Four-game skid has Redskins, Spurrier in swirl of uncertainty

Updated: November 6, 2003, 7:58 PM ET
ESPN

ASHBURN, Va. -- Steve Spurrier is getting tired of answering questions about his job.

But they keep coming, mostly variants of the same theme: Will he be coaching the Washington Redskins next season?

"How many times have I answered that?" Spurrier told reporters this week.

"Let's talk about the Seattle game. We're not the only team that's 3-5. We're struggling a little bit, and we're going to try to get better. You ask me that every week, and I give the same answers every week."

Spurrier's answer is that he wants to give himself three seasons to see if his style of play can work in the NFL. He's reached the halfway point with a record of 10-14 and a four-game losing streak, and his undisciplined team is struggling on offense.

"I'm sticking on my three-year deal. OK?" Spurrier said.

But does that timetable mesh with Dan Snyder's? Spurrier is Snyder's fourth coach since Snyder bought the team in 1999, and recent player moves and the splash made over the use of consultants during the bye week indicate the hands-on owner is getting impatient again.

"Here we go again," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But you can't buy into it. You can only go by what they do. If he doesn't fire him, we still have him. If he's still here, we need to play for him. It really doesn't bother me."

The guessing game has begun. Which college will land Spurrier for next season? Who would want to work for Snyder if he dumps yet another coach?

Or is it all just smoke and no fire?

"He supports the coach and is confident the coach will get this right," Snyder's spokesman, Karl Swanson, said Thursday. "Dan hopes Spurrier will stay for the entire term of the contract."

The contract -- five years, $25 million -- would complicate any sort of change. Snyder would have to swallow a huge amount of money if he fired the coach. Spurrier, in turn, would be unlikely to quit and leave all that money behind. A compromise would be a buyout, assuming there's a mutual feeling between the two that the Fun 'n' Gun experiment should end.

Needless to say, the daily rumors are the last thing the players need to hear as they search for answers to end the losing skid.

"If you have any pride, it affects you," quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. "But at the same time, you don't really listen to it a whole lot. You have a job to do. You have to go out there and focus and play well."

The most sobering thought is that all this is happening with still a half-season to play. The Redskins face three tough opponents in a row and might be favored to win just twice more this season. This could be a long, depressing autumn.

"There's a lot of tension going around, a lot of tightness," defensive end Bruce Smith said. "Not only with the players, but with the coaches, as well."

Or this could be the season of the amazing turnaround. After all, the Redskins rebounded from 0-7 to finish 6-10 in 1998 and from 0-5 to 8-8 in 2001. A satisfying finish would render the Spurrier gossip mute.

"The last time I looked there were some other coaches in worse shape than the Redskins'," Spurrier said. "It's all comparative. We're not that bad off. We're pretty bad, but we're not that bad."<

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