Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Super Bowl Preview

In an odd twist, all three times the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl; the game has been played in New Orleans. New England wasn’t competitive against the Bears or the Packers in their other two appearances and is already a 14-½ point underdog to the Rams.

Fourteen and a half?

That’s not as big a statement on the competitiveness of either team as it is a statement about the Super Bowl itself. Too many times, the game has been a blowout. The finality of it being the last game lends itself to risk taking that often backfires leading to a lopsided score. This game might be different though. St. Louis might be that good.

The Rams knew all along if they got the top seed in the playoffs, they’d never have to play outdoors, including in the Super Bowl. Much like the St. Louis and Cincinnati baseball teams of the 80’s, this Rams team was built for artificial turf. It gives them an advantage like no other team. The speed of their players and the timing of their offense are perfectly matched to what’s affectionately called “fuzzy concrete.”

There might be a player equal to Marshall Faulk in talent in the league, but none gets the most out if it like Faulk. Kurt Warner was right when he said he couldn’t believe he won the MVP wondering how anybody didn’t vote for Marshall Faulk.

New England got a little help in getting to the Super Bowl and although they are a good team with a solid defense, they haven’t seen anything like the Rams. In fact, nobody has.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Expansion Draft

Imagine this conversation at the Jaguars offices:
Wayne Weaver: “Alright, who are we putting on the expansion draft list?”

Rick Reprish (Personnel Director): “It needs to be somebody who’s actually taken off our hands. Somebody who can play.”

Paul Vance (new capologist): “It needs to be somebody who clears a lot of cap room for us.”

Tom Coughlin: “Okay, I guess it’s Boselli!”

You hope it wasn’t that simple, but the decision itself screams simplemindedness.

Actually, there are two scenarios that could be playing themselves out. The first is what Jaguars fans originally thought: The team put Boselli on the expansion draft list as one of several high priced players knowing Boselli wouldn’t be picked. After the Texans take one of the other inflated salaries off their hands, i.e. Tony Brackens, the Jaguars recall Boselli from the list. That way they have him back and they were able to protect another player on the roster from the expansion.

But as more information is leaking out, it’s clear the scenario where the team is willing to risk losing Boselli as a cap casualty seems to be closer to reality. He’ll save them $6 million or so next year, moving them a long way toward getting out of the salary cap jail they’ve put themselves in.

From the team’s standpoint, Boselli is a number and left-tackles don’t win Super Bowls. He missed almost all of last year, hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy for about three seasons and his future effectiveness could be in question. But he is the team leader; one of the best locker room guys, a real tough performer, their first ever draft pick and the player Tom Coughlin called the “cornerstone” of the franchise. So if you remove the cornerstone, doesn’t the entire thing it’s built on collapse?

It already seems to be crumbling as Quarterback Mark Brunell said putting Boselli on the list was “ridiculous.” Coughlin wouldn’t comment when reached at the Senior Bowl in Mobile (the league has asked clubs to refrain from comment or making the list public until 1pm Friday), although Boselli’s agent said he thought the Jaguars Head Coach wasn’t happy about the move and it was “eating him up.”

So does that mean it wasn’t Coughlin’s call? There have been many rumblings about Weaver wanting a bigger hand in personnel. He reportedly also wants a General Manager to take over some of Coughlin’s duties off the field. Is this the pre-cursor to that? Certainly there are other ways they can get out from under their cap problems. Perhaps not as fast, but with some grace and panache, something the team has had a shortage of in the past as well.

Brunell agreed to less money in his new contract just last year, saying he wanted to stay a Jaguar, and playing with Boselli, his best friend seemed to be a factor. With Boselli potentially gone, it seems to signal that Brunell could be next. Several teams, most notably the Detroit Lions were interested in Brunell last year, with the Lions restating their interest in recent months. Steve Spurrier is familiar with Brunell and would no doubt love him as the Redskins quarterback. And what about Houston? If Boselli ends up there, could the Texans put together a parcel of draft picks that would entice the Jaguars to trade Brunell to Houston? Dom Capers is a long time admirer of Brunell, and the feeling is mutual.

Two other things come to mind.

First, isn’t this all a year too late? Couldn’t they have made some of these cuts (including Brunell) before this year and already be on the road to recovery? By delaying the pain for a season, the self-inflicted wounds will be much deeper.

Could the Jaguars make two more fan un-friendly decisions than to not pursue Spurrier and then attempt to get rid of arguably their best and most beloved player?

Second, would Capers want to help the Jaguars out of their cap hole, knowing he has to play them twice a year as a division opponent? Capers will have to weigh the Jaguars potential future success against his own team’s benefit from Tony Boselli and possibly Mark Brunell on the roster.

Accepting that the Jaguars were going to be a different team next year was already part of any Jaguars fans reality. A reality without some of the established veteran stars is something fans understand. But a reality without Boselli seems to break the trust the fans have in the management of the team. Internet chat rooms and sports talk radio can be full of the complaints about Weaver, Coughlin and everything else. The real opinions will be heard when attendance figures are announced next season.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Sweetness and Swagger

Full of hubris and humility, swagger and sweetness, Steve Spurrier owned the room yesterday in his first remarks as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. If you wanted to like him going in, you loved him when you left. If you didn’t care for his style beforehand, you were gagging halfway through. It was classic Spurrier.

In other words, he was completely himself. Addressed the Redskins owner as “Mr. Snyder” although the owner is 19 years his junior, pled his case to the veteran players right there from the podium saying “soldiers don’t practice with live bullets” and convinced Bruce Smith to return right on the spot. He was disarming to his critics, and even slipped in a few jabs at FSU and Tennessee.

“These are not FSU colors,” Spurrier intoned in a mock announcement when asked about the burgundy and gold team colors of the Redskins. “This is burgundy and gold, and that’s not their colors.”

He really got a laugh when he deflected a question about his non-stop tweaking of his opponents. “I think that’s blown way up,” is how he started. “You tell a little cornball joke about the Citrus Bowl being the winter home of the Vols and everybody gets mad.”

He jumped right into it, drawing Redskins fans closer and closer by becoming one of them. “We’ve got the best fans and the biggest stadium,” Spurrier said in his opening remarks, “and I hope it’s the loudest one in the league.”


And he hadn’t even been there 10 minutes.

Gator fans loved Spurrier because they believed he was one of them. And he was, and always will be. But they’ll now have to share him with Redskins fans, because he’s genuine when he talks about “we” and “us.”

Growing up in east Tennessee, Steve admitted he was a Redskins fan growing up. Until 1966 (coincidentally the year he won the Heisman Trophy) the Redskins were the team of the South. They were on televisions throughout the region every Sunday. Geographically they were the most Southern team in the league, before the Falcons, Dolphins, Bucs, Titans, Jaguars, Saints and others. He followed the Redskins as a kid, and now he’s their Head Coach. He’ll take the blame for losing and share the praise when they win. He said all the right things. He was ready he was prepared. He knew when to say “I don’t know” and he called on one of the most hallowed names in Redskins history, Joe Gibbs. “When my time is over here, I hope to leave like Joe Gibbs. Not many coaches get to go out on their own terms.” You could just hear Redskins fans fainting all over the District. You want to be like Gibbs? The three Super Bowl winning Gibbs? How much more perfect can you be?

Those who question whether Spurrier can adapt his style to professional football need only to have seen yesterday’s performance. Steve’s not some dumb, football only coach. He’ll figure out a way to win and perhaps more importantly, he’ll figure out a way to get along with “Mr. Snyder.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Coaching Carousel

It’s been a week since Steve Spurrier resigned at Florida and the domino effect is still taking place. Ron Zook has replaced Spurrier, but the rest of the jobs that were real possibilities last week are still possibilities. The Vikings have a coach, the Chargers still do not. The front-runner for Steve’s services is Carolina. He has connections to the state, sees it as a big challenge and his friend Ken Heroc, a former personnel guy from Atlanta would sign on as GM of the Panthers.

Washington seems to be out of the picture. The Redskins are supposed to name Bobby Beathard as their General Manager this week. That would push Marty Schottenheimer out of the picture and Beathard would hand pick his head coach.

The Glazers want Bill Parcells as their head coach in Tampa Bay. If the Bucs lose this weekend in Philadelphia, look for Tony Dungy to be fired and Parcells to take over the underachieving Bucs.

Spurrier said yesterday that he’s already talked with one NFL team and has two more meetings set up. Is one of those with Jacksonville? And if not, why not? There’s not a single person who has talked to me this week about Spurrier who hasn’t wondered about the possibility of him coaching the Jaguars. It seems like such a no-brainer, but Wayne Weaver has been acting as if he’s oblivious to all of the talk.

Tom Coughlin was the right guy at the right time to build the Jaguars and with the talk of a contract extension; Weaver seems to think Coughlin is also the guy for the future. He must know something the rest of us don’t. Spurrier would create a new excitement for a new era of Jaguars football. He’d win games and sell tickets. And if Spurrier’s looking for a challenge, the Jaguars are certainly going to be that. It all makes too much sense. If there’s a change, we’ll have the latest on the Internet when you log on to samsportsline.com

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

More Zook

It was only uncomfortable a couple of times in the large meeting room yesterday under the stadium where the University of Florida makes their big athletic program announcements. New Head Football Coach Ron Zook was at the end of answering questions and was rambling on, telling a story about how he was hired in Pittsburgh. He was clearly enjoying himself, but Florida officials were fidgeting in the corner, the Sports Information Staff scrambling to try and let Zook and the assembled media know that this meeting was about over.

It was pretty typical Zook though, not orthodox, not some coach speak answer but in this case a guy telling a bunch of other guys a story. He was not polished yesterday, but got his message across. It was pretty good insight into how he’ll be as a coach: excitable, upbeat, passionate, and prepared. He’ll go through some growing pains, learning how to be a head coach. He might say the wrong thing a couple of times, and might step on some toes, but he’ll get it figured out.

As Athletic Director Jeremy Foley outlined his odyssey searching for a new coach, Zook stood in the corner, head down, arms folded, listening to how two coaches in front of him turned down the job. It seemed to reinforce Zook’s determination to show the doubters that he can be the next leader of the Gator Nation.

Eleven times during his remarks, Zook said, “I’m not Steve Spurrier.” Fans are hoping not to echo that sentiment eleven times next year after each game saying “he’s not Steve Spurrier.” He won over a lot of doubting Gators yesterday, and the team seemed genuinely and pleasantly surprised exiting their first full meeting with the new coach. He said all the right things and now, with all that ceremony out of the way, comes the hard part.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


Finding the right coach to lead the Gator Nation was a tough enough job to begin with. Having to do the searching in public made the process a whole lot harder. What if Jeremy Foley had just kept everything to himself and then popped up yesterday and said “It’s Ron Zook.” Gator fans would have said, “What about Bob Stoops, what about Mike Shanahan?” But having been publicly turned down by both of those guys, Foley had to go to Plan B or Plan C and reach a little farther down that “short list” of replacements he keeps on his desk.

The initial reaction has been lukewarm which seems a little unfair to both Zook and Foley. Jeremy’s track record for hiring coaches is nearly flawless. Zook has no track record as a head coach, and perhaps that’s what bothers many Gator fans. Or is he not “high profile” enough? Or they didn’t like his defensive scheme when he was the coordinator at Florida the last time around. Either way, Zook will always have to be the guy who replaced Spurrier, and he’ll have to be the guy who’s not Spurrier as well.

Would fans rather have Tyrone Willingham? How about Mike Belotti? After Stoops and then Shanahan, anybody would be a wild card pick. Foley went for the card he knew, instead of searching around and ending up with the unknown. I knew Zook fairly well when he was here in the ‘90’s and nobody will bring more passion and emotion to the job. He’s a terrific recruiter. And just observing him from afar since he went to the NFL, he seems more settled, more technically adept, more ready to be a head coach. I don’t know how he’ll do, but nobody was really sure about Spurrier in 1990 either. Honest. They wondered whether he was serious enough for the job. Zook isn’t going to have much of a honeymoon, maybe just a kiss on the cheek. And his new partners are going to expect results.


Zook will be introduced in Gainesville today, and we’ll have his comments on the Internet on Samsportsline.com.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Replacing Spurrier

Finding a football coach for the University of Florida isn’t a hard job. Finding the right coach is a very difficult task. There are a lot of factors Athletic Director Jeremy Foley is dealing with, not the least of which is the next coach will have to follow Steve Spurrier. Spurrier was so successful at Florida and is so beloved by the Gators as one of their own, that the next coach will never reach that level.


It doesn’t matter what he does, he’ll never be Spurrier.

So Foley has to hire somebody who is something in their own right, not somebody who comes in and tries to match what Steve has done either on the field or in personality. Bob Stoops was the perfect choice, the right fit, but after saying he’d take the job, something made him change his mind. He doesn’t have any ties to Florida except he worked for Spurrier there.

Mike Shanahan would be fine except he didn’t like the college game the first time around when he was an assistant for Charley Pell. The recruiting, the alumni, the classes all got in the way of what he liked best: coaching football.

So now who?

Steve has such a strong personality that none of his current assistants seem ready to take the job. Outside the program there are former Gator assistants and players all over the place guys like Ron Zook, Mike Mularkey and Chan Gailey, and there are plenty of young, energetic coaches with no ties to the University who could create excitement and win at Florida. But they’ll all always have one major flaw: they’re not Steve Spurrier.

This situation is in flux to say the least, and we’ll give you the latest insight on the Internet.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Hire Spurrier

Usually the Monday following the final weekend of the NFL regular season is pretty cut and dried. Certain coaches know they’re going to be fired, the playoffs are set and everybody is looking toward the playoffs. None of that’s true today as not even the playoff picture is set. If the Ravens win tonight they’re in, if the Vikings win, Seattle goes to the post-season. So many coaching jobs seem to be unfolding before our eyes, with Steve Spurrier as the prime candidate for all of them.

Minnesota and San Diego have jobs open; Carolina, Washington, Atlanta and even playoff-bound Tampa Bay are supposed to be looking for coaches. But for some reason, Jacksonville’s Wayne Weaver is staying on the sidelines in the Spurrier sweepstakes, saying he’s giving Tom Coughlin an extension.

If you’re primary objective is to win, then Coughlin and numerous other coaches can make that happen. But if your combined objective is to win and sell tickets, then hiring Spurrier is a slam-dunk. And what if Coughlin doesn’t like the terms of the extension and balks at a General Manager being brought in, which seems to be in the not-so-distant future? Then you’ve lost on the chance at Spurrier and alienated a big part of your fan base. Weaver might have just painted himself into a corner, or maybe he really believes Coughlin can win and sell tickets. He will win, but nobody’s buying a ticket because Tom Coughlin is the Head Coach.

Bob Stoops seems ready to take the Florida job, but not until Spurrier has his day in Gainesville, Steve appears at a press conference this afternoon.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Spurrier Departs

When he decided to leave, he just left. After fifteen years as a college Head Coach and twelve at the University of Florida, Steve Spurrier just decided he’d had enough. And true to form when he made up his mind to leave, he left. He didn’t hedge, he didn’t negotiate, he just left. He didn’t quit, but rather made it very clear he’s moving on.

Before we go any further, I should say I really like Steve Spurrier and always have. I’ve liked everything about him as a football coach (except for that flea-flicker against Georgia in Athens at the end of the game) and as a person since the day I met him (1984). I’d be pleased to see my son play for him, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay.

Spurrier leaving shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. In fact, the shock should be that he stayed this long. He’s always looking for that next mountain to climb, that next big challenge. If you’re a football coach, one of the thirty-two jobs in the NFL is the biggest challenge there is.

Meeting success at just about everything he’s every tried, Spurrier was successful at Florida in more than just winning football games. He changed everything about the perception of the University from the inside and out. He sold tickets; he sold merchandise, his style of play put the Gators at the top of the standings and in prime time on television. Florida fans stopped cheering, “Wait ’till next year,” and took great pride in the Orange and Blue.

Spurrier never gave any quarter nor did he ask for it. “If he can’t play, we’ll give the other guy a chance,” is a now famous line from the years of success, sometimes through experimentation, as the Head Ball Coach figured out a way to win.

Shane Matthews was a fifth string player before being named player of the year in the SEC. Danny Wuerffel was sent to the bench in favor of Terry Dean one rainy day in Jacksonville. Noah Brindise alternated plays with Doug Johnson as the “Evil Genius” looked for an edge. What other coach would have made those moves?

Tennessee fans hated Spurrier. Same with FSU. But both secretly admitted they’d love him if he were their Head Ball Coach.

Why now? First, Steve is not a guy who’s going to be coaching when he’s 70 years old. Although a youthful 56, Spurrier’s back problems kept him off the golf course and out of a physical training routine more than he liked in 2001. Perhaps he realized that if he was going to make a move, time was running out. He’s got things to do with his life, and coaching forever isn’t one of them.

Second, coaching isn’t a forever job anymore anyway. The player/coach relationship has changed. The expectation of winning, and winning now is greater than ever before. He’ll coach in the NFL for five, six, perhaps seven years and then he’s getting out. But he’ll be great at it.

Some have suggested he won’t be able to translate his success in college to the professional ranks. That’s baloney. In fact, his success in college was based on a professional approach. A keen eye for who can play and who can’t, a very critical analysis of the opposition, and an even more critical assessment of his own team’s strengths and weaknesses are what brought wins in bunches to Gainesville.

He did it all with flair, and a bit of showmanship. He came up with “Free Shoes University.” He once said you can’t spell Citrus without “UT.” He had a theme every week, especially for the big games. He usually saved some kind of prediction for the upcoming season for the Jacksonville Gator Club at the end of his summer tour. He squeezed Miami’s National Championship out of the lead story by quitting the day after they beat Nebraska! Maybe that’s coincidence based on the one-week window he had in his contract every year, but a Gator through and through, he got in a parting shot at an instate rival.

Spurrier is a private guy who has always kept his own counsel. His late father, Rev. Graham Spurrier once told me he’s always been that way. From when he was a kid. Made up his mind and never backed away. Always competitive, played hard ’till dark and then some when his parents finally made him come inside. As a football coach, Steve has always deflected personal praise saying it was his job to “coach ’em up.” Maybe they’ll put his jersey next to Wuerffel’s on the wall in the end zone now that he’s not there to veto the idea.

Where’s he going? Who knows? Year after year when his name was linked to an NFL job, Steve would brush it off saying, “it would be hard for me to do that. I’m just trying to keep the job I have.”

He won’t coach a cold weather team, Washington being as far north as he’ll go. Carolina’s a good fit with his ties to the state. Tampa Bay’s a natural as an instate team with all the Gators, Seminoles and ‘Canes on the team, but he’s turned them down once before. Jacksonville is the best choice, but Wayne Weaver says he’s giving Tom Coughlin an extension and it’s being reported that Weaver isn’t keen on working with Spurrier. That sounds ridiculous to me, and whiffing on a chance at Spurrier is a day any owner will regret. San Diego seems far away unless he’s ready for a total change.

Steve will want a final say in personnel matters, but will want a real football evaluator working for him. Like a General Manager responsible for the cap and the money and helping find players who reports to the Head Coach.

Wherever he goes, they’ll win, they’ll have fun, and it’ll never be dull. Kind of like the last twelve years in Gainesville. To use an old saying, Gator fans shouldn’t be sad he’s leaving, but rather should be happy that it happened at all.