Just hiring Turner won't revive Redskins

PRO FOOTBALL

January 09, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

The Washington Redskins may be about to find out how the other half lives.

After enjoying about two decades as one of the top teams, they're about to embark on one of those rebuilding programs that can go on endlessly.

Look, for example, at the Los Angeles Raiders. They won three Super Bowls from 1977 to 1984. They've won only one playoff game since then and go for their second one today against the Denver Broncos.

At Redskin Park, there's not much talk about long rebuilding programs.

They make it sound as if the firing of Richie Petitbon and the expected hiring of Norv Turner, the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator, and the drafting of a quarterback with the third pick in the draft, will solve all their problems.

Owner Jack Kent Cooke, who did not hold a news conference when Petitbon was fired (look for him to introduce Turner if he is hired), was full of optimism in a series of interviews last week.

He said in one interview that the team had done it before and would do it again and in another that he's excited about next season.

What Cooke overlooks is that he didn't do much to help Petitbon last year.

He let such players as Gary Clark, Wilber Marshall, Fred Stokes, Jumpy Geathers and Martin Mayhew walk out as free agents because he felt they wanted too much money.

He then wasted $7 million on such free agents as Carl Banks, Al Noga, Tim McGee and Rick Graf, who contributed little.

Cooke also dropped out of the bidding for Reggie White. Now he wants to sign Emmitt Smith's coach. But Cooke declined to bid on Smith last year, even though the Cowboys could have matched the offer.

At worst, Cooke could have driven up the Cowboys' payroll. At best, he could have gotten the star running back for a hefty salary and first- and third-round draft picks.

In Dallas, they're wondering why Turner wants to go to Washington. They think he'd be better off in Atlanta; however, the Falcons aren't pursuing him.

Looking at the Falcons' offensive weapons, led by wide receiver Andre Rison, Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin said: "You let Norv get a hold of those boys in Atlanta, and look out. That's where Norv could really do some damage."

The unspoken assumption is that Irvin doesn't think Turner's going to do much damage in Washington.

Turner probably will have a good rookie quarterback -- Trent Dilfer or Heath Shuler -- to work with, but look at the receiving corps. Desmond Howard has been a disappointment, Ricky Sanders is a free agent, Art Monk is too old and slow and Tim McGee disappeared at the end of the season.

Even if Turner can fix the offense, the Redskins have lost one of the best defensive coaches in the game in Petitbon. The defense could suffer.

Of course, this is all part of the usual cycle in the NFL. Teams go up and down. The problem is that Cooke doesn't have much patience and was spoiled by Joe Gibbs.

How much time is he going to give Turner and general manager Charley Casserly to fix the problems, and what's Cooke's definition of a fix?

His definition of success is winning three Super Bowls in a decade, the way he did the past decade. It's not likely to happen in the next decade.

Petitbon made some mistakes in his year as head coach, including all those quarterback moves, but he might have been quick on the trigger because he knew how impatient Cooke is.

If Turner's going to be a success, Cooke's going to have to give him time -- and better players.

The conspiracy theory

When commissioner Paul Tagliabue denied the Redskins permission to talk to Turner until the Cowboys finish the playoffs -- after allowing the Chicago Bears to hire Dave Wannstedt during the playoffs last year -- there were enough conspiracy theories at Redskin Park to make Oliver Stone happy.

Among the theories was one that Tagliabue, who doesn't agree with Cooke except when it comes to keeping Baltimore from getting a team, wanted to zing the Redskins.

Another was that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to keep Turner until the playoffs end to make sure Jimmy Johnson doesn't want to leave.

It could be, though, that it was simply another case of Tagliabue's changing his mind.

Consistency is not one of his strong points. Remember when he yanked the Super Bowl out of Phoenix after Arizona rejected a state holiday honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr.?

The league now has a different policy in the wake of complaints that Georgia's controversial state flag -- which includes the Confederate flag -- is going to fly outside the Georgia Dome at the Super Bowl.

"The Super Bowl is not a platform for the exchange of political ideas," a spokesman said, as he explained the NFL would not object to the flying of the flag in Georgia.

The NFL didn't mind getting involved in state politics in Arizona.

Meanwhile, some Atlanta civil rights leaders say they may picket the Super Bowl.

Waiting

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