Tuesday, December 5
Turner-Snyder divorce was inevitable

Back in July, even amid the grinding routine of training camp's two-a-days, Norv Turner carried himself with an unnatural ease. It didn't make sense, really. Burdened by a $100 million team littered with marquee players and an owner whose unflinching expectations were a constant source of aggravation, the Washington Redskins head coach was consistently upbeat and amiable. Funny, even.

Norv Turner
Norv Turner, who was 50-60-1 with the Redskins, knew his days were numbered in the preseason.
When ESPN's "Outside the Lines" camped out for a week at the team's training facility in Ashburn, Va., Turner handled a thorny interview with aplomb. "I've always had this nightmare that Outside the Lines was going to investigate us," he said as he sat down.

After the interview ended, the reporter told him, "We're shameless. We're all over the Redskins bandwagon."

Turner laughed in his wan, self-deprecating way. "Yeah, and as soon as it all turns to shit you'll be all over that, too."

It's clear now that Turner knew something. Even before the season began, he knew his seventh season would be his last in Washington. He would coach this team as far as Snyder let him, then -- if he wasn't relieved of duty -- walk away after the season to another job, perhaps in Houston or San Diego.

On Monday morning, 35-year-old Redskins owner Daniel Snyder finally made it official, firing Turner and replacing him with passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie, who came to the Redskins with Turner in 1994.

Turner, with tears in his eyes, made a brief appearance at Redskin Park. He seemed almost relieved.

"We all know at some point you're going to move on," he said. "It's time for me to move on.

"I appreciate the opportunity that Dan Snyder gave me. I don't think anyone can question his passion, how badly he wants to win. I've obviously been put in a good position to have an opportunity to win. This team has a chance to be 10-6. That's the disappointing thing for me. With the schedule the way it is, that this team can still be 10-6. There's a part of me that would like to be a part of it. And there's a part of me that understands why it's important and why it's necessary to make a change right now."

Turner's record as Washington's head coach was a pedestrian 50-60-1, including his only two playoff games, last year's win over Detroit and loss at Tampa Bay.

Turner's Tenure
Norv Turner had more failures than sucesses during his tenure with the Redskins. The team posted a 50-60-1 record, won only one division titlea nd made only one playoff appearance in six-plus seasons under Turner, a stark contrast to the success enjoyed in Washington during the 1980s. Here's a year-by-year breakdown of Turner's record with the Redskins.
  Record Div. Finish
2000 7-6 3rd
1999 10-6 1st*
1998 6-10 4th
1997 8-7-1 2nd
1996 9-7 3rd
1995 6-10 3rd
1994 3-13 5th
* 1-1 in playoffs
-- Rico Longoria, ESPN.com

Snyder has been itching to push the button for the last month. After navigating the first half of the season with a 6-2 record and a five-game winning streak, the Redskins have lost four of five games and all but fallen out of the playoff race. The fact that all four of those losses were by less than a touchdown (and three by a field goal or less) only increased Snyder's frustration.

If Turner's fate has been preordained all season long, the last event in this long chain was Sunday's 9-7 loss to the New York Giants. It was the second straight defeat by a division rival, and if you thought Turner had any chance of surviving the ax, that great post-game shot of the owner's box at FedEx Field ended those delusions.

There was Snyder standing with his back to the field, both hands clasped behind his head in a daunting I-can't-believe-we-just-lost posture after Eddie Murray's 49-yard field goal fluttered woefully short.

Turner was asked to stay at FedEx Field after his postgame comments for a meeting with Snyder. But, according to team officials, Snyder was too upset to speak with Turner. Instead, he met with co-owner Fred Drasner over dinner, while Turner continued to wait. After about two hours, Turner left the stadium.

When Snyder bought the team in 1999, he changed many things about the Redskins. He fired a number of front-office employees, including general manager Charley Casserly. He and Casserly's replacement, Vinny Cerrato, aggressively signed free agents Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George and Mark Carrier. He toyed with changing the head coach, but after last season's 10-6 record and playoff appearance, Snyder managed to resist the urge.

There's a part of me that would like to be a part of it. And there's a part of me that understands why it's important and why it's necessary to make a change right now.
Norv Turner, ex-Redskins head coach

According to the Washington Post, Snyder contacted Robiskie around 2 a.m. Monday to tell him that Pepper Rodgers, a practice crony of Snyder's, would be the new head coach. After what was described by sources as an angry exchange, Snyder called back about three hours later to say that Robiskie would indeed be head coach.

The Redskins named Rodgers, who coached at Kansas, UCLA and Georgia Tech, as their vice president of football operations.

From the beginning, the Snyder-Turner relationship was a marriage of convenience.

Turner grew tired of Snyder's meddling and was telling friends in the offseason that he was done after the season, Super Bowl or not. In Turner's mind, last year's coaching job gave him credibility in the league as a head coach, not just another flashy coordinator. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see his old friend Casserly, who now runs the Houston expansion entry, hire him. Since the franchise won't hit the field until 2002, it would mean a year away from the sideline, something Turner might welcome.

Turner has one year left on his contract, so the Redskins still owe him about $1 million. If he had resigned, he would have forfeited that amount.

Ultimately, Turner's teams did not play to expectations. And while, the 2000 Redskins were hit hard with injuries, especially along the offensive line, they found ways to lose to inferior teams like Dallas, Detroit and Arizona.

The irony: if the Redskins had found a few hundred thousand dollars to sign a decent placekicker, Turner might still be in charge. Four kickers -- in order, Brett Conway, Michael Husted, Kris Heppner and Eddie Murray -- have repeatedly failed where someone like Joe Nedney might have been the difference in, say, three games. It is not a stretch to say the Redskins could be 10-3 with any kind of performance at placekicker.

Murray's missed field goal underlined the tenuous grip NFL head coaches have on their jobs. As he lined up that 49-yard field goal, Turner was framed by FOX television in one box, with the Giants' Jim Fassel in another. Had the kick gone through the uprights, it's conceivable that Turner could be coaching a playoff team this year and Fassel would be out of a job.

The Redskins, for their part, are hoping for the Gary Moeller Effect. They would like to see the team run the table against Dallas, Pittsburgh and Arizona (a distinct possibility) and sneak into the playoffs, where a veteran-laden team could do some damage. In retrospect, it seems obvious that Snyder waited a week or two too long to make the move. Turner has seemed distracted and the players, perhaps sensing this, haven't given much of an effort.

Like any arranged marriage, this one was doomed to fail. It's safe to say that both parties are far happier and better off today after the parting.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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VIDEO video
 An emotional Norv Turner addresses the media following his firing by the Washington Redskins.
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 Terry Robiskie is named the new head coach in Washington.
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 ESPN's Marty Schottenheimer explains the difficulties that go with coaching under a hands-on owner.
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