Steve Spurrier and “Mills”

Chris Brown doesn’t post as often at Smart Football as he used to, so when he does put something up about college football, it’s a cause for celebration (for me, at least).  And this piece about Steve Spurrier and his love for the deep post pass is worth reading, not just for the Xs-and-Os aspect, which Chris doles out in spades, but also because of what it says about Spurrier’s mindset as a head coach and game planner.

In 1990, Steve Spurrier took over at Florida, vowing to not only turn around the Gators but also to bring an entirely new brand of football to the Southeastern Conference, namely an aggressive, pass-first system that had its roots in the offenses Spurrier ran as an NFL quarterback, as updated and refined in his years as a head coach in the USFL and at Duke. Before the first game against Oklahoma State, Spurrier elevated a young QB named Shane Matthews from fifth on the depth chart to starter. Just before the game, Spurrier approached Matthews:

“Coach Spurrier always liked to come around and talk to guys in the locker room while they were getting ready,” Matthews said. “He finally comes to me and asks, ‘Shane, what play do you want to start with?’”

“I’d never started a college game before. A lot of people were giving him grief already for naming me the starter. So, I said: ‘Maybe a screen or a draw?’ “

And Spurrier responded: “Shoot, they didn’t hire me to come down here and run the football. We’re going to throw it.”

That first play was a 28 yard completion from Matthews to receiver Ernie Mills, who had run a post route behind a ten-to-twelve yard dig or square-in route. Florida scored a touchdown for plays later en route to a 50-7 victory. The rest was, well, history, as Spurrier’s run at Florida would be one of the most successful tenures — and influential — of any coach in football history.

Ray Goff, among others, just wasn’t ready to cope with that kind of mentality.  (And, yeah, if you look closely, you’ll find video of a couple of plays where Spurrier victimized Georgia’s secondary.)  That kind of mentality is what leads to a tribute like this one:

Spurrier didn’t invent The Mills Play, which would eventually come to be known simply as “Mills,” but he called it so often and so aggressively — and was so successful with it — that you’ll see the play clearly labeled as “Mills” (or “Florida” or “Gator”) in playbooks of coaches who never even coached under or played for the Ol’ Ball Coach.

Like it or not, Spurrier will go down as one of the two or three most influential coaches in SEC history.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Evil Genius

10 responses to “Steve Spurrier and “Mills”

  1. Athens Dog

    I’ve always said that if he had been our coach, we would have loved him. Great football mind and world class snark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Macallanlover

      The interesting thing is he was available, and would have taken the UGA job if offered at that time. He had a respect for Dooley, even though they were lights years apart offensively. I never asked him but, not getting a sniff might have been added to his reasons to dislike UGA more than other rivals. It would have not only changed UGA fans’ feelings toward him, it would have changed SEC history. Georgia wasn’t as fertile a recruiting ground in those days as Florida was but there was more than enough talent available, and less competition in-state.


  2. Derek

    I remember watching CJP have swann line up over a slot receiver on the right side of the field and knowing SOS’s qb would only be reading half the field, swann turned his man over to the safety and snuck under the dig on the left side of the field.

    5 got the pick and their qb was like “where’d he come from?”

    The key for SOS was that the offense was so damn simple. Get a clean pocket, make a simple read, throw it on time, and throw it accurately. Stopping it was not so simple.

    Also from the article: “Especially when coupled with play-action, Mills is uniquely designed to stress all of these related coverages without the offense needing to know precisely which one the defense is in: since both #2 and #1 run vertical before making their breaks they essentially turn into the same coverage, and that coverage is liable to leave a cornerback with outside leverage on an outside receiver running a post route.”

    Isn’t that essentially what Auburn did to 14 and 35 Saturday? The inside pattern was also a deep post but it’s the same idea. 35 was trying to cover the inside receiver while 14 played outside leverage hoping,and not getting, help from 35.

    By the way anyone know why Lecounte has been MIA?


  3. Spike

    For the record.. I don’t like it..:)


  4. Mayor

    Just think…..If Spurrier had never been HC at FU what would the UGA-FU series have been like since ’89?


  5. Is it OK to not only admit that I like it, but to revel in it?


  6. Cojones

    And Charley Pell “brought the forward pass to the SEC”, not Spurrier.

    Has anyone projected our passing game in their minds by considering the differing talents our two game QBs play? Fromme throws a little short on those long ones and Eason throws a few over receivers’ heads downfield. Then they both will throw well to specific receivers; Fromme’s favorite and most prolific pass play being a high pass that only Wims seems to be able to get, whereas, Eason seems to team up with Nauta dead-on the long ones consistently. It’s hit or miss on the other receivers for both. It just seems strange that we can’t put together a complete passing game with both QBs who are exceptional at what they do in all other aspects of their play.

    I know, I know. Sometimes the receivers just get the “dropsies”.


  7. Spurrier could be a pain in the butt, but when he was interested, he was one hell of a coach. Would love to see a run like that at UGA.