In retrospect, the Redskins could have seen 1996 as at least a decent season, having gone from 3-13 to 6-10 to 9-7 in Turner's three years. They had found a quarterback in Frerotte and were now a solid offensive team.
But for Turner, Cooke, Casserly and others, it was not a decent season at all. Missing the playoffs again was a bitter pill to swallow. So Turner made more changes, firing defensive coordinator Ron Lynn and most of his staff and hiring the highly regarded Mike Nolan from the New York Giants. Thus began a restructuring of the NFL's 28th-ranked defense.
Turner and Cooke hoped that 1997 would be the season it all turned around, with a team headed back to the playoffs and the opening of what Cooke saw as the greatest new stadium in sports. As his team reworked its defense in the spring of 1997, Cooke took frequent drives into the suburbs to see his new stadium going up. Friends report that he would sit in his car, saying nothing as his eyes scanned the huge steel and concrete structure.