- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2000

As bad a day as it was for the Redskins yesterday and a 9-7 loss to the Giants is pretty bad it was even worse for Norv Turner.

Not only did he start the wrong quarterback Brad Johnson instead of Jeff George he compounded the felony by sticking with Johnson until barely eight minutes remained in the game. Had he made the switch earlier at the half, perhaps, or the beginning of the fourth quarter the Redskins probably wouldn't be looking for a bridge to jump off this morning.

We debated this issue Johnson or George? all last week. Norv's position was that Johnson should be reinstated as the starter because he was healthy again and knew the offense better. My position was that Norv was nuts, that you don't play a

rusty quarterback in a game as important as this.

Well, you saw it. What do you think? Did Brad look like the Brad of old, or did he look like a guy who hadn't played in a month?

Answer: Once the Giants began to get some pressure on him, he was almost helpless. It was like he wasn't ready to function at game speed, wasn't ready to make the quick decisions a quarterback needs to make.

"Brad was under extreme heat," George sympathized. "It seemed like he was getting hit all day. It's obvious the Giants studied us and saw that we had trouble with the blitz last week against Philadelphia. They were bringing more guys than we could handle."

Maybe so, but the Redskins offense also went six series from late in the first quarter until late in the third without a first down. At some point in that stretch, doesn't a coach say to himself, "Brad just isn't going to get it done today. I've got to give the other guy a chance to win the game for us."? Instead, Turner stayed with Johnson for two more series before yanking him.

I mean, loyalty is wonderful, but the Redskins' season was on the line. If they beat the Giants, they still had an outside shot at winning the division, possibly even getting a first-round bye. (Hey, if New Orleans and St. Louis keep losing, anything's possible.) At 7-6, though, the best they can reasonably hope for is a wild-card berth. And wild-card odds are long odds, indeed.

What George accomplished in his eight minutes is most damning of all. He threw for more yards (143 to 126, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Irving Fryar) and produced more first downs (eight to seven) than Johnson did in 52 minutes. As you might imagine, the Giants were thrilled that Turner stuck so stubbornly with Johnson.

"It was good they didn't make that change until the end," Jason Sehorn said. "George just brings a bit of fresh air. After [Johnson's] first interception, you could tell he was trying to force some things."

Whatever Johnson was trying to do, it wasn't working. But Turner held off making the switch because, as he explained, "We were playing so poorly, I didn't know that a change was going to make a difference."

It was a pretty ugly offensive performance. Keith Sims proclaimed himself "embarrassed" by the unit's efforts or lack thereof. "We didn't do anything to help Stephen Davis [12 carries, 29 yards]," he said, "and we didn't do anything to help Brad Johnson."

But George with the same supporting cast came in and promptly took the Redskins 97 yards to a touchdown. And he might have taken them to a second score if a 16-yard completion to James Thrash at the New York 19 hadn't been reversed by replay. It was just so obvious that George should have been the Redskins' quarterback in this game.

(It wasn't like he had better protection than Johnson did, either. On one play, he wriggled out of almost a sure sack by Giants tackle Keith Hamilton, and several other times he was forced to flee from the pocket. But he found a way to move the ball up the field. Brad didn't.)

"Some of it was that we were in the two-minute offense," Fryar said. "That kind of sets the defense back on its heels a little bit. And I think seeing the season flashing before our eyes made us step it up a bit, too."

But the biggest reason, clearly, was George. Why was that not clear to Turner? Why was Norv the last person in the stadium judging from the boos directed at Johnson to realize the offense needed George?

It's ironic. Here's a coach who came to Washington as an offensive whiz as the Creator of Troy Aikman and yet the quarterback position has been a continuing problem for him. First he drafted a guy who couldn't play (Heath Shuler). Then he tried in vain to make Gus Frerotte the QB Heath couldn't be. And now he's starting the wrong quarterback in the biggest game of season and not pulling him until it's too late.

You can't do stuff like that and expect to keep your job. And it is doubtful Norv will very much longer.

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