- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Is it too late for the Washington Redskins? Is there just too much turmoil?

The best team that money can buy has lost four of its past five games. The only Redskins coach that all but two of the players have known has just been fired, along with the special teams coach.

They're changing quarterbacks again, and the Pro Bowl halfback is coming off the worst game of his career albeit one he played with a fractured forearm.

Can the Redskins suddenly reverse course, win their final three games, make the playoffs and salvage a season that was earmarked for the Super Bowl?

It's a long shot, but not out of the question.

From a strategic point of view, little is likely to change.

Interim coach Terry Robiskie spent the past six-plus seasons working under Norv Turner and will inherit the play calling, so don't look for big changes in how the offense, which is ranked 23rd in scoring, attacks defenses.

There really aren't any players waiting in the wings for Robiskie to insert into the lineup. Robiskie agreed with Turner's decision to start Jeff George instead of Brad Johnson at quarterback on Sunday in Dallas though he didn't commit beyond that.

The defense, which is giving up the fewest yards in the NFC, is fine. Robiskie replaced special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel with tight ends coach Pat Flaherty. But has yet to decide whether to stick with Eddie Murray, the team's fourth faltering kicker of the season, or make changes on the struggling kickoff coverage or return units.

"The biggest challenge is going to get the guys to re-focus and understand that we're still in the hunt," said Robiskie, who plans a renewed concentration on fundamentals and has little tolerance for mental errors. "We've got to be smart, physical and aggressive."

Robiskie has seen an in-season change pay immediate dividends.

He was the Los Angeles Raiders offensive coordinator when Art Shell replaced coach Mike Shanahan in 1989 and the 1-3 Raiders won four of their next five games. Robiskie also noted that Detroit won its next three games when Gary Moeller took over for Bobby Ross last month. And, the NHL's New Jersey Devils fired Robbie Ftorek in favor of Larry Robinson late last season and won the Stanley Cup.

Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said the Redskins have to play as if they have nothing to lose.

"If you make a mistake, make it 100 miles per hour," Stubblefield said. "There are going to be a lot of changes no matter what happens. Who knows who will be the coach next year? But we've got Dallas to worry about. The season still has to go on."

Robiskie's audition begins against the 4-9 Cowboys, who have won six straight from the Redskins. Then comes a visit to Pittsburgh, where the 7-6 Steelers surely will be emotional in the final game at Three Rivers Stadium. And the regular season ends against 3-10 Arizona, which recorded one of its three victories against Washington.

Even if the Redskins (7-6) win out, they can't catch NFC front-runner Minnesota (11-2). The NFC East-leading New York Giants (9-4) and Philadelphia (9-5) also are almost out of reach.

Washington is only a game behind New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit and Tampa Bay, all 8-5 and tied for the final three playoff spots. The Saints' next two games are against also-rans San Francisco and Atlanta. The Lions beat the Redskins and wind up with a gimme against Chicago.

That leaves Washington hoping to beat out St. Louis and Tampa Bay, who meet Dec. 18. The Redskins hold a tiebreaker edge on each thanks to victories over them earlier this season. The Buccaneers play AFC East leader Miami this week and wind up in Green Bay where they always struggle with the cold. The plunging Rams face the Vikings this week and wind up with the NFC West showdown with the Saints.

"The thing that should turn this around is that we have a possibility to make the playoffs," halfback Stephen Davis said. "If we do what we're capable of doing, we can make it."

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