When Steve Spurrier taunted Jim Haslett
If Steve Spurrier thinks you work too hard at your job, that's probably not a bad thing. I think we can all probably agree about that.
Why bring this up now? Well, new Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, you might recall, has something of a history with the Skins' flighty former head coach. (I actually didn't recall this, but Grant Paulsen--who recalls everything--jogged my memory.)
So here's what happened. After Spurrier resigned from Florida (but before he was hired by the Skins), he gave a farewell news conference in Gainesville. it was classic Spurrier, with none of his lines more classic than his shot at Haslett. From the AP's account:
He stressed that he doesn't want a job where he's in charge of personnel or the salary cap - "They've got other guys who can do math, don't they?" - and he doesn't think being in the NFL has to be a 100-hour-a-week job.
"I saw a story saying Jim Haslett comes in at 4:30 every morning - that's not doing him much good," Spurrier said of the Saints coach, who went 7-9 this year.
And, kaboom! Quite a way to get started, especially since he pronounced the coach's name "Haze-let." His fuller quote was a bit less harsh; he added that "I've always thought the time you spend with your players is the most important....I guess what I'm trying to say is there are all kinds of ways to get the job done."
But it was the "not doing him much good" zinger that stuck, with reporters all over the country gleefully reprinting the line amid reports that Haze-let was none to too amused. As months went on, both men were repeatedly asked about the quip, and both downplayed it, as you'd imagine.
"It doesn't bother me," Haslett said, while calling Spurrier "a relatively nice guy." "People say stuff all the time."
"It wasn't that big a deal," Spurrier added a few weeks later. "I've talked to him about it. There was an article about him coming in (to work) at 4:30 in the morning, and someone asked me about it. It was late in the season when they were struggling a little bit. I could have used him, Jon Gruden or a lot of coaches in the NFL. I said, 'That doesn't mean you're going to win.' "
The Saints and the Redskins met early in Spurrier's first year in Ashburn, and of course the quote was revisited about a zillion times that week.
"Steve can work whatever time he wants, I really don't care," Haslett said then, while telling the press that his typical work day was between 12 and 18 hours long. "He can do his deal, and I'll do my deal. There's not a coach in this league that doesn't work hard. I don't know any coach that comes in at 9 o'clock and leaves at 4 o'clock."
And Spurrier said before the game that he still didn't believe excessive work led to better results.
"It doesn't correlate," Spurrier said. "I just don't believe it. It's my opinion. If that correlated, every coach would sleep in his office."
Against all my instincts, I'd actually agree with Spurrier on this point. So long as you're not blowing off work to go golfing in the middle of the afternoon, all NFL coaches probably put a fair amount of effort into the deal, and the difference between 75- and 80-hour work weeks likely doesn't decide many games. But it's a lot more enjoyable to just make fun of him.
Anyhow, Haslett said he was sure "Steve works just as hard as most guys in this league." Spurrier said his original comment was "blown out of proportion." And it goes without saying that Haslett's team won the game. The Redskins yielded two special teams touchdowns, gave up seven sacks and turned the ball over on their first four possessions en route to a 43-27 loss.
"It's pitiful watching us play right now," Spurrier said after the loss. "Obviously we looked like a very poorly coached team. Offense, defense, special teams. Everyone, hell."
Spurrier lasted one more season--which included another loss to the Saints--took a year off, and then landed at South Carolina. Shortly after Spurrier's hiring in Columbia, Haze-let was asked one more time about the quip, and he gave one more measured response.
"I just viewed it as somebody, at the time, who really wasn't sure what he was getting into and probably should have waited to see," Haslett said then. "He's a good football coach, and a pretty good person. I think he'll do fine down there."
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