How Hue Jackson NFL-ized Steve Spurrier And What Might Have Been For The Redskins

Former Redskins offensive coordinator Hue Jackson might be named head coach of the Oakland Raiders, or not. We are speaking of the mercurial Al Davis after all. Davis is the only NFL owner more detrimental to his team than Dan Snyder has been to the Redskins.

Redskins fans probably won’t remember Jackson as the man who “NFL-ized” Steve Spurrier’s offense in the 2003 season. The Old Ball Coach joined the Redskins to see if his offensive (no pun intended) Fun-n-Gun concepts would work in the NFL. We learned in the 2002 season that they did not.

Spurrier joined the Redskins when Dan Snyder fired Marty Schottenheimer after an 8-8 finish in 2001. Marty brought a no-nonsense, no-favorites mental toughness to the Redskins. Jackson was on the staff as running back coach (Stephen Davis, 1,432 yards, 5 TDs) and continued that role in Spurrier’s  first season in Washington (Davis, 820 yards, 7 TDs; Kenny Watson 534 yards, 1 TD; Ladell Betts 307 yards, 1 TD).

Spurrier, or Snyder, not sure who, promoted Jackson offensive coordinator for 2003. After a rough stretch mid-season, Spurrier allowed Jackson to call plays for a game with Jackson striving for a more conventional, pro-style balanced attack than Spurrier’s Fun-n-Gun offense.

The Redskins won that game, but the Old Ball Coach felt that he was being “NFL-ized” in order to win. Spurrier came to Washington to revolutionize the NFL. It was not pleasant to find the NFL was revolutionizing him. He jumped (or was pushed) from the Redskins at the end of the season.

Jackson joined ex-Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis’ staff as wide receivers coach on the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004 where he developed Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh into mega-stars.

He was named Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator in 2007 just when Michael Vick’s career went to the dogs. Jackson was swept away in the disaster that followed, but landed as quarterback coach with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 working with rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.

Jackson moved on the Oakland as offensive coordinator in 2010 where the Raiders offense improved from 31st (2009) to 10th (2010) in yards per game and scoring output improved from 12.3 to 25.6 points per game. Jason Campbell appeared in 13 games for the Raiders in an up and down season.

Says Campbell “you have to give Hue Jackson some credit [for] the things that he brought to us from Baltimore — the type of offense we had this year, the mindset that we had. You know, just the overall season for us, you know, is an improving season. And guys, I think, learned how to win, how to play with confidence and understand what it takes.”

Jim Zorn followed Jackson as Ravens quarterback coach. Flacco’s performance jumped with Zorn’s arrival – 88.9 QB rating in 2009; 93.6 rating in 2010. Flacco should have progressed in his third season anyway, but Zorn’s presence helped more than hurt.

Hurmph! Take a couple of lessons from this little tale.

1. Dan Snyder has yet to hire blithering idiots as coacheswhen those coaches had an NFL-ized career path before they get here. Note to BCS assistants: If you want to jump to the real pros, do it early in your career, not when you are the head guy at Florida, or Stanford.

2. There is no shame in being dumped by the Redskins. Things can get better, sometimes a lot better, after you leave.  (See: Johnson, Brad; Davis, Stephen; Williams, Gregg; Clark, Ryan; Super Bowl appearances, all of them) Besides, coaches are hired to be fired.

3. Coaching consultants don’t help. Jackson called plays from Spurrier’s game plan by agreement with the old ball coach. That’s why it wasn’t a big deal at the time. The Redskins called in Joe Bugel as offensive consultant in Spurrier’s last year. As we were to see in 2009, that move only served to undermine the coach. If you think you need coaching consultants, just fire the coach and move on.

4. Mindlessly churning talented players and coaches harms more than it helps. Repeat this 10 times all you people who hate [insert name of most hated coach here]!

4. Hue Jackson is one hell of a coach. He deserves better than Al Davis. The ‘Skins would never have sold Jackson to fans over Joe Gibbs in 2004, but he might have gotten a call over Jim Zorn in 2008.

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Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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