The problem was that Cooke may have misjudged the Washington market. His expensive seats weren't selling well, and Cooke needed the victories to spark interest. Turner got the message. "I'm not going to get into the details of what he told me," Turner said a few months later. "You can figure it out."
The Redskins then shocked the NFL by winning their next seven games. As Turner had promised, he built his offense around Terry Allen, who rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the first 10 games. Frerotte did his part, playing smartly and efficiently. And a defense that was still terribly thin in the line played better than anyone imagined possible. An ebullient Cooke said: "We're going to the playoffs. It's as certain as tomorrow, although not quite as imminent."
He had spoken too soon. The Redskins opened the second half of the season with a terrible performance, a 38-13 defeat in Buffalo. Turner was furious at his defense for allowing 476 yards, telling friends: "There's never an excuse for allowing 476 yards. Never."
A week later, things got worse when the Redskins twice blew 14-point leads in a 37-34 overtime loss to Arizona. His defense again was awful, this time allowing 615 yards. Aging Arizona quarterback Boomer Esiason passed for a mind-boggling 522 yards, including 351 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Nonetheless, had tight end Scott Galbraith not been whistled for holding on a Scott Blanton field goal attempt, the Redskins would have won anyway. Three times in the second half of the season, the Redskins would lose on the final play of a game.
Despite all of this, Turner held his team together, and, in as impressive victory as the Redskins would have all season, they went to Philadelphia and defeated the Eagles, 26-21. With an 8-3 record, they still appeared on track for the playoffs.
But not for long. The Redskins fought gallantly in a home game against the 49ers only to lose, 19-16. There was a lopsided Thanksgiving Day loss in Dallas, 21-10. Then a dismal 24-10 defeat in Tampa. Then a 27-26 loss in Arizona. All of a sudden, from 7-1 and 8-3 the Redskins had dropped to 8-7. Had they won any of those final four games, they would have made the playoffs.
Their season ended with a meaningless game against Dallas at RFK Stadium. Neither team had anything riding on the game, although it was more important for the Redskins, who were playing at their revered old RFK for the last time. Frerotte played his best game of the season, and, amid the emotion and celebration, the Redskins won, 37-10.