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.