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Sun Tzu Week 10: At the Mercy of the Spotted Cat

By Eric Johnson | November 12th, 2002

Greetings, Shaolin Redskins fans. The hunters have returned from the jungle in the south, saddened by the loss of a few of their party. It appears that a spotted cat unexpectedly made an appearance and dragged some men into the undergrowth. The hunters, though they searched long and hard, were unable to find them. Our little village is very sad.

The Ol’ Ball Coach has unfortunately gone back to learning from his peers; let us examine this week’s lessons:


Sun Tzu said:

“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not,
will be victorious.”

This is, of course, the philosophical underpining of Coughlin’s victory over Spurrier. The Jaguars’ coach formulated a plan of attack and stuck with it–furthermore, he had to know that Spurrier would imprudently want to create some fireworks in front of his old home crowd.

Eddie Pells of the Associated Press had it right: “Coughlin looked good in almost every comparison to Spurrier. He was, in fact, everything Spurrier was not on Sunday – disciplined, patient and, most importantly, in tune with his team’s strengths and weaknesses. . . . Coughlin stuck to his game plan. He played defense and field position and ate up yardage on the ground, never giving up on his running game, even though it struggled at times.

“‘You have to stay with it,’ [Coughlin] said. ‘It’s not always going to be automatic right off the bat. If you play the game the way you want to play it, and can stay with the run and keep the good mix, eventually you have to believe you’re going to get some opportunities.'”

A lesson that I expect Spurrier is beginning to take to heart.


Sun Tzu said:

“If I know that the enemy is vulnerable to attack, but do
not know that my troops are incapable of striking him, my
chance of victory is but half.”

The enemy was certainly vulnerable–they were reeling from a four-game losing streak, and their coach was under fire for not being, well, Steve Spurrier. But the Ol’ Ball Coach thought he could go in on “a beautiful day for passing” and keep the ball in the air. He chose to ignore the fact that that was *not* the way that his troops were capable of striking the enemy–the passing game just hasn’t been clicking. His chance of victory was not good, as we learned. We can hope though that he’s learned his lesson, and comes at his next opponent in a manner calculated to improve his chances of victory.


Sun Tzu said:

“Ground in which the army survives only if it fights with
the courage of desperation is called ‘death.’. . . . In
death ground I could make it evident that there is no
chance of survival. For it is the nature of soldiers to
resist when surrounded; to fight to the death when there
is no alternative and when desperate to follow commands

Now is the time for Spurrier to appeal to the team–their backs are against the wall. They could actually still make the playoffs, if they run the table. The day grows short. The hour is desperate and nobody can help them but themselves–but even now they have the players to pull it off, if they but recognize it.

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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