Skins fire Turner
Robiskie takes over as interim head coach
Updated: Tuesday December 05, 2000 10:31 AM
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- As reported by Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Washington Redskins head coach Norv Turner was fired Monday after failing to live up to Super Bowl expectations with the most expensive team in NFL history.
Owner Dan Snyder made the move after watching his $100 million roster lose 9-7 on Sunday to the New York Giants.
It was the fourth loss in five games for the Redskins (7-6) and third in a row at home, and it moved them close to elimination from the playoff race.
"It's all about winning," Snyder said. "We assembled the best team we could put together. At this point we just really needed to make a change, driven with what I call some serious leadership."
Turner, in his seventh season with the team, leaves with a 49-59-1 record and one trip to the playoffs. He fought back tears as he said goodbye.
"I've obviously been put in a good position to have an opportunity to win," Turner said. "This team has a chance to be 10-6. That's a disappointment to me. There's part of me that would like to be a part of it. There's part of me that understands why it's necessary to make a change right now."
Passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie was named interim head coach. In his first meeting with the team, he made an impassioned speech and received a standing ovation.
"Terry is blunt and to the point," defensive end Kenard Lang said. "He's like a stick of dynamite. He's going to make something happen."
It was stark contrast to Turner, an Xs and Os strategist who never came across as an effective communicator or motivator.
"Norv did not threaten players," guard Keith Sims said. "Some guys took advantage of him. Terry -- you're not going to take advantage of him."
Snyder said defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, a former head coach at Philadelphia and Green Bay, was not interested in the job.
To make the playoffs, the Redskins probably need to win their last three games -- at Dallas and Pittsburgh, and home against Arizona.
"I believe to get anyone to believe in you, trust you, you've got to motivate, and that's my coaching style," Robiskie said.
Robiskie's first move was to fire special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel, whose coverage and kicking units struggled for much of the season. Tight ends coach Pat Flaherty will coach special teams and tight ends.
Turner, hired as a first-time head coach by late owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1994, was third in seniority with one team behind Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher and Minnesota's Dennis Green.
But Turner needed six years to get the Redskins to the playoffs. That came last season, when Washington won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and defeated Detroit in the first round of the postseason before losing 14-13 at Tampa Bay.
Turner, 48, earned a reputation as a master strategist with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl teams in the early 1990s. Some of his game plans in Washington were truly masterful, but his inability to keep players focused and motivated led to his downfall.
"We saw where the traction was being lost," co-owner Fred Drasner said. "We were like a 4-wheel drive in the mud. Either you keep spinning the wheels, or you go get the winch. I think we chose to get the winch, and the winch was Terry."
The stakes became higher this season when Snyder spent millions on players, including Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, and draft picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels. Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, also brought in Rhodes to handle the defense.
But injuries, unforced errors and an erratic kicking game took their toll. In three games this season, missed field goals contributed to losses, and Turner used four placekickers. On Sunday, 44-year-old Eddie Murray was short on a 49-yard field-goal attempt in the final minute.
Turner said the fickle kicking game went through his mind when he returned home Sunday night and watched Tennessee beat Philadelphia on a last-minute field goal.
"The difference between winning and losing in this league is not very big," Turner said.
Turner began coaching as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 1975. John Robinson hired him as an assistant at USC a year later, and Robinson also brought Turner into the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985.
Robiskie, 46, is a former offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders and was one of Turner's first hires in Washington in 1994. He is known for a tough-love coaching style from his dealings with temperamental Redskins wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.
"He might add a little more fire," Connell said.