Norv Turner will return next season as the Washington Redskins' head coach, team owner Daniel M. Snyder and Turner said yesterday. Snyder said he will retain Turner for what will be Turner's seventh season as the team's coach, and Turner said he will not consider resigning during the offseason.
The Redskins clinched the National Football Conference Eastern Division championship with Sunday night's 26-20 overtime victory in San Francisco, and Snyder said he will make good on his pledge that a playoff appearance would enable Turner to retain his job beyond this season.
"Of course he'll be back," Snyder said yesterday during an interview in his Redskin Park office. ". . . It wasn't a matter of making up my mind. We had a goal, and we achieved the goal. That's the first goal. There are many more. We have to play hard and play like Eastern Division champions. We have the potential to be very special, beginning this year."
Turner, whose approximately $1 million-per-year contract runs through the 2001 season, said he will return.
"Anyone that thinks I would resign doesn't know me very well," Turner said. ". . . When I came here, I came here with the idea of winning a Super Bowl. That hasn't changed."
The Redskins, with a record of 9-6, lead the NFC East by two games with one regular season game remaining. They will play the Miami Dolphins Sunday at FedEx Field in their regular season finale, then host at least one NFC playoff game. It will be their first playoff appearance since the 1992 season, when Joe Gibbs was coach. The Redskins last won the NFC East title and last hosted a postseason game in the 1991 season, when they won the Super Bowl.
"The credit goes first to the players and the coaches," Snyder said. ". . . I feel our season is just beginning. . . . It [winning the division title] was the goal Norv and I talked about the first time we met. It was our first goal."
The Redskins have a record of 41-53-1 under Turner. After barely missing the playoffs in 1996 and '97, the team slumped to a 6-10 record last season, and Turner's job security was tenuous after the franchise was sold to Snyder by the estate of late owner Jack Kent Cooke. Failed Redskins bidder Howard Milstein seemed prepared to fire Turner, but withdrew from the National Football League's approval process in April.
After he and his partners completed their $800 million purchase of the Redskins, their stadium and their practice facility in July, Snyder ousted General Manager Charley Casserly--negotiating a settlement under which Casserly agreed to serve the remainder of his contract as a consultant to Snyder--and gave Turner the final say over the team's player-related personnel decisions.
But the Bethesda marketing executive also made it clear he would dismiss Turner if the Redskins failed to end their six-season playoff drought (the first of which came with Richie Petitbon as the team's head coach) this season.
Sitting near Snyder in the owner's office, Turner said yesterday: "The first time Dan and I met, we talked about what this team could do and where it could go. Not many people thought this team could win nine or 10 games and win the division. I think most people picked us to go 6-10. I give the credit to our players. Dan has brought a sense of urgency to this football team, and our guys have responded."
The Redskins have won 15 of 24 games since beginning the 1998 season with seven straight losses.
"The players kept believing," Turner said. "When you're 0-7, it's difficult to keep believing."
It has been a tumultuous year for the Redskins, beginning with an offseason in which many of their player-related decisions were put on hold because of the sale of the team. Snyder, the NFL's youngest owner at 35, has been criticized by some observers for his aggressive, hands-on approach. But Turner credited Snyder yesterday not only for setting a no-nonsense tone for the organization, but also for having input in the offseason signings of key players, such as fullback Larry Centers.
Snyder said: "This year has been a difficult year, even before I got here, for Norv. The organization was in a state of flux for several months where no one knew what was going on. Norv handled a very difficult time quite well. The adjustment to me and my style--it's a full-court-press style--it's an adjustment for everyone around here, and I think they handled it very well."
Turner recently denied reports that he might consider resigning following the season.
"We all--coaches and players--have been able to put blinders on and not let those sorts of things affect us," Turner said.
Neither Turner nor Snyder addressed the status of Turner's assistant coaches for next season.
But it all has worked out well for the Redskins. They had clinched a playoff berth before they took the field at 3Com Park Sunday night in San Francisco. And at the site of their last playoff game--a 20-13 loss on Jan. 9, 1993, with Gibbs on the sideline and Snyder in the stands as a fan--they rallied from a 20-10, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the 49ers on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brad Johnson to Centers two minutes into overtime.
"I'm very, very proud of the players," Snyder said. "They hung in there and met the challenge. It's really special. I told the coaches our entire organization showed tremendous heart in that game."