Norv Turner, able to produce only a 7-6 record with the most expensive roster in NFL history, was fired today as coach of the Washington Redskins.
Turner was dismissed by owner Dan Snyder one day after a 9-7 loss to the New York Giants. It was the Redskins’ fourth loss in five games and third straight at home, and it moved a team with Super Bowl aspirations precariously close to elimination from the playoff race.
Passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie was named the coach for the rest of the season.
Master Offensive Strategist
Turner, hired as a first-time head coach by late owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1994, was third in seniority among NFL coaches behind Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher and Tennesee’s Jeff Fisher. But Turner’s record was only 49-59-1, including 8-21-1 in games decided by three points or fewer.
Turner did not have a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter until his fifth year as coach, and it took six years for him 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 offensive 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 lack of communication skills and his inability to keep players focused and motivated led to his downfall.
Then season, the stakes became higher when Snyder spent millions on some of the biggest names in the sport: Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, draft picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels and defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.
Snyder also signed running back Stephen Davis to the most lucrative contract in league history and tested the limits of fan devotion by charging admission to watch practices at training camp. The total player payroll of salaries and bonuses for the season is about $100 million.
But immediately it was apparent that the Redskins mirrored the recent Baltimore Orioles and New York Rangers, two other notable teams that essentially failed to buy a championship. Ego bruising among the big names wasn’t a problem; overconfidence was.
Losses to Detroit
A narrow season-opening victory over Carolina was followed by a losses to Detroit and injury-riddled Dallas. A five-game winning streak followed, but the only dominant victories came against the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. A loss to lowly Arizona followed by a victory on the road at Super Bowl champion St. Louis exemplified the team’s fickle nature, then back-to-back home losses to Philadelphia and the Giants did Turner in.
Injuries also slowed the offense. Three starters were lost for the season and several other played hurt, and the reconstituted offensive line had its worst day Sunday. However, injuries couldn’t for unforced errors such as dropped balls, missed blocks and bad snaps.
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, a former offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders, 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 receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.