Sun Tzu Week 9: The Osprey Cries

Archive: Sun Tzu Washington Commanders

It is a beautiful day, Shaolin Redskins fans. The crisp breeze blows from the northwest and dries my laundry strung among the bamboo. It is wash day, but I am distracted by the movement of the troops in the valley below. Our host returns triumphant.

The Ol’ Ball Coach pulled some unusual lessons from Master Sun Tzu this week, but they were effective nevertheless:


Sun Tzu said:

“What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations.
And therefore the general who understands war is the Minister
of the people’s fate and arbiter of the nation’s destiny.”

Though it was painful for him, Spurrier in his heart of hearts knows that the only important statistic to come out of the Washington-Seattle game is the one that reads “14-3” in favor of the Redskins. It is certainly true that he didn’t come out of the college ranks to oversee solid defense and stolid rushing; he wants to see the ball in the air and points piling upon points. Right now, the Redskins are stumbling when it comes to building up the “prolonged operations” of establishing a consistent air game. But even more important to him than establishing air superiority–even more central to his essence as a coach and as a person–is getting the “W.” It’s why he plays the games.


Sun Tzu said:

“He who intimidates his neighbors wearies them by keeping them
constantly occupied, and makes them rush about by offering them
ostensible advantages.”

The Seahawks gained 84 yards on the ground. They got 240 yards through the air. The time of possession was 34:58 to 25:02, almost ten minutes in their favor. They were constantly involved in the game. They found gaps in the defense and advanced the ball. They appeared to find ostensible advantages. But they were never able to convert all that effort into points, and by game’s end the Seahawks were weary indeed. Weary of the taste of defeat.


Sun Tzu said:

“When I wish to avoid battle I may defend myself simply by drawing
a line on the ground; the enemy will be unable to attack me because
I divert him from going where he wishes.”

That line on the ground drawn by the Redskins defense, simply put, was the goal line. The Seahawks sorely wished to get across that line and were unable to do so. The Redskins stepped up virtually every time they needed to–in a style of play so often described as “bend don’t break,” they allowed the Seahawks to outgain them in the air and gain solid yardage on the ground, but the ‘Hawks could never translate that real estate into points. Bruce Smith had his best game of the year–not only with two sacks, but with crucial tackles at the line. Champ Bailey played a near-perfect defensive game. Though Mike Holmgren wished to do so, he was unable to attack Spurrier’s squad.


Sun Tzu said:

“If reckless, a general can be killed.”

Indeed, Mike Holmgren made some poor–reckless–decisions. At the close of the first half, down 14-3, he elected to go for a TD on 4th and 2 instead of kicking the field goal. Bruce Smith blasted through the line and dropped QB Hasselbeck for a sack. In the last three minutes of the game, Holmgren again elected to go for it on a fourth-and-four at the Redskins 15 yard line, and this time Daryl Gardener had the sack. Holmgren was gambling–not only with this game but increasingly with his position in Seattle–and the end result doesn’t look good either way for him.

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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