- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

As his running back, LaMont Jordan, said, Norv Turner “is a very emotional guy.” So you can imagine the hugging and hair mussing that went on in the Oakland locker room yesterday when Turner was handed the game ball from the Raiders’ 16-13 stunner over the Redskins. After all, the victory took place in the same stadium where Turner spent his last day as Washington’s coach in 2000 — before Dan Snyder callously fired him with the team still in playoff contention.

But let’s put the discussion of that on hold for a moment and talk about the game ball Turner gave out after Oakland’s win — to defensive end Derrick Burgess. Norv likes to recognize the player who “made the last play,” the clinching play, and it was Burgess who finished off the Redskins by sacking Mark Brunell on fourth down at the Oakland 48 with 17 seconds left.

“If a guy had made a sack like that on the last [defensive] play of the game, [I] would have won a lot more games [as a coach],” Norv said.

Heck, Norv might still be coaching in Washington if his club had made a few more plays like that. When you look back on the Turner years — and all the near misses — well, it’s almost hard to believe. Had somebody come up with a sack late in the playoff game at Tampa in ‘99, for instance, the Redskins would have been 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl. But it’s the scores of Norv’s last three losses as Washington’s coach that kinda say it all — 16-15, 23-20, 9-7. One point, three points, two points. Could they have been any closer?

Kerry Collins, the Raiders’ quarterback, played in that 9-7 game — on the winning side, the New York Giants side. So he knew as well anybody how badly Turner “wanted this one,” wanted to repay the Redskins’ impetuous owner for firing him like some gutter cleaner. “He puts his heart and soul into this,” Collins said. “And when he has a day like he did today, it’s just gratifying to see how he is after the game.”

In truth, it may not work out any better for Norv in Oakland than it did in Washington. The Raiders are 9-17 since he took over last season and are still missing a bunch of parts. But he’ll always have yesterday, when his team spotted the Redskins a 13-3 halftime lead and then walked all over them in the second half, all but silencing the FedEx crowd of 90,129.

Not that Turner is one to gloat — publicly, at least. “I had seven great years here” was how he began his postmortem. He did, however, get in a few jabs at his old club, such as this explanation for the performance of his previously struggling defense:

“In our division [the AFC West], we play some good offenses. And when we get out of our division, we often run into offenses that aren’t as good as those.”

(Did he just say the Redskins offense wasn’t very good?)

Then there was this defense of his tenure in Washington: “We were 9-23 my first two years. After that, we were a competitive football team. Players people said were great players didn’t turn out to be great players. The talent wasn’t as good as people thought.”

He’s right on both counts, of course. The Redskins were a competitive football team in his last five seasons, posting a 41-37-1 record in the games he coached. And aside from Brad Johnson and Stephen Davis, who on those clubs did anything significant in the league After Norv? Granted, he was involved with selecting some of those players, but he was hardly a one-man show like ex-boss Jimmy Johnson.

As his successors have learned, Joe Gibbs among them, the Redskins aren’t the well-oiled machine they were when Jack Kent Cooke was the owner. They make money by the wheelbarrow — and spend it by the shovel full — but results have been a bit harder to come by. Steve Spurrier went 12-20 before skedaddling back to college ball, and Coach Joe is 11-15 … and currently in a 2-5 freefall (with the dangerous Chargers next on the agenda).

It’s great to have a 92,000-seat stadium and almost unlimited resources, but you still have to win the games. The Redskins had the Raiders down yesterday, even got a break when an Oakland field goal try doinked off the upright, but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch. In the end, it was the Men in Black who made the plays.

And the Redskins who made the killer turnover, the crucial mental mistake — and lost a game they coulda, shoulda, woulda won. Seems like that was always happening in November and December when Turner was the coach. Five years later, it’s still happening, despite the efforts of Hall of Famer Gibbs. What conclusions are we to draw from that?

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide