Sun Tzu Week 8: Taming the Colts

Archive: Sun Tzu Washington Commanders

Good day, Shaolin Redskins fans! Today as I write, the autumn sun is shining down onto the trees–flashing brightly off the burnished burgundy and gold leaves. It is a beautiful sight.

The Ol’ Ball Coach has taken his recent lessons to heart, and on Sunday he turned around and taught the enemy a lesson or two learned from Sun Tzu. Let us examine them:


Sun Tzu said:

“That you may march a thousand li [about 300 miles] without
wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no

This week saw a triumphant recommitment to the ground game. The team knew, going into the contest, that Indianapolis had the 30th-ranked defense against the run. Stephen Davis poured on 80 yards in just 16 carries before reinjuring his right knee and getting pulled from the game in the first half. No matter: Kenny Watson picked up the slack with 67 more yards in fifteen carries. All told, the Redskins racked up 165 yards on the ground.

But more impressive, perhaps, than the performance of the running backs was that of the patchwork offensive line, which blasted those holes in the Colts’ defense. Especially early in the game, Stephen Davis seemed to be truly running “where there is no enemy.” Tre Johnson got in on the action mere days after being signed. Alex Sulfsted more than held his own starting for the injured Chris Samuels. It was, in short, a sight to see–let’s hope to see it again and again!


Sun Tzu said:

“A general changes his methods and alters his plans so that
people have no knowledge of what he is doing.”

Though the Redskins knew that the run defense of the Colts was their weakest point, nobody knew for sure whether Steve Spurrier could bring himself to take advantage of it. His high-flying offense seems predicated on passing early and passing often, with rushing as a sort of awkward step child. But those who truly understand the mind of Qiu Lei Yun Dong Jiao Lian know that even more important to him than winning his way, is simply winning. He will do what it takes, even if it means moderating his desire to pitch and catch all over the field, if it brings a victory.

And so we see perhaps the first example of Spurrier modifying his tactics to suit the occasion. Now that the team is performing more comfortably within his system, I believe we will see both more trickery and more aggressive game-planning. Teams will find it hard to plan against him because they will be unsure how he will attack them.


“Bestow rewards without respect to customary practice;
publish orders without respect to precedent. Thus you may
employ the entire army as you would one man.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the Ol’ Ball Coach is his ability to judge players without regard to their reputation, their prior history with him, or their longevity in the league. His formula is simple–if you perform within his system, you stay in the game. If not, you will sit.

As an example, one need look no further than Spurrier’s treatment of his former Gator players. Danny Wuerffel is third on the depth chart, Shane Matthews was benched until his performance put him back on top, Chris Doering and Jacquez Green have been in and out of the lineup. Robert Gillespie went to the practice squad. Reidel Anthony was cut in the preseason.

Young players will come to supplant their elders if they play better than them, while older players who still “have it” will hold off the young upstarts. It is the ultimate example of fairness in coaching, and it will ensure the loyalty of the players–at least those who believe that the only measure of ability is what you do on the field. The coach is one–the most important one–who believes that.

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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