Cowboys rivalry taking back seat for 0-4 Redskins Turner's struggling team not picky who it beats

October 04, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

It's Dallas week in Washington and no one seems to much care.

The 2-2 Cowboys still resemble the Cowboys, but the Redskins are definitely not the Redskins of old as they prepare for today's 1 p.m. game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

The Redskins are off to a horrendous 0-4 start that has shaken the entire organization and eroded a lot of coach Norv Turner's support.

Even the staunchest Turner backer, Redskins president John Kent Cooke, has cooled a lot in his long-standing support for the embattled coach.

Cooke said Wednesday he would support Turner through the end of this season, but Cooke would not speculate on the coach's future if the Redskins don't make the playoffs.

Turner's contract runs through the year 2001, and it was just during the past off-season that Cooke gave Turner this glowing endorsement: "I have great confidence in Norv and in his ability to lead this team to a Super Bowl championship. In my opinion, he is the finest coach in the National Football League."

It is obvious Cooke has strong ties to Turner. It was Cooke's late father, Jack Kent Cooke, who gave Turner a five-year contract extension in March 1997, a few weeks before the owner died.

But even John Kent Cooke can only tolerate so much dissatisfaction from the Redskins fans, who lined up about 1 million strong on the streets of Washington to welcome back the 1992 Super Bowl champions.

There were nearly 10,000 no-shows last Sunday at home when the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos came to town and slammed the Redskins, 38-16.

So what about the Cowboys?

Turner said they are just one of 12 "must-win" games the rest of the season for the Redskins.

rTC "Anyone on this team who rationalizes anything different doesn't understand where we're at," said Turner.

However, Washington's starting quarterback, Trent Green, said he prefers not to use the words "must win."

"I don't like labeling any game a must-win," said Green. "Because what happens if you don't win. What do you do then? There's definitely a sense of urgency because we don't want to be 0-5."

Green said he has not been on a football team that's started 0-4 since "my Pop Warner days."

This is his fifth season in the NFL, four with Washington and one with the San Diego Chargers, after becoming No. 3 on Indiana University's all-time passing-yardage list with 5,400.

"I hate the fact that we're losing," said Green. "But it's been great for me to finally get a chance to be out there playing and contributing after what I've been through in my career."

Green dressed for 63 NFL games before getting in his first game, against Philadelphia, on the last day of the 1997 season.

Green will start his fourth straight game today. Dallas, on the other hand, will be playing its third consecutive game without quarterback Troy Aikman, who has a fractured left clavicle. Aikman has been replaced by Jason Garrett, who threw just 72 passes in his first six seasons in the NFL.

"I don't think we're marching down the road to a championship step by step," said first-year Cowboys coach Chan Gailey. "We're not playing very consistently. But I certainly expect to make the playoffs."

Dallas (2-2) at Washington (0-4)

Time: 1: 01 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Cowboys by 1.

Vs. spread: Cowboys 2-2; Redskins 0-4.

Outlook: Jason Garrett vs. Trent Green. Boy, oh, boy -- how far has this rivalry fallen? The Redskins, who were picked by many to win the NFC East but have yet to win a game, could be on the verge of panic, so a few surprises could be in the offing. One possibility is Skip Hicks taking some of Terry Allen's carries. Neither team has run the ball as well as hoped, but the Cowboys' banged-up backs will try to take some pressure off Garrett. While the Cowboys could be the class of the division, they clearly are not the same team that won three Super Bowls.

Notable: Cowboys have the NFL's best October record over the past five seasons (16-4), but Redskins have beaten three straight times at home.

Injuries:

COWBOYS: Out: QB Troy Aikman (clavicle); DT Antonio Anderson (knee); LB Nate Hemsley (ankle). Probable: RB Daryl Johnston (knee); DT Leon Lett (knee); CB Deion Sanders (ankle); RB Emmitt Smith (groin); RB Chris Warren (groin); RB Sherman Williams (knee).

REDSKINS: Out: S Jesse Campbell (knee); G Joe Patton (knee). Probable: S Stanley Richard (hamstring).

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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