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Week 14 in the NFL

Just Blame Turner When All Else Fails

December 05, 2000|MIKE PENNER

Eddie Murray missed two field-goal attempts, Brad Johnson threw two interceptions, Stephen Davis netted 29 yards in 12 carries and Washington lost at home to the New York Giants, 9-7.

It's Norv Turner's fault.

Kurt Warner threw four interceptions and failed to produce a single touchdown in St. Louis' 16-3 loss to Carolina.

It's Norv Turner's fault.*

(*Turner should have been there for Warner, just as he was for Jim Everett in 1989, somehow coaxing enough big-play completions out of that fragile vessel to put the Rams into the NFC championship game. But Turner bolted the Rams 10 years ago.)

Dallas managed only seven points against Tampa Bay and lost to the Buccaneers for the first time in franchise history, 27-7.

It's Norv Turner's fault.**

(**When he was offensive coordinator in Dallas, Turner knew what to do with an attack that included Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. But Turner bailed on the Cowboys seven years ago.)

The University of Oregon had a chance to play in the Rose Bowl but lost the Civil War to Oregon State and will have to settle instead for the Holiday Bowl.

It's Norv Turner's fault.***

(***This never would have happened with Turner, a talented quarterback kept out of the Ducks' starting lineup only because a future hall of famer, Dan Fouts, was first string. But Turner graduated from Oregon 25 years ago.)

USC finished the 2000 football season with another losing record and fired another football coach and now has to hire a replacement, possibly Norv Turner.

It's Norv Turner's fault.****

(****As an assistant coach at USC from 1976 through '84, Turner was the glue that held the Trojans' program together. USC finished first or second in the national polls three times while Turner was there. The Trojans haven't been close again, going through four head coaches since they were blithely abandoned by Turner.)

Pick a problem, any problem, and chances are it's Norv Turner's fault.

Those slumping "Monday Night Football" ratings? Traceable directly to Turner's listless Redskins making three Monday appearances in 2000.

The BCS controversy? Florida State had planned to run Miami out of the stadium, Bobby Bowden swears, but the Seminoles got distracted when they heard Turner was thinking of benching Florida State alum Johnson in favor of Jeff George.

The presidential election? Turner could have helped swing the tide in Florida, but, no, he lives and votes in Virginia.

Now that Turner is gone, fired as Redskin coach Monday, what is Redskin owner Daniel Snyder going to do for a scapegoat? Oh, he'll probably come up with something, buy one if he has to, but Snyder is going to miss Turner. So much easier to sit in the owner's box waving a shrimp-cocktail fork at Turner than to admit you might have meddled too much or bought the wrong players or blown out the wrong kicker.

Now it's Terry Robiskie's headache. Although, for a few dicey moments, it was almost Pepper Rodgers'. Yes, that Pepper Rodgers, the former UCLA coach who has been spending Sundays seated in the owner's box next to Snyder, patiently answering Snyder every time he asked, "What's Norv doing wrong this time?"

Snyder had to have been impressed. You know, this old guy Pepper knows lots about football. So, according to reports, Snyder tried to give the job to Rodgers in the wee hours Monday morning before cooler heads talked him out of it.

He also tried to give it to defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, but Rhodes ran from the offer faster than Deion Sanders from an onrushing fullback. Fired as Eagle coach in '98, fired as Packer coach in '99, Rhodes, understandably, wanted no part of a sure-fire plan to make it three for three.

Robiskie takes over a team that rushed for 29 net yards on a day when five running backs in the league combined for 1,000. Four eclipsed the once-sacred 200-yard barrier--on the same afternoon--and another got within 19 yards.

What in the name of Cookie Gilchrist is going on?

Answer: If you can't throw the football, you'd better find a different way to move it.

A quick scan at Sunday's runaway Gang of Four:

* Mike Anderson, Denver Broncos, runs for 251 yards and four touchdowns in 37 carries. His quarterback: Gus Frerotte, career backup, backing up an injured Brian Griese.

* Corey Dillon, Cincinnati Bengals, runs for 216 yards and a touchdown in 35 carries. His quarterback: Scott Mitchell, who was run out of Miami, Detroit and Baltimore, but, in Cincinnati, where Akili Smith also resides, has become the overwhelming people's choice.

* Warrick Dunn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, runs for 210 yards and two touchdowns in 22 carries. His quarterback: Shaun King, undersized second-year man from Tulane, who completed nine of 15 passes for 65 yards against the Cowboys.

* Curtis Martin, New York Jets, runs for 203 yards and a touchdown in 30 carries. His quarterback: Vinny Testaverde, 37, ranked 28th in the league in passing before Sunday.

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