Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder has told Coach Norv Turner that Turner has the final say on the team's player related personnel decisions, club sources said today. As he enters his sixth season as the team's head coach, Turner has been given the sweeping authority he has sought throughout his tenure with the club.
Meanwhile, as the Redskins continue to try to make a significant acquisition before the season, wide receiver Albert Connell said today it upsets him that the team is pursuing trades that likely would displace him from the starting lineup. The third-year pro said he's ready to be a dependable, productive NFL starter.
As the Redskins seek their first playoff berth in seven seasons, Turner has been given a free hand to determine the makeup of the team that will save or cost him his job. According to sources, Turner always had hoped to be given the final say over personnel decisions by late Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and former team president John Kent Cooke. But that degree of authority never was given to him expressly, sources said, and he collaborated with the Cookes and General Manager Charley Casserly on player moves. Casserly often did as Turner wished, but Turner never had an official, stated assurance from his boss that his opinion took precedence over that of the front office.
Turner declined to comment on the matter today. Snyder has pledged to be an active owner, and has hired Vinny Cerrato to be the team's director of player personnel. Even with Snyder's assurance to Turner, it's clear that Snyder and Cerrato also will play key roles in planning the team's course.
Casserly has resigned as the Redskins' general manager, effective Sept. 3, and can serve the remaining two seasons on his contract as a consultant to Snyder, who indicated that he decided to reorganize the club's front office after determining that Casserly and Turner could not coexist. Snyder's associates say he will leave the GM job vacant at least for a while. Snyder eventually will hire a team president.
Snyder has said he expects the team to win immediately, and Turner, whose record as the club's head coach is 32-47-1, is on what amounts to a tryout with his new boss. The Redskins have three first-round picks in next year's college draft, and they're being aggressive in their attempts to make a major acquisition before the season.
"We're definitely looking to be creative and find ways to improve the team," Snyder said today.
The Redskins, according to team and league sources, have pursued possible deals involving wide receivers Rob Moore of the Arizona Cardinals, Carl Pickens of the Cincinnati Bengals and Antonio Freeman of the Green Bay Packers. At least for now, the Redskins have Michael Westbrook and Connell slated to be their starting wideouts.
"To be even shopping makes me feel like they think I can't play," Connell said today. "Terry Robiskie [the Redskins' passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach] keeps telling me not to worry about it. He knows I can play. But it makes you wonder what they think about you. I know I can play. I know I'm ready."
Connell, who started five games last season, said the situation is particularly frustrating because it reminds him of his rookie season in 1997, when the Redskins brought in veteran wide receiver Alvin Harper. Harper made two catches before leaving the Redskins on unfriendly terms.
"I laugh about it," Connell said. "That's all I can do. It upsets me. It's hard. It happened to me before with Alvin Harper. I felt bad then, and it ended up being a bad deal for the team. I knew I could play, but they didn't want to give me the chance."
Turner said: "Albert Connell played well down the stretch each of the last two seasons. We need him to come out and play well over a whole season. Michael Westbrook, [tight end] Stephen Alexander -- we're looking for some guys to step up."
Connell, 25, had 28 catches in 14 games last season. He has a modest six starts and 37 receptions in his NFL career, but he said all he needs is a chance to play.
"I'm ready, most definitely," he said. "I'm ready to be a starter for 16 games. I think I can do it."
The Redskins traded first-, second- and third-round draft choices over a two-year span to the Minnesota Vikings for quarterback Brad Johnson in February. Now the major questions are whether the Redskins can block well enough to keep Johnson healthy and surround him with enough other offensive weapons to ensure his effectiveness.
Club officials expect big things from Alexander, and the team added a reliable pass catcher when it signed fullback Larry Centers as a free agent. Team officials like the natural abilities of Westbrook and Connell, but can't be certain about what they'll get from them this season. Meanwhile, they're planning to turn over their tailback position to Skip Hicks and Stephen Davis if they don't make a trade for a running back.
The Redskins are hopeful that disgruntled running back Jamal Anderson becomes available later in training camp, but for now the Atlanta Falcons say he's not on the trading block. So the Redskins will hope that Hicks adds some consistency to the flashes of brilliance he demonstrated last season as a rookie, when he ran for 433 yards and eight touchdowns but averaged only 3.5 yards per carry.
The Redskins probably would have to part with Hicks or Davis, along with draft picks, in a deal for Anderson. Hicks said he's doing his best not to let the trade rumblings bother him.
"I don't think about it," he said. "I'm just out here doing my job. I'm confident in my abilities, and I need to make the coaches confident in me."