- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

The groundwork is being laid. If the Washington Redskins fail to realize expectations this year, it won't be owner Dan Snyder's fault. It will be coach Norv Turner's fault.

They already have started looking for places to fall at Redskin Park, and if they lose to St. Louis tonight, it will be every rat for himself.

It is the kind of game that Turner's teams have traditionally lost during his remarkably long tenure as the Redskins' coach the kind of game they are not expected to win. If there was ever a time to break that cycle, tonight is it.

There is no reason to believe that the Redskins can't beat the Rams. The vaunted Washington defensive backfield, now with Darrell Green back in the mix, should be good enough to at least make it hard for the high-powered Rams passing offense. This big game is one of the reasons Deion Sanders is being paid all those big bucks.

Marshall Faulk is starting, but come on, he had knee surgery two weeks ago. Surely the Redskins defense can at least slow down a one-legged running back.

And the Redskins running game Stephen Davis and those two other backs they have stashed in the witness protection program, Skip Hicks and Adrian Murrell should be able to control the ball against a weak Rams defense and keep the scoring machine off the field.

A win over the Rams, on the road, in a dome, on Monday Night Football, could change the direction of this season in the final five weeks. Washington wins tonight, and next week's game at FedEx Field against Philadelphia essentially is for first place in the NFC East.

If they lose tonight, the Eagles game will be part of the Redskins desperate fight not to be a .500 team and would be the start of a battle for a wild-card spot. A quest for mediocrity might be fine for one sports franchise in this town, but not for Dan Snyder's All Stars.

The Redskins were fortunate to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia last month, thanks to some calls that went their way. And the Eagles, coming off yesterday's impressive 34-9 win over the Cardinals, seem to have improved much more than the Redskins. It is entirely conceivable that the Redskins could be 6-6 and riding a three-game losing streak going into the final four weeks of the season.

This is a familiar Turner scenario. By all means, the coach will have to take much of the blame for it, and therefore the fall.

If the Redskins win, though, they will own a big victory over the team they would most likely have to face sooner or later in the postseason, provided they want to be NFC champions. If they win, the Redskins will take a 7-4 record into the following week's important contest against the Eagles, who lead the NFC East with an 8-4 record.

With a victory over the Eagles, the Redskins would come out of the Philadelphia game with an 8-4 record and a reasonable chance to finish at least 11-5, and possibly 12-4. Look at the remainder of their schedule: the beatable Giants at home the following week, the ghost of the Cowboys in Dallas the next week, a tough Steelers team in Pittsburgh the week after and Arizona at home in the final game. A successful run like that might be enough to take some of the steam out of the speculation that Turner might not survive speculation that has existed ever since Snyder purchased the franchise.

Then again, if you believe everything you hear, Turner is in line to run the whole show in San Diego coach and general manager. Snyder may hardly have to push Turner. He might be more than willing to jump.

It may be hard to believe that another team might not only want to hire Turner as a head coach, given his dismal record in Washington, but as the main talent evaluator as well. Norv Turner, meet Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler reincarnate.

But if you believe everything you hear, Turner is an offensive genius. This must be like one of those whistles that only dogs can hear.

If Turner is fired or leaves, we will start all over again, this time with the owner's coach and the owner's quarterback, Jeff George, since Brad Johnson will likely be jumping this sinking ship as well. There will be no five-year or three-year or even two-year plan for the next coach. He will be expected to take this team and win right away, and there is little doubt that win, in this case, is not just a winning record or a postseason appearance. Win would be defined as making it to an NFC title game.

If that doesn't happen, whose fault will it be then? Sonny Jurgensen's?

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