Spurrier resigns as coach of 'Skins

Washington was 12-20 during his two seasons

he forfeits $15M on deal

`The losing can wear you down'

Pro Football

December 31, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - The Steve Spurrier experiment in the NFL is over.

Spurrier announced yesterday that he had resigned after two years as coach of the Washington Redskins.

"I thank [owner] Dan Snyder for the opportunity to coach this team for the past two years, and I apologize to Redskins fans that we did not achieve a level of success that we had all hoped," Spurrier said in a written statement issued by the team's public relations department. " ... I'll always be pulling for the Redskins."

Said Snyder, who will lead a search for the team's fifth coach in five seasons: "I have accepted Steve's resignation with much regret, but respect his decision."

The announcement caught return specialist and running back Chad Morton by surprise.

"Is it official?" he asked reporters, who told him of the news. "I'm disappointed. I really liked him a lot. I didn't want to see him go."

In Spurrier's two-year tenure, Washington compiled a 12-20 overall record and a 2-10 mark against NFC East opponents. The team finished 2003 with a 5-11 record, including 10 losses in the last 12 games.

That, according to Spurrier, played a role in his decision.

"All of the losing can wear you down, but I believe that the franchise is headed in the right direction," said Spurrier, who had previously said that he intended to return for a third year. " ... I simply believe that this is the right time for me to move on because this team needs new leadership. Hiring a new coach will allow [Snyder] to hire a new coaching staff and hopefully point the Redskins in the right direction."

Spurrier, a 1966 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback who coached the Tampa Bay Bandits of the U.S. Football League and at Duke and Florida on the collegiate level, said another reason was a desire to do something else.

"This is a very demanding job," he said. "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's legacy as an NFL coach was marked by inconsistency on and off the field.

Spurrier's insistence on incorporating his pass-heavy Fun 'N' Gun offensive system backfired as Washington finished the 2002 season averaging 19.2 points a game and ranked 20th and this past season averaging 18.6 points and ranked 23rd.

In eight of the Redskins' 12 victories over the past two seasons, the team called more running plays than passing plays, but Spurrier always returned to his system.

Spurrier used four starting quarterbacks and did not object to the team's decision to release running back Stephen Davis - the club's first player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive years - after the 2002 season with nothing in return.

Off the field, Spurrier's hands-off approach to the defense and special teams unit made him appear distant to some players. His threat to fine players for unnecessary penalties earlier this season, only to back away from that threat, eroded any semblance of a reputation as a disciplinarian.

Spurrier finally suspended three players for the team's regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday for being late to practice, but middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter hinted Sunday that players needed to be more respectful next year.

By resigning rather than getting fired, Spurrier forfeited the remaining $15 million of the five-year, $25 million contract he had signed with the team in January 2002.

Spurrier also will not be allowed to coach another team in the NFL unless a prospective team offers the Redskins compensation for Spurrier.

Potential replacements include former Dallas Cowboys coach and Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson, former Minnesota Vikings coach and ESPN analyst Dennis Green and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

Leave it to Spurrier, the architect of a complex offense, to make even his exit confusing.

According to a release produced by the franchise, Spurrier called Snyder after 9 a.m. yesterday and said he was resigning "in the best interests of the Redskins franchise."

When contacted by the Washington Post about the team's statement, Spurrier - who was on a golf course near his home in Florida - said he had not yet resigned and that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, was still working on the details with the franchise.

A few hours later, however, Spurrier confirmed to the Washington Post that he had resigned. Spurrier attributed the mix-up to a dead cell phone and Sexton's attention to a personal matter.

Revolving door

Since becoming owner of the Redskins in 1999, Daniel Snyder has had four head coaches:

Coach Year(s) W-L

Norv Turner 1999, '00 17-12

Terry Robiskie* 2000 1-2

Marty Schottenheimer 2001 8-8

Steve Spurrier 2002, '03 12-20

*-Interim coach

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