Jackson will continue to call the plays
ASHBURN, Va. -- Steve Spurrier's ego isn't so big that he won't ask for help from other coaches. He even gave up his treasured play-calling duties to get the Washington Redskins going.
But his daring streak lives on. Fourth-and-inches at his 25 with the score tied? He went for it and made it. Third-and-5 in easy range for a game-winning field goal? He suggested a trick play -- receiver throwing to a running back -- that resulted in the winning touchdown.
If Spurrier was indeed on the verge of losing his players' confidence after a four-game losing streak, his flexibility and nothing-to-lose attitude in Sunday's 27-20 victory over Seattle went a long way toward getting it back.
"That's a smart coach," defensive end Regan Upshaw said Monday. "You don't know everything, and it can end up being your own demise. This is a team where the coaches might not be young guys, but they're young in this game, the NFL. And they're making the proper adjustments."
Last week, Spurrier called Denver coach Mike Shanahan to ask how he handles play-calling duties with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
"He said, 'Well, I did about all of it my first three or four years, and then I gave it to Kubiak and all of a sudden we won a couple of Super Bowls,'" Spurrier said, relaying Shanahan's remarks.
So Spurrier gave the keys to the offense to coordinator Hue Jackson, who stood next to Spurrier on the sideline instead of watching from the upstairs booth. The result was the team's second-best scoring output of the season, and its most yards in six games.
"It felt weird for a while," Spurrier said. "We're like a lot of teams; we script up most everything. Still, play-calling is the ability to make quick decisions, and Hue is very good at that. He got them in there quickly. That part worked smoothly."
It worked so smoothly that Jackson will keep calling the plays until further notice.
"We were just trying to do something different," Spurrier said. "Obviously we've been struggling."
It's not the first time Spurrier sought advice from another NFL coach. Last year, he asked Philadelphia's Andy Reid about the apparently redundant arrangement of having an offensive coordinator working for an offense-minded head coach. Satisfied with Reid's answers, Spurrier promoted Jackson from running backs coach to offensive coordinator.
But letting Jackson call the plays required a much bigger leap of faith. Spurrier offered suggestions at key moments during the game -- including the lateral-pass play with Rod Gardner throwing to Trung Canidate with 1:57 to play -- but Jackson did most of the work.
"I give coach all the credit in the world because he said, 'Hey, you take a run at it.' A lot of guys wouldn't do that," Jackson said.
As a bonus, Spurrier also asked Jackson to address the team Saturday night. Upshaw said the speech wasn't fiery, but instead reflected a ``serious sense of urgency'' about the need to work together.
"A lot of guys in the room, they were moved by the speech," Upshaw said.
For all of Jackson's new responsibilities, the game still hinged on the gutsy fourth-down decision by Spurrier with 6:13 to play and score tied 20-20. Most any coach on any level would have punted, relied on the defense and started contemplating overtime.
Instead, the ball went to fullback Rock Cartwright for a hard-earned 2-yard gain.
"If we didn't make that, basically the game is over and the season is over," Upshaw said.
Spurrier said he didn't think it was a huge gamble because the Redskins would have gotten the ball back with plenty of time if the Seahawks scored from the 25.
"I felt like at that point we need to stay on the field," Spurrier said. "I know as a coach, when the other guy punts on fourth-and-inches, I'm happy. The odds are you make those."
Overall, it's difficult to fully assess whether the Redskins (4-5) were that much better on offense because Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes rarely used the weapon that has hurt Washington all season: the blitz.
After allowing 29 sacks through eight games, the Redskins were expecting a rush that never came. That allowed Patrick Ramsey to make it through a game without a sack for the first time this season. Ramsey even did some rollouts for the first time.
"We expect a lot stronger rush this week from Carolina," Spurrier said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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