We all know a guy like Steve Spurrier. You know, the guy who insists on doing all the work, trusts only himself, starts working at a furious pace and then looks up and snidely says, “I’m doing everything around here, right?”
I feel pretty confident in assigning these personality traits to Spurrier because of his comments on a recent teleconference.
“Last year, I’m sitting there writing down third-and-1, third-and-8, red zone, two-point plays, putting them on the wristbands, and everybody is sitting there looking at me,” he said. “And I said, ‘I’m doing everything around here, right?’”
See, I told you.
Here’s how you know the game of college football is rapidly changing: Steven Orr Spurrier, the man who drew routes in the sandlot during high school and called the plays as head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Duke, Florida and South Carolina college programs, is allowing someone else to call plays next season. Sure, his own son, Steve Jr. But still.
Defenses are too complicated these days; they require equally elaborate formations to combat them. The game-week requirements — speeches, radio shows, TV shows, booster club meetings — are absorbing too much time, even in a profession where the coach often sleeps on his office couch. The head coach, like the Auburn players often describe Tommy Tuberville, is really becoming the CEO of the program.
No wonder the coordinators at this level are getting paid so well.
“It’s changed a lot in the last 20 years,” Spurrier said. “When I was first a play-caller, sometimes I didn’t even need a sheet. I probably had already thrown it down after an interception or something and just called them off the top of my head.
“Nowadays, there’s so many plays and formations, players and shifts and this, that and the other. You almost have to have a sheet with you at all times and know where all the plays are on the sheet.”
The game is much more complex, maybe too complex for one man to serve as the head coach and control the offense. We all saw how the personal relationship between a coach and his players can redefine a program when Mark Richt gave up play-calling duties to Mike Bobo.
Richt spent 15 minutes with every player last fall in an effort to know them better, and pretty soon players were celebrating, Knowshon Moreno was dancing and Richt was looking like Johnny Cash during the Auburn game. Oh, and Georgia started winning even more.
“Before, I was in the middle of the forest chopping wood like everybody else,” Richt said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I think there’s some value to being right in the middle of it. But once I moved away from that, I was able to back away some and see everything from a little bit different perspective.”
Georgia’s success and Spurrier’s decision isn’t stopping two SEC coaches — Ole Miss’s Houston Nutt and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino — from assuming play-calling duties this season. Nutt called plays at Arkansas until two poor seasons prompted a change.
Petrino started calling plays as an assistant and just couldn’t quit, which seems odd for him.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, something I think is one my strengths as a coach,” Petrino said. “It allows you to develop closer relationships with the quarterbacks and with the other offensive players and stay really involved in it. I certainly feel real comfortable with our offensive staff, but it’s something I feel like I do well.”
Spurrier can also do it well. But he needed to make a change. The Gamecocks finished last in the SEC in rushing offense and rushing defense a year ago. They did not make a bowl game, which is pretty hard to do these days.
But raise your hand if you really think Spurrier is going to relinquish all the play-calling and spend an equal amount of time with the defense instead of drawing plays on the board. If the offense really struggles against North Carolina State or Vanderbilt, I believe we’ll see Spurrier holding that sheet of paper on Sept. 13 vs. Georgia. He’s just too competitive. He loves the idea of competing against a defensive coordinator.
Just ask him.
“I haven’t given it up completely, let’s put it that way,” he said.
Yeah, he’ll be back to doing everything around there.