Owner Daniel M. Snyder and Coach Norv Turner met after a Washington Redskins game once more yesterday. This time, however, the circumstances surrounding their meeting were much happier than they had been for the previous weekend's summit at Texas Stadium, and both men had their punch lines ready in the aftermath of the Redskins' 48-22 victory over the Chicago Bears at Redskins Stadium.
"We've had a lot of good meetings," Snyder said with a grin after his NFC East-leading team improved its record to 5-2.
Earlier, Turner began his postgame news conference by telling reporters: "Sorry I was late. I was in a meeting with Mr. Snyder."
Turner brought a set of Halloween-style false teeth to his news conference, saying they were a gift from fullback Larry Centers. But he failed to deliver the line he and Snyder had planned--that the crooked, ugly teeth made him look like Snyder. It was about the only thing that didn't go as planned for the Redskins all day.
Snyder's postgame meeting with Turner following the Redskins' 38-20 loss at Dallas eight days ago remained a big national story yesterday. Snyder did pregame interviews with Fox and CBS and had to defend the timing of the meeting in the trainer's room, off the main locker room area, at Texas Stadium.
Later, as he celebrated the victory in the owner's box (where Turner joined the party in its final stages last night), Snyder shrugged off the week's worth of criticism he received. "It comes with the territory," he said.
The NFL's youngest owner continues to have results on his side, though. Not everyone in the league likes his high-pressure, hard-charging style, but the Redskins have five more wins than they had through seven games last season. Last year, they didn't get their fifth victory of the season until Dec. 13.
During an interview on Friday, Snyder defended his decision to meet with Turner in Dallas by saying he had met with Turner following every game this season, win or loss, and would continue to do so. He made good on that pledge yesterday, and savored the win in the locker room with the players. He asked defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson--who huffed and puffed his way to an 88-yard touchdown on an interception return in the first quarter--whether he intended to play fullback next weekend.
Redskins running back and kick returner Brian Mitchell said: "He cares about this team. He's cracking the whip, and that's good. I enjoy it. You do your job, and you're going to be around. As a team, we're in this together. He's in the locker room with us whether we win or lose. He's an owner, but he's been a fan for a long time."
Said guard Tre Johnson: "Snyder is cool to us. He's never been bad to us. We didn't play as good as we should have last week. There was no mystic God that came down and touched us on the heads. We had a better week of practice. Everyone was mad, and we unleashed a butt-whipping on the Bears."
So far this season, the Redskins have not permitted little problems to become big problems. Their season seemingly has been at a crossroads twice, both after losses to the Cowboys. And both times they immediately have gotten themselves headed in the right direction again with impressive wins. They beat the New York Giants, 50-21, at Giants Stadium in Week 2 on the heels of squandering a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead at home to fall to the Cowboys, 41-35, in overtime in the season opener. Yesterday they led by 31-0 at halftime and by 45-0 midway through the third quarter.
"This team has great character," Turner said. "This team has a lot of players who have been through a lot of things. One loss or one situation or one bad thing happening is not going to stop them."
As he walked back toward the team's locker room after leaving his news conference, Turner said the fallout that resulted from the previous Sunday's controversy-generating meeting helped the Redskins' preparation last week.
"I told our team when the season started, 'Take care of the things you can control,' " Turner said. "It wasn't negative. If anything, it was positive for our team. We all understand the sense of urgency he [Snyder] has. We have the same sense of urgency. Now we have more people who understand about coming back and competing and playing hard. We can overcome adversity."
Snyder has praised Turner's coaching this season, and Snyder's associates say that, no matter what the public perception was after last week's meeting, Snyder continues to like and respect Turner. The two seem to have developed a productive give and take. According to team sources, the meeting in Dallas wasn't hostile and Turner, in fact, became animated at one point when he told Snyder that the team's players were being asked to make too many public appearances too late in the week. Snyder told Turner he'd fix that problem, sources said.
In the first season of the Snyder era, the Redskins are demonstrating that they are not the same team they've been in recent years. They have yet to beat a team that is without plenty of flaws. But they also have yet to lose to a clearly inferior opponent. And, now that they've entered the soft portion of their schedule, they can pile up several wins this season by beating the teams they should beat.
Turner said he spent last week telling his players they needed to establish that they could win at home, and needed to set the tone early against the Bears. The players apparently listened.
"That's how you've got to win in this league--play like this at home," Turner said. "We had a great sense of urgency. At the start of the game a week ago, they [the Cowboys] had a great sense of urgency."
Said Mitchell: "After the way we played last week, everyone started to doubt us. They were saying it would be '96 [when the Redskins followed a 7-1 beginning with a 2-6 finish and missed the playoffs] revisited. But coming back like this, that's the mark of a champion. You get knocked down, and you get back up."
Johnson had a simple explanation for why he believes these Redskins won't relive their pain of the previous few seasons. "We're a better team," he said.