- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

A new era is starting for the Washington Redskins and quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Jeff George couldn't meet it with more divergent feelings.
As Johnson, the former starter, fingered owner Dan Snyder yesterday for orchestrating his playing time in the season's stretch run, George spoke optimistically about the mood and potential of the new-look Redskins, who replaced coach Norv Turner with Terry Robiskie on Monday.
"The energy level is very high not that it wasn't before but for whatever reason, whether it was the [coaching] change or whatever, it's like a new year," George said. "Whatever happened the last 13 weeksis over with, and next year is already here for us. It's a three-game season."
The mini-season must finish undefeated if the Redskins (7-6) hope to reach the playoffs. After battling injuries, miscues and poor kicking, Washington ranks eighth in a fight for six NFC playoff berths. Even three straight wins starting Sunday at Dallas (4-9) do not guarantee a postseason berth.
George is 3-1 lifetime against Dallas, with a 101.1 passing rating. But regardless of how he performs Sunday, he clearly is positioned to be the team's quarterback in 2001. While George was named starter by Turner and then Robiskie after rallying the Redskins in Sunday's 9-7 loss to the New York Giants, Johnson's relationship with the organization is growing increasingly acrimonious.
Johnson's comments yesterday came when asked if Robiskie had discussed Johnson's role with him. Johnson replied: "No, I don't think so. I think that decision is made from up top."
Asked to elaborate on what he meant, Johnson replied: "I think it's obvious."
The comments sparked further controversy when Robiskie confirmed that Snyder was involved in the decision to start George at Dallas, then added that Snyder will hold decision-making power in other on-field moves.
Thus Johnson's future with the team hit a new level of bleakness. He already had broken off talks for a contract extension in October and begun speaking frankly about playing elsewhere next season. If the Redskins do not use the franchise tag on Johnson, he will become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Agent Phil Williams did not blame the Redskins yesterday for their decision to start George, pointing to just how unlikely Johnson's return is in 2001.
"If I were Snyder, feeling the way he is, I don't blame him," Williams said from Atlanta. "He's looking at next year, as well as this year."
Nonetheless, Johnson's relationship with the club has deteriorated strikingly. Just one year ago, Johnson was earning his first Pro Bowl invitation while leading the Redskins to the playoffs and their offense to the No. 2 ranking.
"I've done some good things here," Johnson said. "I think my career speaks for it, my record speaks for it, the numbers speak for it… . My future is good. I'm going to be playing football. I've got a long career still ahead of me. I don't look at it negative[ly]. There has been some great success here that I've had, and I'm not going to let one game or one play bring me down."
George, meanwhile, couldn't have been more upbeat. He feels strongly about the Redskins' chance for success under Robiskie, pointing to the coach's trademarks of motivation and accountability.
"I love the fight in a coach," George said. "And believe me, that kind of stuff rubs off on players. And not that we weren't playing before, but when you make that mistake [under Robiskie], or you make that mental error, you're going to think twice about doing that again."
George also urged a symbolic break from the season's first 13 games and Turner's 6*-year tenure.
"This is last time you're going to hear me talking about the coaching change," George said. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't have to. It's gone. We've got a new leader here, and he's putting his stamp on it. Guys are following. Next year's here."
Turner had quelled a quarterback controversy by making clear that Johnson was his starter. George then played three games, going 1-2, after Johnson suffered a sprained knee in the Oct. 30 loss to Tennessee. Johnson returned to play Sunday but threw for just 126 yards and two interceptions in more than three quarters, while George passed for 143 yards and one touchdown in just two possessions.
Thus the controversy appeared to be settled on the field. But Redskins players maintain that the passers have equivalent talents, pointing foremost to Johnson's lack of protection Sunday from the offensive line.
"[Johnson] was running for his life from the get-go," left guard Keith Sims said. "And we had no running game to help him out. Our system works the best when we run the football, then we get our play-action pass off it, and then we go deep. If we're just out there throwing from the shotgun, that's not our strong suit. We know it, and as an offensive line we can't put people in that position."

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