By Ronald Guy
A year and one 4-12 season removed from Joe Gibbs’ retirement, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke revisited a successful formula for selecting a head coach to oversee an overdue rebuild. When Cooke sought a replacement for Jack Pardee after the 1980 season, he poached Gibbs: a bright, young offensive assistant off the staff of one the league’s elite teams, the Chargers.
In 1994, he nabbed the highly touted Norv Turner, offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, to lead the Redskins back to prominence. It felt right; it made sense. But it never materialized.
Turner was undermined by an ownership change, the advent of the salary cap — the ‘Skins were always among the league’s biggest spenders — poor personnel decisions and his own deficiencies.
In an effort to recreate Dallas’ “Triplets”, the team drafted QB Heath Shuler and WR Michael Westbrook in the first round of the 1993 and 1994 NFL Draft, respectively. The failure of either to develop into a franchise cornerstone greatly inhibited Turner’s rebuild.
Team owner Jack Kent Cooke died in 1997, and ownership uncertainties allowed Turner to survive for several more seasons. By 1999, Turner had compiled a talented squad, won the NFC East and nearly had the ‘Skins in the NFC Championship Game.
Entering the 2000 season, new owner Daniel Snyder then presented Turner, his inherited coach, a not so subtle “Super Bowl or bust” ultimatum after a ridiculous haul of big name free agents. The team underperformed to its young and impatient owner’s expectations so completely that Turner, with the team at 7-6 and in playoff contention, was fired 13 games into the season. It was an abrupt and unceremonious end to a once-promising but uneven tenure. His final record as Redskins coach was 49-59-1.
Norv Turner is a nice guy and undoubtedly knows football’s X’s and O’s, but a leader of men he is not. Right, Oakland? Right, San Diego? Anyone else?