Team wastes no time pursuing Dallas' Turner Redskins go to hurry-up attack, ousting Petitbon

January 05, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Norv Turner's first reaction to the firing of Richie Petitbon that he was sorry to see a colleague get the pink slip.

When he was told by a reporter yesterday that Petitbon had just been fired as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, he said, "That's too bad for him. He's a heck of a guy and a heck of a football coach."

Turner, the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, admitted that he's interested in the job.

"Absolutely," he said.

It's obvious the Redskins are also interested in him. It wasn't long before the Redskins called to get permission to talk to him.

Later in the day, he said: "Washington is the only team that has contacted me. They have indicated an interest, and it's something I want to look into."

Since the Cowboys are practicing today, tomorrow and Friday before getting the weekend off, it's likely that Turner will come to Washington over the weekend for an interview with owner Jack Kent Cooke.

Many teams don't allow their assistant coaches to talk with other teams until they are finished with their playoffs, but Jimmy Johnson, the head coach of the Cowboys, has a different approach.

He's willing to allow teams to talk to his assistants during the bye week before the first playoff game.

He believes that if another team wants to hire one of his assistants, it's better to get it out of the way before the playoffs start.

Last year, the Chicago Bears hired Dallas' defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt, during the bye week, and he joined the Bears after the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.

"I think his thought process is that if a team wants to initiate some conversation, this is a good time to do it," Turner said.

That would seem to indicate that if the Redskins don't hire Turner by Sunday, they'll have to wait until the Cowboys finish the playoffs to talk to him again.

Turner has enjoyed a sudden rise to prominence as a head coaching candidate in the league.

In 1991, when Johnson was looking for an offensive coordinator to replace David Shula, Turner, then an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Rams, wasn't Johnson's first choice.

Johnson wanted Gary Stevens, who had been an assistant coach under him at the University of Miami, before joining the Dolphins staff in 1989. Stevens even gave Johnson an oral commitment but annoyed Johnson by reneging on it when coach Don Shula convinced him he'd have a better chance of getting a head job if he stayed in Miami because of Shula's connections around the league.

That turned out to be miscalculation on Stevens' part. Since Turner arrived in Dallas, the team has gone 11-5, 13-3 and 12-4, and Turner's stock has risen sharply.

He's become close to quarterback Troy Aikman, who didn't get along with David Shula but likes Turner's low-key style.

Turner, 41, has never been a head coach at any level. After playing quarterback at Oregon from 1972 to 1974, he became an assistant coach at the school in 1975 and moved to Southern California in 1976 before joining the Rams in 1985 under John Robinson.

"In college, my thoughts were about teaching, and this is what it [coaching] is, teaching and competing in the athletic arena. Along the way, I've been very fortunate to get involved with some very talented people, including John Robinson and Jimmy Johnson," he said.

Whether Turner gets the Redskins job probably depends on the impression he makes with Cooke, a man he's never met. Charley Casserly, the team's general manager, said his only conversation with Turner was a "passing one" on the field before the Redskins game in Dallas last month.

Turner makes it obvious he's eager for a head coaching job.

"It's something I'd like to have happen at some point," he said.

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