- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Here's what Dan Snyder said after Terry Robiskie was sworn in as the Redskins' interim coach yesterday:
"This was not planned. We did not anticipate losing yesterday's game and being in this situation."
This was not planned. I don't know about you, but that strikes me as kind of odd. Norv Turner has been under pressure to produce or vamoose since Snyder bought the team 18 months ago, and yet the Redskins owner didn't have a contingency plan in the event he fired Norv during the season?
Why not? If Snyder stormed into Vinny Cerrato's office and said he wanted to hold more kicking tryouts, wouldn't he expect Cerrato to hand him an up-to-date list of available legs? Or could Vinny just shrug and say, "Gee, boss, I'm gonna have to get back to you. I didn't anticipate being in this situation?"
Football is all about planning, all about anticipation, all about being one step ahead of the other guy. If you respond too slowly to crisis or opportunity you're never going to get anywhere. What we saw at Redskin Park yesterday, though, was a classic example of seat-of-the-pants management. Snyder and partner Fred Drasner decided to get rid of Turner after the 9-7 loss to the Giants, but they weren't exactly sure whom they were going to replace him with.
After all, there aren't a lot of top-flight football coaches looking for work in early December. Also, it was just a temp job three games, with no promise of employment beyond this year. That's why you don't often see coaching changes 14 weeks into the season. Most of the time, there isn't much point to them.
But Snyder and Drasner were determined to do something. The team was 7-6 and fast falling out of playoff contention. So they asked Ray Rhodes if he had any interest in the interim position. Nope, he said. I'm perfectly happy as the defensive coordinator. So they turned to Terry Robiskie, the top offensive assistant, and thank God Terry said yes, otherwise Dan might have had to coach the club himself.
Unless, of course, he could have gotten Pepper Rodgers to bail him out. Rodgers, the former college and USFL coach (Kansas, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Memphis Showboats), was conferring with Snyder and Drasner on the coaching change. And how did he come to be conferring with Snyder and Drasner on the coaching change? Well, he works as a sports consultant for FedEx (as in FedEx Field), and the Redskins owners got to know him that way.
(Which gives me a great idea for a new ad campaign: FedEx: When you absolutely, positively, have to hire a coach overnight.)
Anyway, Snyder and Drasner's next master stroke, after promoting Robiskie, was to name Rodgers who has hardly been heard from since the mid-'80s vice president of football operations. His assignment: to direct the team's search for a new head coach for next season. Why Rodgers, you ask? Heck, I don't know. Because Tommy Prothro wasn't available, I guess.
Firing Turner was a panic move if there ever was one. I mean, if you're going to dump a coach with three games left in the season, at least know beforehand who his successor is going to be. Don't hope you can talk the defensive coordinator into taking over. Know the defensive coordinator doesn't want the job but that the passing game coordinator would be willing to take it.
It's comforting to know, though, that FedEx is advising Dan Snyder on coaching decisions. Maybe Papa John's can make next year's draft picks for him.
Look, I've got nothing against Pepper Rodgers. He's an entertaining guy. (I remember him looking into a sideline camera once when his Georgia Tech team was getting creamed by Georgia and saying, "What a lickin'!") It's just that he hit his coaching peak 30 years ago, when he took Kansas and a running back named John Riggins to the Orange Bowl. Snyder likes to think of himself as a cutting-edge owner, as a man ahead of the curve, and he's conferring with Pepper Rodgers?
I've got nothing against Robiskie, either. In fact, it's hard not to like him. He's candid on-the-record candid (the best kind) and, as Drasner put it, "he wears his emotions on his sleeve. . . . Terry brings a great sense of urgency, and I think we were losing that." But will he do any more with this crippled offense than Turner did? I wonder.
I also think Snyder didn't do himself any favors by dumping Turner so late in the season, when the Redskins still had a shot at the playoffs. It could come back to haunt him when he goes looking for a new coach. Some potential candidates may not want to work for an owner who would fire a coach with a 7-6 record (and three winnable games remaining). Can anyone remember another coach who was fired with a 7-6 record?
Look, Drasner said, "When you buy a team, nobody hands you an instructional manual that says, 'Here, this is what you do as an owner.' " No, but when you fire a coach with a 7-6 record, replace him with an assistant who has no previous head-coaching experience and bring in 68-year-old Pepper Rodgers as your vice president of football operations, that's seriously winging it, folks. Is this any way to run a football team?
(Don't answer that.)

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