
But when he went to see Allen's secretary to book the trip, the young Casserly was told there was no Fort Worth airport. Casserly said no, there must be, because that's where Allen had told him to go. The secretary asked Casserly exactly what Allen had said. He told her, and the secretary told Casserly: "You don't understand. He never says the word Dallas, so it's the 'damn Fort Worth airport' to him."
Allen would search for dandelions in his garden, find one and, before hacking if off, pronounce to anyone nearby: "If I get this dandelion, we sack Roger Staubach." Allen once stood in front of the team with a block of wood and gave it a karate chop, telling his players that is what he wanted them to do to the Cowboys. But the wood didn't break, and the players didn't know whether to laugh. So he gave it another chop, breaking the wood and injuring his hand.
"He didn't break his hand, but there's a picture of him with a bandage on it," Tyer said. "I put that bandage on there."
Allen once told his players that he wished they could just forget the game and have him meet Cowboys then-coach Tom Landry at midfield to settle the outcome.
"One of the reasons Jack Kent Cooke brought my father to the Redskins was because he had beaten Dallas with the Rams," said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). "My father used to say he'd like to play Dallas every week. It was never just the Dallas Cowboys. There was always a nasty adjective in front of it. 'Stinking' is the only one I'll mention."
His players picked up on his fervor.
Former Redskins defensive tackle "Diron Talbert used to say Roger Staubach slept with a night light," Tyer said. "I always used to like that one. George just took it so personal. It was life and death to him. When you played a bad game, he'd say, 'We'll all give our checks back.' Of course, no one ever gave their checks back, but you heard those kinds of comments a lot more if we were playing Dallas. He made it special. He wasn't afraid to say he disliked the Cowboys. He let the players know how much he wanted to beat Tom Landry and the Cowboys. It was fun, and George added so much to it."
Former Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who played four seasons for Allen, said he vividly remembers being in the tunnel from the locker room to the field with his teammates before games in Dallas, and the mood would be frenzied.
"Guys like Rusty Tillman and those special-teams guys, they would just be wild," Jurgensen said. "They'd be jumping up and down and going crazy, more so there than any other place."
Allen's Redskins teams went 7-8 against the Cowboys, and his fanatic approach made for some high highs and some low lows. The lowest probably was when the Redskins lost a Thanksgiving game to the Cowboys, 24-23, in 1974 on a miraculous touchdown pass by Dallas rookie backup quarterback Clint Longley in the final minute after Staubach had been knocked from the game.
"The Clint Longley game still aggravates our entire family," said another of Allen's sons, Oakland Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen. "It was terrible. Everyone in our family still doesn't enjoy Thanksgiving because of it."
His father targeted the Cowboys because they were the team to beat in the division when he arrived in Washington, Allen said.
"He wanted his players to set their sights on winning the division and to win the division, you had to beat Dallas," Bruce Allen said. "Plus, the way the Cowboys did business was the antithesis of everything my father stood for. . . . My father wasn't afraid to express his emotion and desire and demand to win. That gets played down a little bit in today's game, college and pro. As much as the Redskins were loved in D.C., he wanted people in Dallas to hate us."
In the 1980s and early '90s, Redskins then-coach Joe Gibbs also focused on the differences between the organizations, say longtime Redskins watchers. Gibbs fostered the rivalry by talking to his players about the blue-collar nature of the Redskins against the allegedly superior attitude of the Cowboys, the IBM of pro football. But Gibbs also had to duel with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants of then-coach Bill Parcells on his way to three Super Bowl titles at the height of competition in the NFC East, and the rivalry with the Cowboys was not all-consuming to him.
"It wasn't to the same degree as Coach Allen," Tyer said. "But Coach Gibbs loved playing them."
The rivalry may have been dampened a bit when the Redskins hired former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner as their head coach. Turner was close to Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman even when he coached in Washington, something that irked some members of the Redskins organization.
Snyder was introduced rudely to the rivalry. In his first game as the Redskins' owner, the Cowboys overcame a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to win, 41-35, in overtime to open the 1999 season. Snyder was heavily criticized for conducting an emotional postgame meeting with Turner in the locker room after a loss at Dallas.
And being swept by the Cowboys the past two seasons contributed to keeping the Redskins out of the playoffs. The Cowboys have seemed to believe in recent seasons that they could bully the Redskins, as when defensive lineman Ebenezer Ekuban dragged quarterback Jeff George across the Texas Stadium turf following a play without retaliation from any of George's teammates.
"The wins are supposed to go back and forth in a rivalry," said Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington. "We haven't held up our side of it."
Campo said he wouldn't mention the nine-game winning streak over the Redskins -- the longest string in the 84-game series, in which the Cowboys have a record of 49-33-2 -- to his players this week.
"The only thing we do a little bit differently is, the players in this particular week take a little bit more control of some of the meetings and that type of thing -- guys that have been in the game," Campo said. "Guys know the rivalry. Guys remember the fact that [Cowboys defensive end] Harvey Martin threw a funeral wreath into the Redskins' locker room. . . . Some of the older players take a little bit more of a stance during this particular week."
Campo said he thought Spurrier's approach to the rivalry was "the natural thing" for the Redskins' new coach to do. Asked about Spurrier's Georgia comparison, Campo said: "I thought it was funny. . . . That was an interesting comment. I think our guys read the newspaper and our guys watch TV. I'm sure there were some people that saw that. I think it's going to be a heck of a football game."
Spurrier pointed out this week that Georgia, unlike Florida State, is in the SEC with Florida. Said Spurrier, whose Gators teams went 11-1 against Georgia: "They're Florida's biggest rival, in my view. What's funny about that? That's just an honest answer."
As a player, Spurrier's San Francisco 49ers teams were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cowboys in three straight seasons -- 1970, '71 and '72. His first season as an NFL head coach has not been marked by the same sort of brashness that he sometimes put on display while amassing 122 victories in 12 seasons at Florida. But he knows that bragging rights are at stake today, in his first game against the Cowboys in perhaps the Redskins' final game this season on a national stage.
"We're looking forward to it," Spurrier said. "If you want to play some big games, you want to play when the whole country is watching."
Redskins Notes: Green said yesterday he expects to play, in at least a limited role, this afternoon in his final game at Texas Stadium.
"I'm looking to try to get out there," Green said after the team participated in a light walk-through at Redskins Park before traveling to Dallas. "I don't know what level. But I'm sure I'll be out there."
Green hurt his left hip during Sunday's 20-17 triumph over the St. Louis Rams at FedEx Field. The Redskins did not originally envision Green being able to play today, but he made rapid progress during the week.
"It is my last time going to Texas," said Green, who plans to retire after the season. "But I think primarily, I'm more motivated by trying to win."
Against the Rams, rookie Rashad Bauman supplanted Green as the Redskins' third cornerback behind starters Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot. Smoot suffered a concussion and a bruised tailbone in the St. Louis game but said he will be in the lineup today.
Arrington was plagued by a bruised knee this week but said he will play. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn's status remained uncertain, however, because of a strained groin muscle. He would be replaced in the lineup by Carl Powell if he can't play.
"It'll be a game-time decision," Wynn said. "I'll test it out" today.
The Cowboys will be without safety Darren Woodson, who was placed on injured reserve because of an abdominal injury, meaning he won't play again this season.