'Skins have score to settle

Spurrier's winning debut hasn't silenced his critics

Pro Football

August 10, 2002|By Warner Hessler | Warner Hessler,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier knows his offense could score 38 points for the second consecutive game and he still won't win over those who say his pass-happy approach will not win in the NFL.

He could "hang half-a-hundred," as he used to say in college, on the Carolina Panthers at Ericsson Stadium tonight and he knows the critics will say, "It's only a preseason game; wait until the real bullets start flying."

Spurrier, who made his NFL debut last Saturday with a 38-7 victory against the San Francisco 49ers in Japan, knows the final grade on his Fun 'N Gun offense won't be issued until after all of the yards, touchdowns, victories and defeats have been tabulated in January.

"As a coach, I've not proven anything in the NFL yet," he said this week.

"I've coached in the USFL, Duke University and Florida, but I've not done anything in the NFL."

Opposing defensive coordinators may still come up with ways to slow down an offense that puts the ball in the air about 65 percent of the time and defies conventional NFL wisdom by using the pass to set up the run.

The Redskins made it look easy last Saturday in Osaka, Japan, as quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Danny Wuerffel combined to complete 26 of 45 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns. But preseason games are more about individual players than teams, about finding players to round out the roster rather than game-planning an opponent and keeping starters in the game.

Spurrier spent most of the week trying to downplay his spectacular debut. He knows all 38 points were scored against San Francisco's reserves, with most of the five touchdowns coming off blown coverages or missed tackles. And, besides, it's only preseason.

"In five weeks, nobody is going to care what happens now," he said. "We may sit down and think we're good after beating San Francisco, but I hope not because we made a lot of mistakes." Mistakes were hard to find, though. There were a few missed tackles and Rosenfels threw three terrible passes, but there were no illegal-motion penalties and nobody jumped offside.

Quarterback Shane Matthews, who did not play in Japan but will start tonight and go at least the first half, said progress will be measured more on the field than on the scoreboard.

"We may not score 38 points again, but that won't mean we didn't play well," he said.

NOTE: Cornerback Champ Bailey (dislocated finger) and guard Kipp Vickers (internal bleeding) will not play.

Warner Hessler is a reporter for the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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