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COUCH SLOUCH

Trio being taken to school

Steve Spurrier had a 122-27-1 coaching record at Florida; he is 11-14 in the NFL. Dennis Erickson was 63-9 at Miami (Fla.); he is 35-38 in the NFL. And Butch Davis was 51-20 at Miami; he is 19-22 in the NFL.

One day you're Big Man on Campus, the next day you're Fried Egg on Toast.

Three of the most successful college coaches have discovered what many of us outside of football have known for years:

Sundays are a lot tougher than Saturdays.

This is the NFL, gentlemen.

No booster money, no redshirting, no homecoming opponents -- well, unless the Chargers are on your schedule.

In the NFL, you can't just pull a kid's scholarship.

In the NFL, you can't stockpile offensive linemen on the third floor of the jock dormitory.

In the NFL, you don't answer to administrators and alumni, you answer to one very rich owner who can fire you while getting a pedicure.

I know a thing or two about college -- I spent 5 1/2 years at the University of Maryland, mostly looking for my car -- and, believe you me, it was a lot easier in there in the vicinity of those ivory towers than it is out here in the vicinity of these corporate raiders.

College is a dream world, the NFL is the real world.

College has coffeehouses, poetry readings, film festivals, peace demonstrations, frat mixers, marching bands, food co-ops, job seminars, keg parties, cute coeds, dance marathons, Gallagher concerts, grassy knolls, and improv nights.

The NFL has Ray Lewis and instant replay.

It's been coaching culture shock for Spurrier, Erickson, and Davis. These fellas are used to beating Mississippi State, 52-6. They routinely went 10-1 in college; none of them has yet to be as good as 10-6 in the NFL.

Davis, with the Browns, is the only one to even post a winning season -- last year's 9-7, with a first-round playoff loss. Erickson couldn't crack .500 in any of four joyless seasons with the Seahawks, and now he's 4-5 in his first joyless year with the 49ers. Then there's Spurrier, the most spectacular failure of the bunch, in his second season with the Redskins.

At Gainesville, Spurrier might've set his alarm for 11 a.m. In Washington, Spurrier now wakes up by 8 o'clock in the morning, by which time Jon Gruden already has been working for five or six hours.

Spurrier has been unable to overcome two massive obstacles -- his own coaching ego and his even more egomaniacal boss, owner-in-training Daniel Snyder.

(Snyder fashions himself as a cross between Al Davis, Branch Rickey, and the Count of Monte Cristo. He loves making football decisions. It's as if he won a GM for a Day contest, then paid off the organizers to let him keep the job permanently. I'm sure Dan Snyder was terrific at Strat-O-Matic a number of years ago. So was I. It doesn't qualify either one of us to make NFL personnel moves.)

Spurrier has brought his system to the pros. His system, best I can tell, is to throw the ball downfield whenever possible, even if (a) the quarterback is flat on his back, or (b) there's nobody downfield. Indeed, the system has a few kinks in it, though it appears Patrick Ramsey should be able to get work as a crash dummy for General Motors in the offseason.

Spurrier gave up play-calling this week, which is a bit like Dennis Rodman giving up body piercing. He also decided, in a 20-20 game against the Seahawks with 6:19 left, to go for fourth-and-a-foot from his 25-yard line. It worked and he won, but if he tries that often enough, he'll be working on an oil rig off the coast of Morocco soon enough.

Anyway, Snyder is sort of an impatient chap -- I believe he once got rid of a microwave oven because it wasn't cooking his Budget Gourmet fast enough -- so it's likely Spurrier will not be around for the entirety of his five-year, $25 million contract. At which point the old ball coach can give it the old college try again -- against Mississippi State.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Every time I turn on ESPN, it's LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Aren't we already a bit overheated about Bron-Melo? (Jamie Lutz, Dundalk, Md.)

A. What are we supposed to be concentrating on, the Glen Robinson-Keith Van Horn rivalry?

Q. What in the world is a doppelganger and could you use it in a sentence? (Aaron Melchiori, Madison, Wis.)

A. I can't define it precisely, but because I once attended an Oakland Raiders home game, I can use it in a sentence properly: Hey, you doppelgangers, DOWN IN FRONT!

Q. It has been said that the most exciting two minutes in sports is the Kentucky Derby. What do you think is the least exciting two minutes in sports? (Bruce Cook, Spokane, Wash.)

A. Karl Malone at the foul line.

Q. Does a person entered into the Witness Protection Program actually have to witness something? I was thinking of Kordell Stewart. (Jim Quatro, Stow, Ohio)

A. I love $1.25 winners who really don't need my services.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25!

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