Redskins' Jackson thinking outside the box

Usually one calling plays, Spurrier gives coordinator that duty from sideline

November 11, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- Steve Spurrier knows a good thing when he sees one.

That's why the Washington Redskins coach said yesterday that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will continue calling the plays from the sidelines when the Redskins (4-5) visit the Carolina Panthers (7-2) at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

After a phone conversation with Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, Spurrier decided on Wednesday to turn over the play-calling duties to Jackson, and the move paid dividends as Washington ended a four-game losing skid by upending the Seattle Seahawks, 27-20, at FedEx Field two days ago.

Spurrier had been the primary caller since the Redskins hired him in January 2002, while Jackson monitored things from the coaches' box upstairs.

"This was a different way of doing it, letting him come down there and seeing if he could add some spark, and I think he did," Spurrier said. "I think it ended up being a good decision, and we'll keep going in that direction. Hopefully, it will keep paying off."

With Jackson calling the plays, Washington's offense posted 379 yards (the most since 456 yards against the New York Giants on Sept. 21), did not surrender a sack for the first time since last December, and ran 33 passing and 32 running plays.

"It was a kind of change of pace, and [Jackson] did his thing," running back Trung Canidate said. "Ultimately, as the head man that Spurrier is, that was just a great decision on his part, giving Jackson that opportunity. The team responded well to the play-calling."

Jackson said that he hoped the win would deflect the criticism of Spurrier after the Dallas Cowboys had dismantled the Redskins two weeks ago.

"He's the head coach," Jackson said. "I have a lot of respect for him. I know it's been tough on him. I think some of it is unfair, and I think some of it is unfair to our players."

Spurrier, who had called every play during his 12-year tenure at the University of Florida, admitted "it felt weird for a while" not to order in the plays to quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

But Spurrier said the decision was necessitated by the offense's futility during the team's four-game losing streak.

"Obviously, we've been struggling," he said. "We moved the ball much better yesterday. ... Hopefully, we can build on this."

Fullback Rock Cartwright's 13-carry, 81-yard outing against the Seahawks may have earned him the start against Carolina.

Cartwright, who rushed three times for 22 yards for the entire 2002 season, used his 5-foot-7, 223-pound frame to shed tacklers and gain yards. His most memorable contribution came when he converted on fourth-and-one from Washington's 25-yard line on the game-winning touchdown drive.

"Certainly we're going to give some consideration to starting Rock," Spurrier said. "When he ran the ball on those short-yardage situations, he seemed to make yards -- a lot. ... He's sort of our biggest and strongest back. He's not real tall, but he's stocky and sturdy, and he can break some arm tackles."

NOTES: Free safety Matt Bowen and fullback Bryan Johnson suffered concussions. Spurrier said both will be held out of practice for a few days with their status for Sunday unclear. Center Larry Moore (chipped bone in right foot) and running back Ladell Betts (fractured left forearm) are doubtful. ... Return specialist and running back Chad Morton said his high right ankle sprain is healing quickly enough that he might be ready to return kicks and punts against the Panthers. "I'm going to try to do something," he said.

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