Originally created 09/14/03

A more humble Spurrier returns to Atlanta



ATLANTA -- Steve Spurrier had some of his greatest moments at the Georgia Dome, where his Fun 'n' Gun Florida teams won four Southeastern Conference championships in the 1990s.

But a different Spurrier will be on the sideline Sunday.

The smug college coach is more contrite in the NFL. He knows he can't throw all over the field, run up the score on overmatched opponents, scorn the basics such as field position and special teams.

"Certainly, when you go 7-9, you learn a lot of humility," said Spurrier, referring to his debut season in Washington.

The Redskins (1-0) will meet the Atlanta Falcons (1-0) after a thoroughly un-Spurrierlike victory in Week 1.

Washington threw only 10 passes in the second half, relying on its rugged defense and kicking game for a 16-13 victory over the New York Jets. The Redskins are in position to go 2-0 for the first time since 1991, which also happens to be the last season they won the Super Bowl.

"I've learned that you can't throw the first 20 times of the game and get ahead quickly. That's what we did in college," Spurrier said. "In the NFL, the defenses are so good, the pressure is so good, the coverages are so good. They disguise things so well."

While it's still too early to tell if Spurrier is cut out to be a pro coach, there are no such doubts about the guy on the other side of the field.

Atlanta's Dan Reeves will attempt to become just the seventh coach in NFL history to win 200 career games.

"It means you've been around a long time and you're getting old," quipped Reeves, 59.

He has 188 regular-season victories and 11 more wins in the playoffs, putting him on the cusp of joining a very exclusive club. Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau, Paul Brown and Chuck Noll are the only other coaches with 200 victories.

Reeves approached the milestone in typical fashion - he didn't even tell his players they could be part of a historic victory.

"Two hundred wins?" linebacker Keith Brooking said. "Wow! That's pretty impressive."

Reeves said he's more concerned with getting the Falcons to 2-0 for only the second time in 17 years. It last happened in 1998, sparking a 14-2 season and the franchise's only NFC championship.

As for the 200th win, "it's definitely something that when you look back and reflect on it, you couldn't be close to that if you didn't have a lot of great coaches I was associated with, a lot of great players that I've been fortunate enough to coach, and good ownership," Reeves said. "All of those things you have to have to stay in the game. I've been very fortunate."

The Falcons opened with a 27-13 victory at Dallas, proving they can win - albeit against one of the league's weaker teams - without Michael Vick.

Vick, sidelined by a broken bone in his right leg, watched from the coaching box as backup Doug Johnson rallied the Falcons from a 7-3 halftime deficit. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 228 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.

Now, Johnson faces his college coach. He played for Spurrier from 1996-99, their relationship scarred by several benchings and some well-publicized discord. Spurrier insisted the two have patched things up, while Johnson refused to be dragged into a reconstruction of their former relationship.

If nothing else, Johnson's presence will force the Redskins to change things up. They are especially concerned about playing in a dome, where a noisy crowd could force them to use hand signals instead of sending in plays via helmet transmitter.

"They've got a quarterback who's run this system," Washington quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. "He could make their defense familiar with it. We're going to have to do something in the way of changing some signals, changing some audible calls, so that they aren't able to pick up on what it is we're doing."

Like Spurrier and Johnson, the two coaches also have some history between them.

In 1964, they faced off as opposing quarterbacks: Spurrier for Florida, Reeves for South Carolina.

"If I told you who won, told you the score, you'd think I was bragging," Spurrier said to reporters, apparently trying to show he's learned a bit of modesty.

Of course, Spurrier probably wouldn't have brought up a game that happened 39 years ago if the Gators hadn't won. They routed the Gamecocks 37-0.

"South Carolina wasn't very good that year," Spurrier said.

With a penchant for needling opponents, he stirred up all sorts of feuds in the college ranks. In the NFL, however, there's not that level of personal animosity.

"College coaches recruit against each other," Spurrier said. "You get some ill will going and it gets to the point where you don't like the other guy very much.

"In the pro game, you're trying to beat the other guy. But you realize he's probably lost a lot of games and you've lost a lot of games. There's not much of that wanting to beat the other guy's butt."