Demoted quarterback Brad Johnson acknowledged yesterday that, barring an injury to Jeff George, he probably has taken his last snap as a member of the Washington Redskins. He also said he thinks the team's upper management, not the coaching staff, made the decision to play George ahead of him for this Sunday's game at Dallas.
Johnson indicated he had not spoken to interim head coach Terry Robiskie about his role for the remainder of the season, and said: "I think that decision is made from up top. But my role right now is just to study as hard as I can and be ready in case something happens. I'll finish the season strong and go from there."
Pressed on whether he meant that Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder had made the decision to play George, Johnson said: "I think it's obvious."
Robiskie, who inherited the head coaching job after Norv Turner was fired on Monday, said he made the decision to start George against the Cowboys in consultation with Snyder and other coaches and team officials.
"There are a lot of decisions made above me," Robiskie said. "We all sat down and talked . . . me and the coaches and Mr. Snyder. When it's an organization, it's a group of people. A lot of people want to separate us from Mr. Snyder. Mr. Snyder owns our football team. I understand that. There are very few things I'm going to change here without telling him. If I'm going to change my desk, I'm going to ask him. If I'm going to change my quarterback, I'm going to ask him. It's his organization. It's his football team. To try to separate that--I'm not going to do that."
Turner had switched to George midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's 9-7 loss to the New York Giants at FedEx Field, and said after the game he intended to start George against the Cowboys.
Snyder often has said he leaves coaching decisions to his coach. His spokesman, Karl Swanson, said yesterday: "The situation with Terry is no different than with Coach Turner. They consult with Dan, but they make the decision. Coach Turner said Sunday night Jeff would be the starter against Dallas, and Coach Robiskie saw no reason to change that."
Johnson is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the offseason and almost certainly will be with another team next season while George takes over as the starter.
"I think right now Jeff is going to be the starter the rest of the way out," Johnson said. "In case something happens with him, then I'll be ready to go. But otherwise, I'm just going to finish up strong here, make the best of what we have left and deal with my situation in the offseason."
Said Robiskie: "Brad is a part of what we're doing. I know Sunday he'll be standing next to me when the game starts. If we need him, he'll be available."
George steered clear of the matter, but said he believes the move to Robiskie gives the Redskins a clean slate as they try to fight their way into the playoffs following two straight losses that dropped their record to 7-6.
"We've got a new leader here, and he's putting his stamp on it," George said. "And guys are following. Next year is here, and we're excited about that. . . . Something needed to be done, and it's for the better."
Johnson said he thinks Robiskie will "do a great job," but expressed remorse over the firing of Turner.
"You hate for something like this to happen," he said. "Obviously you'd like to see [Turner] finish the job. But there was a change made. Now you make the best of it. Terry is going to make some changes and adjustments. Right now the season still isn't over. We have to make the best of what we have here. Guys are going to fight it out. It's going to be exciting to see what happens."
Snyder was the catalyst behind the signing of George to a four-year, $18.25 million contract in the offseason as a free agent. Johnson, meantime, suspended his stalled discussions with the team on a contract extension in October.
"We tried to work out stuff a long time ago," Johnson said. "It didn't work out on both sides. It's time to move on. We talked about my future. The future is now. You have to work every day in practice and perform on the field. Things happen. Sometimes things don't happen for different reasons. Again, I'll deal with my offseason issues in January, February and maybe March."
Turner stuck by Johnson this season when others, inside and outside the organization, wanted him to be benched. Turner went back to Johnson as the starter against the Giants after Johnson had missed three games because of a partially torn knee ligament. And Turner angered Snyder and fellow owner Fred Drasner by sticking with Johnson Sunday until just over eight minutes remained. George led the Redskins on a 97-yard touchdown drive and set up a potential game-winning field goal attempt by place kicker Eddie Murray in the final minute that fell short.
Johnson said his knee held up fine Sunday. But he conceded he felt roughed up after the Giants used blitzes to take advantage of the interior of the Redskins' offensive line. Johnson had defenders in his face all day and completed only 14 of 29 passes for 126 yards with two interceptions.
"They game-planned us pretty well the other day," Johnson said. "I probably threw about 10 balls away. It was a rough day, a hard day. I took a beating."
It may have been an ugly ending to a brief but often-successful Redskins tenure for Johnson. The club was 17-11 with him as its starter. Johnson led the Redskins to the NFC East title last season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and reaching the Pro Bowl. The team had a 6-3 record behind him this season before Johnson left the lineup after hurting his knee during an Oct. 30 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
"I've done some good things here," Johnson said. "I think the numbers kind of speak for it. Sometimes things happen for different reasons. . . . I'm going to be playing football. I have a long career still in front of me, so I don't look at it negatively like that. There's been some great success here that I've had. I'm not going to let one play or one game bring me down."