LANDOVER, Md. -- Steve Spurrier gave his quarterbacks an earful on the sidelines for 12 years at Florida. In the NFL, he can do it while they're still on the field.
One of Spurrier's favorite new toys in the big leagues is the headset transmitter, which allows the coach to talk to his quarterback through a small speaker inside the player's helmet. The NFL introduced the device in 1994 as a way for coaches to call plays, but it's a boon for someone like Spurrier who loves to coach his quarterbacks every chance he gets.
"You can say: 'Hey, you should have thrown the post the last play,"' said Spurrier, preparing for Monday's night game between his Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles.
In fact, Spurrier did give such an admonishment to Shane Matthews in the Redskins' season-opening victory over Arizona. And, because the system is one-way, Matthews couldn't answer back until he got to the sideline.
"They had a safety back there," Spurrier recalled Matthews saying when the series was over.
"No, they didn't," the coach replied.
So coach and quarterback walked over to the bench and looked at a photograph of the play.
"You're right, coach," Matthews said. "They didn't have one."
"I know I'm right," Spurrier replied. "I was watching the game. You're supposed to be watching the game."
Many NFL head coaches do not call the plays into the quarterback, leaving the job instead to the offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach. But Spurrier holds all three jobs with the Redskins, and it's rare that he simply states the name of a play and shuts up.
"You give them a little game plan each play," Spurrier said. "I'm trying to learn how to use that thing. I usually punch it as soon as the play's over and start talking to him. It takes a little while to get comfortable and good at it."
Since the transmitter isn't used in college, Spurrier had to use hand signals to send in his plays while coaching the Gators.
"Of course, after a couple of years people videotape all your signals," Spurrier said, "so you try to disguise them and all that."
There has been a glitch or two, and even a malfunction with the transmitter.
In Sunday's game between Denver and San Francisco, interference from the 49ers' communications systems forced the Broncos to rely on hand signals and player relays for most of their play-calling.
Matthews has been distracted by unnecessary noise in his helmet while getting his team to the line of scrimmage. Spurrier has been the cause, as he tries to get used to the transmitter.
"Sometimes he forgets he has his hand on the button," Matthews said. "And you hear not only him talking, but you hear all the coaches on the sidelines talking about different things."
Button pressed or not, the transmitter shuts off automatically when the play clock hits 15 seconds or when the ball is snapped. That way Spurrier - although he'd probably love to - can't talk to Matthews while the play is in progress.
Matthews rolled his eyes at the thought.
"Thank goodness," Matthews said.
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