Redskins days in past, Turner prefers present

Coach focuses on Raiders' plight, not Sunday return to Washington

November 18, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- Black is an appropriate color for Norv Turner.

Turner, the Oakland Raiders' coach who returns to Washington for the first time since team owner Daniel Snyder fired him in 2000 after seven years as Redskins coach, has long been vilified by Washington fans for his background (three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys) and his record with the team (50-60-1).

But if Turner has any dislike for the fans or Snyder, he didn't let it surface during this week's conference call with the media.

"My thoughts are more directed toward our team, and what we need to do," Turner said on Wednesday. "Who we're playing isn't as big of an issue to me. ... We're just trying to zero in on the things we do best and find a way to play the best football we can."

Asked a little later what he thought the fans' reaction would be when he enters FedEx Field on Sunday, Turner replied, "It's hard to give you an answer because I haven't given it that much thought."

Finally, weary of questions about his return, Turner said, "I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about all those things. We can talk about the game and all that. I think every situation you're in, you learn from those experiences. You like to think you do."

Yet the biggest story line of Sunday's game centers on Turner's past in Washington. Hired by the late Jack Kent Cooke a little more than a year after Joe Gibbs retired after the 1992 season, Turner brought a reputation as an offensive wunderkind who helped direct Dallas to back-to-back Super Bowl championships after the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

But Turner's decision to bring in former Cowboys players rubbed several Redskins the wrong way.

"I didn't think that group understood who we are," said offensive lineman Ray Brown, who played in Washington for one season before departing for the San Francisco 49ers after the 1994 campaign. "I think they came in with somewhat of an arrogance. The Cowboy guys said, `OK, we beat you guys, we've got success in this division. Now we're going to show you how we do it down in Dallas.' This is Washington and I don't think that went over well."

After the team posted back-to-back sub-.500 seasons in Turner's first two years, the Redskins recorded three winning seasons in the next four years, culminating in the team's 1999 NFC East title and an appearance in the NFC divisional playoff game.

The next season, Snyder dismissed Turner after consecutive losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants that put Washington at 7-6. Terry Robiskie became the interim coach, and the team lost two of the final three contests.

Turner was not unemployed for long. The San Diego Chargers hired him as the offensive coordinator in 2001, and after one season, he moved to Miami for a similar role with the Dolphins.

"I think the best thing I did was go to work," said Turner, who was hired by Raiders owner Al Davis in 2004. "I'm a football coach. I like to coach. I just went to work. In this day and age, things change and we go different directions for a lot of different reasons. I think coaches probably understand that better than people who observe."

Turner, who has a reputation as a creative play-caller but a poor communicator, has failed to turn things around in Oakland.

After a 5-11 season, the team traded for wide receiver Randy Moss and signed running back LaMont Jordan and defensive end Derrick Burgess, but the Raiders are in last place in the AFC West with a 3-6 record.

Joe Gibbs said he only knows Turner through close friend Ernie Zampese, who worked with Turner in Dallas. Gibbs said he admired Turner so much that he tried to hire him as an assistant coach during the latter stages of Gibbs' first coaching tenure in Washington.

"He's got a great reputation as far as calling plays and being an offensive guy," Gibbs said. "I think there's a mutual respect there. I respect him a lot."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Raiders@Redskins Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 9, 1430 AM, 106.7 FM Line: Redskins by 6

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