A Coach From Heaven
Sometimes, God is a funny dude. Just when you think it can't get any worse, a dose of happiness falls into your lap. And just when you think it can't get any better, a dose of sad reality comes your way. I think God may be about to give Washington Redskins fans a bit of an off-season pick-me-up.
It was in the winter of 1994. The Redskins were coming off a horrible 1993 season. They were a shell of the team that won three Super Bowls in a decade under Joe Gibbs (the first time around). It was time for a change. At the time, the rival Dallas Cowboys were taking the league by storm. A big part of their success was due to their dynamic and sometimes unstoppable offense. The architect of that offense? Assistant coach Norv Turner.
The Redskins weren't about to settle for less. They targeted the league's hottest assistant coach, and brought him in to lead the Redskins into their next decade of success. Turner rode in on white horse. Seven years later, he'd leave on a three-legged donkey.
It wasn't so much the losing that tortured Redskins fans during the Turner years (although there was plenty of that). It was the teasing. After two "rebuilding" years, the Redskins burst out of the gate in 1996 with a 7-1 record. The playoffs seemed to be a certainty, with even bigger goals on most fans' minds. But the Redskins collapsed. They blew game after game, finished 2-6 down the stretch and missed the playoffs once again. Different variations of this same pattern became a constant during the Turner years.
Their seasons were marred by embarrassing losses, false hope, and maddening comments from Turner. His teams were always "awfully close," and he insisted "what we do works." His in-game facial expressions ranged from frustration to mild anger to abject sadness. The Redskins were woeful in close games, establishing them as the chokers of the NFL, with their head coach leading the charge.
Turner was a nice man. He tried hard. His players seemed to like him, but they never seemed to respect him or respond to his "motivation."
Finally, at the end of a colossal disappointment in 2000, Turner was fired. Finally, the man behind the torture was gone. But in many ways, the damage was done. The chemistry and expectation of the franchise had changed. To this day, the Redskins continue to fight to reverse this negative culture.
Shockingly, Turner got a second chance. The Oakland Raiders came calling in 2004. Turner lasted two seasons. His record? A combined 9-23. The Raiders fired him. Once again, Turner returned to the ranks of NFL assistant; surely, this time, it would be forever.
But like I said, God is a funny dude. He knows the pain and frustration Turner inflicted on Redskins Nation continues to linger. He did send us Joe Gibbs again, but we're still trying to figure out if it's blessing, or just a cruel joke.
So, if he isn't going to help us, he can make up for it by hurting them. Of course, for Redskins fans, "them" is the hated Cowboys.
Rumors are circulating that Turner is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys next head coach. The announcement could come as quickly as this Monday. I didn't believe it when I first heard it. I'm no fan of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but I do believe that he knows how to read. If so, how can he ignore Turner's career coaching record of 58-82-1? How can he ignore that in nine seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Turner has made ONE playoff appearance. How can ignore the fact that his teams were terrible in close games? How can he be serious?
It makes no sense. Cowboys fans should be shuddering. Redskins fans, rejoicing. For us, it seems too good to be true. For them, it seems too bad to be true. All either side can do is pray.
After all, it's a God-thing.