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Original Issue

Redskins Headed The Wrong Way Steve Spurrier's Struggles

If you're a Redskins fan watching the second year of the Steve
Spurrier Era wind down, you might be asking yourself: Is my team
better off now than it was two years ago when Marty
Schottenheimer was in charge? The answer is no. Though he was 8-8
in 2001, his only season as Washington's coach, Schottenheimer
ended up winning eight of his last 11 games. Spurrier's two-year
record is 12-18, including eight losses in his last 10 games, and
he still has difficult tests left against the Bears on the road
and the Eagles at home.

Last week Redskins owner Dan Snyder said Spurrier, who in January
2002 signed the richest coaching contract in NFL history ($25
million over five years), will "absolutely" return in '04. While
Spurrier seems to possess too bright a football mind to have such
a bumbling team, particularly on offense, his squad was
shockingly ill-suited to play in the sleet in Washington on
Sunday. The Redskins gained only 161 yards in a 27-0 loss to the
NFC East rival Cowboys.

In fact, after ranking 20th in the NFL in total offense last year
(321.4 yards per game), Washington has fallen to 24th this season
(293.8). The decline can be attributed partly to Spurrier's slow
adjustment to the intricacies of NFL defenses and to the
Redskins' decision to cut loose running back Stephen Davis, who
in 13 games with Carolina has rushed for 1,387 yards.

Things aren't all bad. Second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey,
out for the season with an injury to his right foot, showed
flashes of brilliance earlier in the year. The question is, How
much of a pounding can he, or any other passer, take behind a
line that can't stop the blitz? Washington's two major free-agent
signings, wideout Laveranues Coles and right guard Randy Thomas,
have played well. But can the salary-cap-strapped team keep
enough other good players--Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, for
one, is a looming free agent--to build a playoff contender?

Spurrier would probably help himself by making changes on his
coaching staff, replacing some of his former college aides with
more experienced pro assistants. It also wouldn't hurt to bring
in a general manager who is well-schooled in the cap and skilled
at evaluating mid-level talent.

COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY Dallas held the Redskins to 161 yards.