Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jun 2005

QB Controversy

You know you're definitely B-list when Steve Spurrier takes you out behind the woodshed. Responding to some silly comments from Joe Theismann about his handling of QB Patrick Ramsey during his days in Washington, Spurrier had this to say: "I'm always amused by a few former players who, once they're handed a microphone, become an authority and expert on everything about football, including coaching," Spurrier said. "Yet, so many of these guys -- almost all of them -- have never coached a down in their lives."

Adding insult to injury was this comment from the author of the article: "...and Spurrier did not have to change the pronunciation of his last name in an attempt to win the Heisman as Theismann did."

Nice.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 25 Jun 2005

24 comments, Last at 29 Jun 2005, 11:01am by Led

Comments

1
by Bill (not verified) :: Sun, 06/26/2005 - 4:01am

Is the person who wrote this article serious?

I mean, as awful as Joe Theismann is, to accuse him of being further self-promoting than Spurrier?

2
by Russell (not verified) :: Sun, 06/26/2005 - 7:10am

This article is yet further proof of why Spurrier belongs coaching in college. He has yet to coach a single game at South Carolina, and the local paper is already treating him like a demigod.

3
by Bockman (not verified) :: Sun, 06/26/2005 - 7:32pm

Please don't tell me you're going to defend Theismann. He's horrible in every fashion of his TV duties. And changing your last name to rhyme with a trophy? That's pathetic.

4
by Harry (not verified) :: Sun, 06/26/2005 - 10:44pm

When did Theismann change the pronunciation of his last name? It's a German name, it SHOULD rhyme with Heisman if you're saying it correctly.

5
by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 12:39am

Re: #4

Until he was a candidate for the award, Joe pronounced his last name like Thees-man.

"Theismann, German by heritage, said the correct pronunciation of the family name used to be Ticeman. "But it got Americanized and we became Theesman," he said. "So when the trophy thing came up, I called my grandmother, the matriarch of the family -- she still is -- and said, "They're going to change our last name,' and I told her what it was. And she said, "Well, at least it's closer than what they call us now."

Click on my name for the link.

6
by year of the dolphin (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 10:22am

worst tv guy ever. he picks a player, gushes over the guy for 3 hours whether he's on the field or not, and generally adds no value to the coverage.

LT shoulda killed him, instead.

7
by HLF (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 1:09pm

And the point was that we (as society) pitifully accept as expert opinion the opinion of folks with no qualifications other than having a microphone in front of them (similar to the way we listen to idiots like Cruise or Bono talk about non-acting issues).

I have nothing personal against Theismann other than he's a terrible color commentator (and he went to the cesspool of all evil for college), but Spurrier's right to call him out on this.

8
by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 4:16pm

Theismann is a terrible commentator.

Spurrier was a terrible NFL coach.

Theismann was a better NFL qb than Spurrier.

I hate to agree with Joe, but I see no reason to take Spurrier's side in this debate.

9
by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 4:43pm

Spurrier's response is rather curious. Rather than deny what Theisman said or do anything else to defend his NFL performance, he simply regurgitated stats about his success in college and suggested that he was therefore above criticism.

And there's a big difference between Theisman (dolt that he is) commenting about playing quarterback and offensive strategy in the NFL, which is what he gets paid for, and Tom Cruise commenting (for example) on how other people's mental health issues should be treated. Why is coaching experience a prerequisite to criticizing coaching performance?

10
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 6:32pm

"Why is coaching experience a prerequisite to criticizing coaching performance?"

Some day I'm going to write the FAQ for this site, and the various forms of this question will be in the top 5. The response will of course be heavily sarcastic, and aimed at the jackasses who disagree with an article written here, and resort to the stupid "What gives you the right to analyze football if you never played/coached professionally?" garbage. So I gotta agree with Led here, that response from Spurrier is particularly weak.

On the other hand, this is the extent of Theismann's analysis:

"Steve Spurrier would berate Patrick if he threw it to the flat because it wasn’t there down field," Theismann said. "In Joe Gibbs’ offense, if you don’t have it, dump it off. That makes a big difference."

Notice the lack of actual evidence whether Ramsey was allowed to dump the ball off more last year than in the FunNGun, only an unsubstantiated claim that he would be 'berated' if he didn't force it downfield. Throw in the fact that he played for and adores Gibbs (ulterior motive anyone?) and there's really nothing of substance in this analysis at all. So yeah, I gotta say Spurrier was right to call him on it, but I wish he had come up with something better than that.

11
by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 8:08pm

I don't understand the hatred for Theismann.

12
by Brumdog (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2005 - 8:32pm

1. Joe Theismann is a football analyst. It is his job to make observations.

2. Regardless of the source, was there anyone who felt that Spurrier did a good job handling the quarterback situation in Washington?

3. Spurrier tried to institute his Fun N Gun offense to the NFL down to the fact that he had his quarterbacks would have had to an uncanny ability to read the defense and alter the play at the line of scrimmage. Ramsey was a rookie QB. If so, why didn't Spurrier make some adjustments to the game plan that would have cut down on pre-snap adjustments? I recall Spurrier's comments when he joined the Redskins that he wouldn't work the long hours that some coaches did because they were simply "overthinking" and "wasting their time." Maybe he could have used some time to made the adjustments to fit his game plan to his personnel.

13
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 3:46am

I don't agree with all the Spurrier bashing here. I mean, Spurrier is supposedly a total shmuck of an NFL head coach. In 2003 his offense ranks 17th according to DVOA at -4.1. Just slightly below average. Spurrier quits, Gibbs (the HALL OF FAME coach) comes in, and Washington's offense falls to 28th at -15.3. I don't know, I think Spurrier's not looking like such a bad coach after all.

Also, since we're on the topic of criticising a Washington head coach for his handling of a quarterback situation, why don't we look at Gibb's decision to break the bank acquiring Brunell and his inability to sit him all year.

It should also be noted that under Spurrier, Ramsey had a DVOA of -6.4, and in the Joe Gibbs offense that Theismann claims he was so much more comfortable in, he had a DVOA of -12.4. Something worth noting.

14
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 11:27am

Good points, Kibbles.

Theismann and Gibbs often had a rocky relationship. Theismann has complained many times that Gibbs never visited him in the hospital after LT broke his leg. So I'm a bit surprised that Theismann seems to support Gibbs here.

15
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 1:15pm

Gibbs' offense last year was indefensible; let's see how Ramsey does the 2nd year in Gibbs' system and then compare that to his 2nd year in Spurrier's to decide on who's the better coach of qbs in today's NFL.

As for NFL head coaches, which after all is the position Spurrier held, not offensive coordinator or qb coach:

WAS 01 (Schottenheimer) total DVOA 13th 3.3%.

WAS 02 (Spurrier) total DVOA 23rd -5.4%

WAS 03 (Spurrier) total DVOA 24th -13.5%

WAS 04 (Gibbs) total DVOA 17th -2.4%

I think Spurrier's record as an NFL head coach is also indefensible and bashing is in order.

16
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 1:31pm

No one (including Spurrier) would dispute that the Redskins were a bad team when Spurrier was coach. But Theismann's comments are more specific: He says Spurrier did a bad job coaching Ramsey. I see no evidence that Gibbs did any better with Ramsey than Spurrier did.

17
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 2:23pm

Just cause Gibbs did a worse job doesn't mean that Spurrier didn't do a bad job coaching Ramsey.

18
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 2:41pm

Kibbles wrote:

I don’t agree with all the Spurrier bashing here. I mean, Spurrier is supposedly a total shmuck of an NFL head coach. In 2003 his offense ranks 17th according to DVOA at -4.1. Just slightly below average. Spurrier quits, Gibbs (the HALL OF FAME coach) comes in, and Washington’s offense falls to 28th at -15.3. I don’t know, I think Spurrier’s not looking like such a bad coach after all.

I think Kibbles IS disputing that Spurrier was a bad coach. It's not until the next paragraph that he then talks about Ramsey under Spurrier vs under Gibbs. The wording clearly separates this as a second point:

Also, since we’re on the topic of criticising a Washington head coach for his handling of a quarterback situation, why don’t we look at Gibb’s decision to break the bank acquiring Brunell and his inability to sit him all year.

Theismann, although he is an idiot commentator (opinion), was a better NFL qb than Spurrier (opinion but there is some statistical evidence to back that up, whether you choose qb statistics or championships as your measure). I agree with his opinion as a decent-to-good NFL qb in support of a HOF coach with proven record of developing qbs that Gibbs has done a better job with Ramsey than Spurrier.

I'd agree there is no statistical evidence to support Theismann's contention (or mine) of Gibbs over Spurrier. However, Ramsey appeared to regress under Spurrier: DVOA of 1.2% in 2002 to -6.4% in 2003. That regression continued last year under Gibbs to -12.4%.

My point if I'd started the argument over Gibbs v. Spurrier would be that Gibbs deserves two years with Ramsey (as Spurrier had) before we compare their performances.

I think it's not hard to believe that Ramsey might improve this year. It's also not hard to believe that Gibbs' has lost his skills as a qb developer. He didn't do it with his hand-picked qb, Brunell, and he didn't do it with his inherited qb, Ramsey.

19
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 3:15pm

Do we have any reason to beleive Ramsey will ever be a good QB? He had some flashes of brilliance, but over the last three years he's gone from mediocre to bad to worse. Maybe his regression has nothing to do with Spurrier or Gibbs, and he's just not good enough to be a NFL QB.

20
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 3:29pm

Do we have any reason to beleive Ramsey will ever be a good QB?

We have two reasons to believe he has that chance: Drew Brees, and Mark Rypien.

21
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 1:50am

As for NFL head coaches, which after all is the position Spurrier held, not offensive coordinator or qb coach:
WAS 01 (Schottenheimer) total DVOA 13th 3.3%.
WAS 02 (Spurrier) total DVOA 23rd -5.4%
WAS 03 (Spurrier) total DVOA 24th -13.5%
WAS 04 (Gibbs) total DVOA 17th -2.4%
I think Spurrier’s record as an NFL head coach is also indefensible and bashing is in order.

I think a very key point is overlooked in this analysis. Washington was only respectable last season because of their defense, which I think was more a result of Gregg Williams than it was of Joe Gibbs. After all, correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't Williams more than just a defensive coordinator last season? Didn't he have some sort of stronger title even, like "Assistant Coach - Defense"? I hardly believe that it was Gibbs' return that turned the #28 defense into the #3 defense in a single season.

I think Spurrier's biggest flaw was that he took his comfort zone with him. He surrounded himself with all of his associates from his days of college football, all of whom had pretty much no NFL experience. I strongly suspect that if you gave Spurrier Gregg Williams coaching up the defense, it would have been a lot better than 28th... and since we've already established that Spurrier's offense was better than Gibbs', I think it's entirely possible that Spurrier's Redskins would have been as good as, or better than, Gibbs'.

All of this is besides the point, though. Let's put this into perspective. We're comparing SPURRIER to GIBBS and SCHOTTENHEIMER... and the comparison isn't all that unfavorable. One of them is a Hall of Famer famous for winning 3 different SBs with 3 different QBs and 3 different RBs. The other is one of the best regular season coaches ever, who is all but assured of a spot in the HoF if he ever wins a superbowl. I mean, he has an entire style of football named after him here. The fact that Spurrier is even in the same ballpark as these guys suggests that maybe he wasn't the horrible NFL head coach he was made out to be. I'm not calling him the second coming of Vince Lombardi here, but take a long hard look at Cleveland's fortunes through the middle of the 90s and tell me that a first-time head coach on a bad team can be judged entirely by his record.

22
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 9:44am

Spurrier's defense in 2002 was run by Marvin Lewis, who also had the title assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (so the'skins could call it a promotion to get him from the Ravens). This hire was primarily done by Snyder.

Lewis did a pretty good job, having the 7th rated D with a DVOA of -6.2%. Of course, Marty's brother Kurt's D the year before had a DVOA of -13.0% (only good for 9th).

Then Lewis left and Spurrier hired an old crony George Edwards (played for Spurrier at Duke, coached for him at Florida). Edwards had some NFL experience as a LB coach at DAL before taking the same job in WAS in 2002 and getting promoted in 2003. Result: defense declined to DVOA of 11.0% and 28th in the league.

The nature of being a head coach is you are responsible for the entire team. Gibbs and his old cronies didn't do such a good job, but he had the sense to hire a highly regarded DC and he gets credit for that. Spurrier had one year with a highly regarded DC and one year with a rookie DC who didn't pan out. He gets the blame for that.

Gibbs made a bad choice at qb last year. He gets blamed for that. Spurrier made a bad choice at qb his 1st year too (remember Weurffel and Matthews both started before Ramsey got the job).

At the end of Spurrier's reign, WAS wtd DVOA was -19.6%, below the season DVOA. At the end of Gibbs' 1st year, the wtd DVOA was 8.2%, headed in the right direction. I think the comparison is very unfavorable.

23
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 10:07am

Oh, and Gibbs and Schottenheimer knew the names of the players on their defenses.

24
by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 11:01am

All this statistical talk is interesting, but irrelevant. Spurrier is a coaching god, had a kick-ass offense with Florida and Theeeesmann never coached a minute in his life. Obviously Theeesmann, the former QB and professional football commentator, was way out of line. Grab your pitchforks and some rope.