- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2000

IRVING, Texas Washington Redskins interim coach Terry Robiskie discovered yesterday that fresh starts don't come easily.
The Redskins lost to the Dallas Cowboys 32-13 at Texas Stadium in Robiskie's debut following last week's firing of Norv Turner. Dallas has now won a record seven straight in the rivalry.
Robiskie was undermined by one of the defense's worst efforts of the season, no running game against the NFL's worst run defense and another mediocre day by special teams. Essentially, the same problems that led to Turner's departure remained to plague Robiskie.
"We did some things that were high schoolish. We lost our composure. We scrambled. It was disappointing," Robiskie said. "Coming into the game, I thought we would compete harder. I didn't think things would break the way they did."
Washington (7-7) remains alive for the NFC's wild-card berth but must beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday and the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 24. Losing to Pittsburgh would eliminate Washington. The team's chances for repeating as NFC East champions ended before kickoff when the New York Giants (10-4) and Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) won.
Robiskie, one of three black head coaches in the NFL, may have a short tenure. The Redskins already are considering replacements, with San Francisco assistant general manager Terry Don-
ahue the likely early front-runner.
Robiskie's best chance to remain was for the Redskins to win their final three games and reach the playoffs. Instead, the Redskins are seeking to avoid a losing record in a season where owner Dan Snyder's record $100 million payroll has been wasted by injuries and poor play.
The expected passion that players promised Robiskie following Turner's departure never surfaced yesterday. The Redskins overcame a slow start for a 7-6 lead with 7:57 remaining in the first half, but the Cowboys scored just two minutes later and never trailed again.
That the Redskins didn't refresh under Robiskie was surprising considering that was the theme of the week in practice. Players wanted to do well for one of the team's better-liked coaches and one who waited seven years in Washington for a chance at the head job. Instead, they showed little life.
"We were prepared well. Mentally, it was the best week we had all year," said quarterback Jeff George. "The energy level was so high I didn't expect to come out flat like that."
But the Redskins quickly fell into the same pattern of repeated mistakes that has plagued them in many losses this season. Penalties, fumbles, fights, dropped passes and a poor effort along both the offensive and defensive lines proved fatal once more.
The players could only shake their heads in disbelief over their stunningly bad performance. With Turner gone, they had only themselves to blame. Now they wonder if Robiskie will be penalized for the lackadaisical effort.
"I feel so bad for Coach Robiskie," said cornerback Deion Sanders. "We were prepared, ready, fired up. We just did not get it going. I just hope Washington will not blame Coach Robiskie. I would hope Dan Snyder will not blame Coach Robiskie."
Robiskie conceded he was surprised by the team's poor effort. Though he didn't second-guess their intensity, he did challenge their abysmal mental performance.
"I felt like we had an excellent week of work," Robiskie said. "I thought they were focused. Just for some reason it didn't carry over. Just during the course of the ballgame, we didn't have that same fire. We talked about coming out here and fighting, and we didn't do that. The responsibility was mine."
The Redskins like to say they've used all their sick days. Robiskie knows the team can't have any more losses, or the playoff chase is over.
"No question about it," he said.

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