By Ronald Guy
It’s starting to smell now. Have you ever emerged from a bad relationship and done a 180-degree turn in selecting your next mate? Say your former significant other was blonde, extroverted and into fashion and social media. The relationship ended badly and suddenly you were enamored with introverted brunettes that dug environmental causes and pursued a minimalist lifestyle.
For Dan Snyder, Marty Schottenheimer was his sophisticated blonde, and Steve Spurrier was his earthy brunette. Or was it vice versa? No matter, the references are figurative. Schottenheimer was an omnipotent disciplinarian who believed in a conservative, run-first offense and playing tough defense. To Marty, a punt wasn’t a sign of failure: it indicated the ball was possessed and cared for effectively. Winning was his goal: preferably in a tightly contested 13-10 affair, but he’d try to score 20 points if required to do so.
After one year of enduring Schottenheimer’s style, Snyder pulled the very expensive plug on his contract and hired Steve Spurrier, the Ol’ Ball Coach and offensive mastermind of the University of Florida. A series of former Gators — Jacquez Green, Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews, Chris Doering, etc. — followed their old coach to D.C., and Marty’s preferred eye formation was quickly scrapped for a five-wide receiver, empty backfield set that was ripe for pitching it around the yard.
What Spurrier quickly learned was that much like the ACC isn’t the SEC, the SEC isn’t the NFL.
His offense, known as the “fun ‘n gun” while at Florida, became known as the “chuck ‘n duck” in the NFL after elite pass rushers exposed schematic vulnerabilities. After posting a 7-9 and 5-11 record in his first two seasons, Spurrier had enough of the NFL. He resigned and took his hard-learned NFL lessons and a sack of Daniel Snyder’s cash back to the College coaching ranks.
By Redskins standards, that doesn’t seem to present a level of awful worthy of the ranking. What solidified Spurrier’s dubious distinction as the second-worst ‘Skins coach of the last 30 years was his smug, “I’m too sexy and cool for the NFL” attitude. Right out of the gate he declared that he wasn’t going to work the crazy hours he’d heard about from coaches like Jim Haslett (or as Spurrier called him Jim “Haze-let”). How cute and thoroughly pompous of him to try and turn the job of NFL head coach into a comfy 9-to-5 gig. I guess he figured eight hours a day of Steve Spurrier was sufficient to whip 20 hours a day of Bill Belichick or Andy Reid.
Somewhere a work-life balance expert is considering him for a pre-dawn infomercial. Peeling back the effort onion a bit more, Spurrier’s “aww shucks” reactions to his team’s gaffes — and there were many — were more befitting a youth league coach than an NFL head man. Sure, his face contorted and his visor was often ajar, but you never sensed seething anger: the kind that rolls heads and promises change. With Spurrier, the internal monologue always seemed to be, “well, lost that one…we’ll get back at it tomorrow morning around 9:00 am and pitch it around next Sunday.”
Add it all up — the abbreviated work hours, the lack of intensity and handling losses with a dismissive quip and a shoulder shrug — and Spurrier left one wondering if he really tried that hard. Did he really want to be a success in the NFL? Perhaps, but only on his terms.