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Ol' ball coach turns in his clipboard

Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

WASHINGTON Steve Spurrier's resignation was as confusing as his offensive strategy, adding another dysfunctional day to the recent history of the Washington Redskins.

Spurrier walked away from pro football's richest coaching contract Tuesday, worn out from a failed attempt to bring his Fun 'n' Gun style to the NFL.

''This is a very demanding job,'' Spurrier said in a statement. ''It's a long grind and I feel that after 20 years as a head coach, there are other things that I need to do.''

Spurrier quit three days after the Redskins finished 5-11 by losing 10 of their last 12 games. Spurrier's record was 12-20 over two seasons, and his beaten look in recent weeks was a sharp contrast to his confident ''ball coach'' persona during 12 successful years at Florida.

He lost more games with the Redskins than he did in his last nine years combined with the Gators.

''All of the losing can wear you down,'' he said.

Spurrier's resignation comes a day after three NFL coaches were fired: Dave McGinnis (Cardinals), Dick Jauron (Bears) and Gregg Williams (Bills). Before the season ended, Dan Reeves (Falcons) and Jim Fassel (Giants) were dismissed.

Spurrier leaves behind the final three years of a five-year, $25 million contract. His replacement will be the fifth head coach since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999.

Spurrier will be paid some money to cover personal expenses over the next few months, but his compensation will not be ''an amount anywhere near approaching his contract,'' said Karl Swanson, Snyder's spokesman, adding that the owner was not available for comment.

Spurrier's tenure was marred by mixed messages about his coaching style, abrupt changes in offensive philosophy, disorienting audibles that had home fans booing and an overall lack of discipline among the players.

It was only fitting, then, that his resignation took several perplexing hours to resolve with Spurrier at one point saying he hadn't quit, even though the team said he had.

Spurrier called Snyder on Tuesday morning to resign and told the owner to work out the final details with agent Jimmy Sexton. With Sexton in Memphis, Tenn., Snyder in Washington, and Spurrier on a golf course in Florida, the coach didn't know that all the issues had been resolved when he told The Washington Post, ''I have not resigned.''

Minutes later, after hearing from his agent, Spurrier finally acknowledged he was quitting.

''We had a little miscommunication,'' Spurrier told The Associated Press.

Miscommunication was the theme for much of Spurrier's time in Washington. He clashed with Snyder over personnel moves this season, particularly the owner's decision to cut quarterback Danny Wuerffel at the end of training camp.

The coach also was hurt by an inability to enforce discipline, especially after defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis left to become the Cincinnati Bengals' head coach.

The Redskins set a franchise record for penalties this season, and players described a lax atmosphere in which tardiness was tolerated, cell phones rang during meetings, and on-field errors weren't corrected at practice.

The search is on for a new coach, and Snyder might find it difficult.

The Redskins have been on a downward slide since Snyder's first year at the helm, and the confusion surrounding Spurrier's departure won't help his reputation as an owner who has yet to fully understand how to run an NFL team.

Swanson said Spurrier's resignation was ''totally unexpected'' by Snyder, even though it had been rumored for weeks.

Spurrier was one of the most successful offensive coaches in college history, going 122-27-1 at Florida with a high-powered, pass-oriented attack that often produced lopsided scores. His Gators won the 1996 national championship.

He abruptly quit in January 2002 because he wanted to try his offense in the NFL. He brought several ex-Florida players to the Redskins in his first season which he later admitted was a mistake. He went 7-9 while making five changes at starting quarterback.

Snyder provided Spurrier with plenty of offensive talent last offseason, signing receiver Laveranues Coles and upgrading the offensive line. But the season turned ugly, first in a series of close losses, then later in embarrassing blowouts.

The Redskins lost their last two home games by a combined 58-7, and the offense ended the season ranked 23rd in the league.

If Spurrier pursues another NFL job, his new suitor would have to work out a deal with the Redskins, who hold Spurrier's rights for the next three years.



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