'Skins winging it with Spurrier

Snyder makes call: Schottenheimer out, ex-Gators coach in

January 15, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The revolving door that turned out Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie and Marty Schottenheimer spun once more yesterday, and finally delivered a coach Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder can live with.

Steve Spurrier, who made Gainesville, Fla., a mecca for college football, will arrive today at the Redskins' training facility in Ashburn, Va., with a similar design as their new coach.

"Steve Spurrier will bring a supercharged, exciting and dynamic brand of football to our great fans," Snyder said. "His ability to energize players and teams is unprecedented. The Redskins deserve to be back at the Super Bowl, and I am immensely confident that Steve is the coach to get us there."

Snyder should expect nothing less after paying top dollar. According to reports, Spurrier's five-year contract with the Redskins is worth nearly $25 million. That easily makes him the NFL's highest-paid coach, ahead of Seattle's Mike Holmgren, who averages $4 million annually as coach and general manager of the Seahawks.

Spurrier will operate only as coach, and have input, but not final say, on player personnel matters, the one point Schottenheimer wouldn't compromise on before his ouster Sunday night.

Snyder will hire a personnel man in short order to oversee player evaluation and acquisition. That, not coincidentally, will also allow the owner to put his imprint on the team he purchased in 1999 for $800 million, with stadium included.

Just last year, before he gave Schottenheimer a four-year contract and total control, Snyder tried to lure Spurrier away from the University of Florida. Because of his innovative offenses and winning tradition at Florida, Spurrier has been a prime target of NFL teams with coaching vacancies.

Ron Wolf, the former general manager of the Green Bay Packers, tried three times to persuade Spurrier to leave Florida, including two years ago when he hired current Packers coach Mike Sherman.

"He'll be a darn good coach," Wolf said last night, "because of what he's done. He changed the face of college football. Nearly everybody runs his offense now."

Since 1990, Spurrier's Florida offense averaged 35 points, 310 passing yards and 460 total yards a game. He posted a 12-year record of 122-27-1 in Gainesville, winning seven Southeastern Conference titles and one national championship (1996).

But two days after the Gators lambasted Maryland, 56-23, in the Orange Bowl, Spurrier announced he was leaving the college ranks to find out if his system would work in the NFL.

The 1966 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida, Spurrier spent 10 years in the NFL, nine as a backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. He also coached three seasons in the USFL and went 35-19 with the Tampa Bay Bandits.

While the Redskins found relief for their dreary offense in Spurrier, the identity of their quarterback remains uncertain. Both Tony Banks, who went 8-6 as the starter this season, and Kent Graham are unsigned for next season.

Spurrier will begin to reveal some answers when he holds a 6 p.m. news conference in Ashburn today.

Wolf, considered a candidate for general manager, said yesterday that he has not been contacted by the Redskins. He's living in Annapolis after retiring from the Packers in 2001.

"The only way I would come back was if somebody wanted to give me [partial ownership] of a club, and that's not going to happen," he said.

Schottenheimer, meanwhile, had an amicable parting yesterday and said he had no regrets in his brief time with the Redskins.

Meeting with reporters, he said he had been open to the hiring of a general manager, but not to surrendering total control over player personnel decisions.

"Dan Snyder and I have agreed on many things," Schottenheimer said. "The issue we could not resolve, however, involved the process of selecting the players that would make up the Washington Redskins' roster."

Interestingly, though, Schottenheimer said he would not require final word over personnel if he gets another chance to coach. And he wants to coach again. He came out of a two-year retirement to coach the Redskins this season.

"You're away from anything for a couple year and you think you're still capable, but having been away a couple years, you're not sure," he said. "Having been back a year, I can do it."

Schottenheimer, who has a 16-year career record of 158-104-1 in the NFL, already is being linked to the Carolina Panthers, who had hoped to sign Spurrier. There are also openings with the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. Schottenheimer was the fifth NFL coach to be fired this season.

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