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Sun Tzu Week 7: Cool Reception on the Tundra

By Eric Johnson | October 22nd, 2002

Salutations, Shaolin Redskins fans. A cold wind swirled recently down my valley, reminding the villagers below of the winter that is soon coming. But I sit quietly now in the warm sunshine, remembering that our fortunes rise and fall like a flag in the fitful autumn breeze.

The Ol’ Ballcoach continues his education at the hand of Master Sun Tzu. Let us observe.


Sun Tzu said:

“And as water has no constant form, there are in war no constant

The Ol’ Ballcoach would probably ruefully agree with this lesson. Change is a constant in football, and Spurrier is starting to get frustrated, I imagine, with the amount of change he’s seeing week to week. Surely, some of it he’s responsible for, but for the most part he makes changes on the team simply because he’s trying to put the best players forward.

And the criteria by which he judges is very straightforward and makes eminent sense: “What I’ve always done as a coach is start the players who grade out the highest, who try to do it the way the coaches ask them more often.” Until players step forward who show that they can start from week to week, the receivers will rotate, as will the quarterback. The QB position has to be especially hard for Spurrier, since it is the position he clearly loves most on the field. But there has been too much variability there–his QBs have been by turns too cautious, too injured, quite successful, and then inconsistent. The mark of the true genius will be how he responds to those changing conditions over the long haul.


Sun Tzu said:

“He who intimidates his neighbors does so by inflicting injury
upon them.”

And he who doesn’t do the latter, doesn’t do the former.


Sun Tzu said:

“When a feudal lord fights in his own territory, he is in
dispersive ground. . . . In dispersive ground I would unify the
determination of the army.”

Third century commentator Ts’ao Ts’ao said about home territory, “Here officers and men long to return to their nearby homes.” While I am not sure that Redskins players have been distracted by the proximity of their homes while at FedEx, it is definitely the case that there is very little “advantage” in the Redskins’ home field advantage. The Redskins have lost 10 of their last 19 home games–hardly a statistic to send fear into the hearts of their opponents.

Yet the players certainly recognize the need to fix that. “You can’t let someone come into your house, slap you around and eat all your food,” said linebacker LaVar Arrington. “We need to stop that. We need to guard our home better.” And the coaches, too, realize that they have to focus their team on creating a home field advantage. Some of Spurrier’s earliest comments as head coach revolved around the need to make FedEx a fearful place for opponents. He’s been full of praise this season about the noise the fans are making during home games.

This week, with Indy coming to the threshold, it’s time to study the film to figure out what the Steelers did to hold Peyton Manning in check on Monday night. It’s time to step up and start a new pattern. It’s time to unify the determination of the army and make a home field hell.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Eric Johnson

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