- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2000

ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner was fired today after failing to live up to Super Bowl expectations with the most expensive team in NFL history.

Turner was dismissed by owner Dan Snyder one day after a 9-7 loss to the New York Giants. It was the fourth loss in five games for the Redskins (7-6) and third straight at home, and it moved a team with championship aspirations precariously close to elimination from the playoff race.

Passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie was named interim coach. He immediately began holding team meetings for Sunday's game in Dallas.

Special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel, in charge of the struggling coverage and kicking units, also was fired. Tight ends coach Pat Flaherty will coach special teams.

The search for a coach for the 2001 season will be headed by former college coach Franklin "Pepper" Rodgers, who was hired today to the newly created position of vice president of football operations.

Turner fought back tears as he said goodbye.

"I've obviously been put in a good position to have an opportunity to win," Turner said. "This team has a chance to be 10-6. That's a disappointment to me. There's part of me that would like to be a part of it. There's part of me that understands why it's necessary to make a change right now."

Turner, hired as a first-time head coach by late owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1994, was third in seniority with one team behind Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher and Minnesota's Dennis Green. But Turner's record was only 49-59-1, including 8-21-1 in games decided by three points or fewer, with a franchise that has won three Super Bowls.

Turner took six years to get the Redskins to the playoffs. That came last season, when Washington won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and defeated Detroit in the first round of the postseason before losing 14-13 at Tampa Bay.

The 48-year-old coach earned a reputation as a master strategist with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl teams in the early 1990s. Some of his game plans in Washington were truly masterful, but his lack of communication skills and inability to keep players focused and motivated led to his downfall.

The stakes became higher this season when Snyder spent millions on players, including Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, and draft picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, also brought in defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

But those additions were not enough to overcome failure in the kicking game.

In three games this season, missed field goals contributed to losses, and Turner has used four placekickers. Yesterday, 44-year-old Eddie Murray was short on a 49-yard field goal attempt in the final minute.

Turner said the weakness in the kicking game became even more apparent to him when he went home Sunday night and watched Tennessee beat Philadelphia on a last-minute field goal.

"The difference between winning and losing in this league is not very big," Turner said.

Snyder signed running back Stephen Davis to the most lucrative contract in league history and tested the limits of fan devotion by charging admission to watch practices at training camp. The total player payroll of salaries and bonuses for the season is about $100 million.

But immediately it was apparent that the Redskins mirrored the recent Baltimore Orioles and New York Rangers, two other teams that essentially failed to buy a championship. Ego bruising among the big names wasn't a problem; overconfidence was.

A narrow season-opening victory over Carolina was followed by a losses to Detroit and injury-riddled Dallas. A five-game winning streak followed, but the only dominant victories came against the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.

A loss to lowly Arizona followed by a victory on the road at Super Bowl champion St. Louis exemplified the team's fickle nature. Consecutive home losses to division challengers Philadelphia and the Giants did in Turner.

Injuries also slowed the offense. Three starters were lost for the season and several others played hurt.

The reconstituted offensive line had its worst day Sunday. However, there were also many unforced errors such as dropped balls, missed blocks and bad snaps.

Turner began coaching as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 1975. John Robinson hired him as an assistant at USC a year later, and Robinson also brought Turner into the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985.

Robiskie, 46, becomes the NFL's third black head coach. He is a former offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders and was one of Turner's first hires in Washington in 1994. He is known for a tough-love coaching style from his dealings with temperamental Redskins receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.

"He might add a little more fire to it," Connell said.

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