Sun Tzu Week 14: A Giant Step Back, a Giant Step Forward

Archive: Sun Tzu Washington Commanders

Greetings, Shaolin Redskins fans. Our army returns again to our little valley with heads down, swords dragging in the dust. They know that they can only now fight to salvage some personal pride and to cause problems for other contenders.

But at the same time, the Ol’ Ball Coach has spent the past few weeks getting back in touch with his “inner Sun Tzu,” reminding himself of the style of play and type of team that has gotten him where he is. Let us see what he has heard from the master of late:


Sun Tzu said:

“Now the general is the protector of the state. If this
protection is all-embracing, the state will surely be strong; if
defective, the state will certainly be weak.”

It is the role of the general-in-chief, argues Sun Tzu, to protect and defend the state. He must concern himself with all aspects of offense and defense and not let any detail escape his notice. If he focuses on all these matters, he will succeed and the state will be strong; if he pays attention only to a certain subset of matters or fails to effectively meet his responsibilities in any area, he will fail and the state will be weak.

So too with the professional football head coach. And indications are growing that Spurrier is stepping up his overall control of the team. When defensive coordinator (and assistant head coach) Marvin Lewis was dancing with Michigan State this week, Spurrier didn’t seem too broken up at the notion of his possible departure. Said Spurrier: “We’re prepared to carry on if that would happen, sure.” He also indicated on his radio show that he’s planning on taking a much more active role next year in defense and special teams as well as offense–from personnel moves to actually working with the team through the year.

These are good developments. If Spurrier’s sphere of influence truly becomes all-embracing, the state of the Redskins team is sure to strengthen.


Sun Tzu said:

“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will
never be in peril.”


“When campaigning, be swift as the wind; in leisurely march,
majestic as the forest; in raiding and plundering, like fire; in
standing, firm as the mountains. As unfathomable as the clouds,
move like a thunderbolt.”

As has been observed in this column of late, Spurrier is returning to the form of coaching that has garnered him such success in the past. It is critical that he know–and trust–himself as he makes decisions, whether they be game-day decisions or personnel decisions in the offseason.

His style of play is well described by the second quote above, something he should return to again and again: Speed is at the heart of the program–whether it’s footspeed or brain speed. But the right balance looseness and order is a part of it, too. A strong defense is critical. And out of the unfathomable reaches of his offensive mind, strike swiftly in unexpected ways.

Every professional must find that center that reminds them of why they do what they do, and for Steve Spurrier, it is of paramount importance that he not lose sight of that. From such a wellspring flows victory.


Sun Tzu said:

“During the early morning spirits are keen, during the day they
flag, and in the evening thoughts turn toward home. And
therefore those skilled in war avoid the enemy when his spirit is
keen and attack him when it is sluggish and his soldiers
homesick. This is control of the moral factor.”

The sun set on the team this year for all intents and purposes with the defeat against the Giants. The thoughts of some veterans turned toward home–the offseason, avoiding injury, etc. But with the introduction of younger players onto the field of play, a new spirit sparked through the team–this is not something that Spurrier would miss. Indeed, rookie QB Patrick Ramsey almost single-handedly brought the team back from defeat. A new spark of youthful energy is being felt throughout the organization.

Spurrier is now in the midst of evaluating his current personnel as to whether they fit into his style of offense–not just the actual route-running but the *type* of player (attitude, work ethic, and more) that best fits his team. Young guys–like Darnerian McCants, Ladell Betts, and Carl Powell–are playing to see if they have the right make-up to stay with the team next year.

This keen, early-morning spirit might yet surprise some people *this* year–particularly the crusty veterans who don’t want to try a new way. Their time is perhaps short–but it is the youth, and youthful-hearted, who will see the sun rise on the B&G again.

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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