As Washington continues to focus on who will be the starting quarterback for the Redskins, and who has input on that matter, and how much of this matter is up to the head coach, here’s a weird blast from the past.
One-time Redskins coach Steve Spurrier was a guest on David Feherty’s Golf Channel interview program this month, where he discussed a variety of football, coaching and golfing matters. But he also briefly discussed his time in Washington, leading Feherty to ask him whether he would have done anything differently in Ashburn.
“I don’t know what I could have done that much differently,” Spurrier said. “You know, I don’t want to get into a lot of details, but basically the two years that I was there, the second year we didn’t even pick the team. The owner and the personnel guy, whoever, the personnel guys, they picked the team. I couldn’t even pick the quarterback the second year. So I knew it wasn’t going to work, but that’s ok. I probably didn’t do a very good job, and the situation wasn’t what I was looking for, so it was time to move on.”
Now bear in mind this was taped before this NFL season, so it wasn’t like a subtle shot at the current situation. Also bear in mind that the 2003 season’s quarterback fiasco is not exactly breaking news.
Spurrier had named Patrick Ramsey the starter before his final season in 2003. The team signed Rob Johnson as a backup during the offseason, and then eventually released Danny Wuerffel. Here’s Mark Maske’s report during the middle of that wretched campaign:
Cracks in the Redskins’ decision-making foundation were evident before the season in the handling of quarterback Danny Wuerffel. The Redskins expressed little interest in re-signing Wuerffel as a free agent last offseason, but Spurrier brought him back early in training camp this past summer and told him that he could earn the No. 2 job behind starter Patrick Ramsey if he outperformed Rob Johnson.
The Redskins had signed Johnson, a former starter in Buffalo, to a two-year, $2 million contract in March. But Spurrier and Johnson never meshed. Spurrier wanted to enter the regular season with Wuerffel second on the depth chart, but Snyder sided with [Vinny] Cerrato and the club released Wuerffel.
The Redskins began the season with two quarterbacks — Ramsey and Johnson — on their 53-man roster and rookie Gibran Hamdan on their five-man practice squad. Spurrier released Johnson during the recent bye week and said Snyder would allow Wuerffel to be re-signed. But Wuerffel, apparently still upset about how he’d been treated, rejected the offer. The Redskins signed Tim Hasselbeck and were without a reserve quarterback who had thrown a regular season NFL pass.
The episode has produced talk of a rift between Spurrier and Cerrato. A recent newspaper report out of Tampa claimed that Spurrier would like the club to hire Tim Ruskell, the director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who worked with Spurrier with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the defunct USFL and was interviewed by Snyder for a front-office position last year. Spurrier has talked about having more input in player decisions as he gains more experience as an NFL coach, but he said yesterday that Cerrato and the other members of the club’s personnel department have “done the best they could under the situation.” He did not express dissatisfaction with the team’s structure for making player-related decisions.
“That’s the way it is,” Spurrier said. “It’s okay.”
The episode also prompted a biting column from Thomas Boswell, which included these highlights:
Snyder recently had a six-hour meeting with Spurrier to discuss the team’s problems. In 12 years at Florida, Spurrier probably never had six hours of meetings total with all his superiors combined. Much less to explain himself or his sport.
Around the same time, the Redskins released backup quarterback Rob Johnson, assuming Danny Wuerffel would have nothing better to do on Sundays than return to the Redskins. Instead, Wuerffel was so mad at the way Snyder and Cerrato had released him over Spurrier’s objection that he spit on the job….
The ringleader of this circus is Snyder, 38, who wants to own the Redskins for many years. He wants to learn. He’ll pick any brain. That’s admirable. But he’s learning on our time. Even more scary, there’s plenty of precedent that, despite his brains, energy and good intentions, he’ll never be a “football man.”
To see the problem more clearly, use that old principle from high school algebra: invert. Imagine a great football executive who wakes up one day and inherits a controlling interest in Intel. So, he quits football and makes himself CEO of Intel. Why? “Because I’ve always loved computers. And I’m a quick learner.” What would you do with your Intel shares?
The problem in sports isn’t the intellectual difficulty of the concepts involved. In fact, their outward simplicity is the trap that sucks so many bright successful people like Snyder into a vortex of flawed choices. Being involved in the key decisions in a sport franchise is just as specific a gift as having the kind of mind that can grasp technology. It may not require a fraction of the education or even, perhaps, IQ. But the rarity is comparable.
So in the current climate — where a lot of people are wondering for how long the Redskins coach will be allowed to choose the Redskins quarterback — Spurrier’s recent comments struck a nerve with some viewers
Feherty also asked Spurrier about walking away from the NFL after that 2003 season.
“David, one thing I want to be able to say is that I never got fired,” Spurrier said, repeating one his favorite lines. “I don’t know why. There’s no disgrace in being fired as a coach. Ninety-five percent of all coaches get fired. Very few are able to say I never got fired. So I hope to be one of those guys right there. And yeah, I did walk away from a bunch of money. And I’d like to be known maybe as the guy that walked away from more money than any coach in history. I sort of like doing something that’s never been done before….Just being able to maybe say I did something for the first time is fun for me. It’s fun.”