Redskins' late surge likely too late for some Turner could be gone despite team's hot finish

December 27, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The Washington Redskins have gone on a late-season 6-2 rush to virtually nowhere.

However, they have proved they can win without highly acclaimed defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, top running back Terry Allen and explosive wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who are all injured.

The Redskins have also produced two fourth-quarter comeback victories in the past three weeks after having none in the first 76 games under coach Norv Turner.

The 6-2 stretch run also leaves Washington within one victory of achieving the best turnaround from an 0-7 start. If the streaking Redskins (6-9) can defeat the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) tonight at 8: 20 at Texas Stadium, they will surpass the performance turned in by 1978 St. Louis Cardinals, who finished 6-10 after starting 0-8.

Probably more important, Washington has escaped being labeled a team of quitters by playing hard long after its playoff hopes had all but evaporated. But will it all be enough to save Turner's job?

Most likely not, unless Redskins president John Kent Cooke is successful in his bid to buy the team from his father's estate.

John Kent Cooke will apparently need a comeback of his own to purchase the team since he is not among the top four bidders for the franchise and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

It is thought that New York banker Howard Milstein and Bethesda businessman Daniel M. Snyder lead the list of eight bidders with a $700 million binding cash offer. Milstein owns part of the NHL New York Islanders and Snyder is the CEO of Bethesda-based Snyder Communications.

Cooke issued a statement this week saying, "I am optimistic that the Redskins and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium will continue to remain in the Cooke family -- where it belongs."

It is believed that Cooke has decided to bring back Turner next season on the merit of the impressive finish.

Turner has three years remaining on the contract extension given to him by late Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke in March of 1997, just a month before Cooke died.

Turner said this week he believes he deserves to coach the Redskins again next season despite not making the playoffs in his five years as coach.

"We struggled early, there's no question," said Turner. "But we came back and I don't think anyone's given up. That's a start. There's where you've got to start. I know how I feel about that. Obviously how other people evaluate it is up to them."

Veteran Redskins cornerback Darrell Green came out in support of Turner several weeks ago but has said all along there is no need to discuss the coach's future that much until ownership of the team is settled.

"I would love it if John Cooke retained ownership of the Redskins," said Green. "The entire Cooke family has been great to me ever since I came here and no human being likes change that much. The Cookes have run a first-class operation in every phase of the game and I'm excited about next season even though we've been through so much this year. I've seen this team come so close together in the past four to five weeks and it's shown in the results on the field."

Green said that his decision to return for a 17th season would not be affected by the sale of the franchise.

"Hey, I didn't know the Cookes when I came here but I learned to love them," he said. "So if there would be a change in owners, I could handle that. I play this game for the pure love and enjoyment of it and am not affected that much by anything else."

Time: 8: 15 p.m., Ch. 7, ESPN.

Line: Redskins by 1 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Redskins 7-8; Cowboys 7-7.

Outlook: The Redskins are rolling, having won four in a row and six of their last eight. QB Trent Green has 15 TD passes and three interceptions in that span. And watch rookie RB Skip Hicks, who leads the Redskins with eight rushing TDs. DT Dan Wilkinson has set a career high with 7.5 sacks and DE Jamal Duff has three sacks in the past three games. That duo may give the Cowboys problems if the Redskins blitz. With the NFC East title and a home game for the first-round of the playoffs set, will Dallas take it easy? Perhaps, but for incentive, consider: The Cowboys can become first team to post an 8-0 record in the NFC East.

Notable: Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith has seven 100-yard games this season, and had 120 in the first meeting with the Redskins.

Injuries:

REDSKINS: Out: DT Dana Stubblefield (knee). Questionable: RB Terry Allen (ankle); RB Skip Hicks (ankle). Probable: TE James Jenkins (knee).

COWBOYS: Out: DE Kavika Pittman (hamstring); CB Deion Sanders (toe); RB Chris Warren (groin). Questionable: TE David LaFleur (knee). Probable: DE Greg Ellis (finger); WR Michael Irvin (back); RB Emmitt Smith (ankle); T Erik Williams (knee).

Pub Date: 12/27/98

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