WASHINGTON -- Barry Switzer's first visit to RFK Stadium had a familiar feel.
It was Oklahoma-Iowa State all over again. It was just like Switzer's college days, when his Oklahoma teams would run up a big first-half lead against an overmatched foe and then coast the rest of the way.
That's the kind of day it was for the Dallas Cowboys as they parlayed three turnovers into a 31-0 halftime lead against the Washington Redskins and then ran out the clock in the second half to post a 34-7 win.
The one thing Switzer hasn't learned about pro football is that a winning coach is supposed to say some nice things about the losing team.
Switzer did a Howard Cosell imitation and told it like it was.
"We played a clock offense [in the second half] because we knew the Redskins weren't good enough offensively to be in a position to win the game," he said. "They are not a really strong football team right now."
They're certainly not good enough to compete with the Cowboys with a rookie quarterback. Especially when the two-time defending Super Bowl champions were riled by the public criticism of former coach Jimmy Johnson when they were upset by the Detroit Lions two weeks ago.
Bill Bates said: "It made the players want to say, 'Well, let's forget Jimmy and play for Barry.' "
New Redskins coach Norv Turner, who was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator the past three years, decided to give Heath Shuler his first start against the Cowboys.
The results were predictable. After all, John Elway was 1-for-8 in his first start and was pulled at halftime in 1983, and Troy Aikman was blanked in his first start and lost all 11 starts in his rookie year in 1989.
Shuler was 3-for-13 for 16 yards (minus-4 if you count the 20 yards he lost getting sacked) in the first half and 11-for-30 for 96 yards in the game. He was intercepted once and had another interception wiped out when they roughed him.
Aikman consoled Shuler when it was over.
"He walked up to me and his first words were, 'I've been there; just keep your head up. You'll be a winner.' I took that positive," Shuler said. "Obviously, his first year didn't go real well, but look at what kind of quarterback he is now."
There was nothing subtle about the Cowboys' game plan. They went after Shuler, and they got him. They only sacked him twice, but they -- particularly Charles Haley -- seemed to be in his face every play.
Redskins offensive line coach Jim Hanifan said: "They used the same scheme they used against everybody. Let's not make it into a mystical, nuclear-scientist thing. They only had 11 guys out there. Their 11 played better than our 11."
The rush obviously bothered Shuler. "I can't stand here and say it didn't get to me," Shuler said. "Obviously, it did."
Shuler said he kept throwing high because he was so pumped up in his first start.
But the Redskins thought they could help Shuler with a running )) attack and good pass blocking. Instead, they rushed 18 times for just 28 yards and lost three fumbles -- two by Reggie Brooks and a third when Brooks couldn't get the handoff from Shuler.
The result is the Cowboys had to go only 45, 43, 16 and 50 yards on their first four scoring drives to take a 24-0 lead. All but four first-half scrimmage plays by both teams were in Washington territory. The Redskins didn't get into Dallas territory until late in the third quarter.
Turner said Shuler will start Sunday night in Philadelphia, but he wouldn't say whether Brooks will remain a starter. He was benched in favor of Ricky Ervins in the second half.
"It was just a bad day," said Brooks, who made a quick exit from the locker room.
Turner took all the blame.
"It's my job to have this team ready to play. They weren't ready to play, so I'd evaluate it and say I didn't get the job done," he said.
When he was asked how it felt to coach against his former team, he replied with a profanity.
It's the second time he has used a profanity after a game in three weeks, which is noteworthy mainly because it's two more than former coach Joe Gibbs used in 12 years.
But a lot has changed since Gibbs left. The Redskins were never down by 31 at halftime in the Gibbs era -- or even last year in coach Richie Petitbon's one season, when they went 4-12. The last time was in 1980, when Jack Pardee was the coach and they trailed the Chicago Bears 35-0 at halftime and lost, 35-21.
Running back Brian Mitchell said even the practices aren't the way they were in the Gibbs era.
"We took a big step backward today. In 1991 [the year they won their third Super Bowl], we practiced like it was training camp every day. I think some of us have been going through the motions at practice. We must practice hard. You get injured when you are goofing around. But I think before it's over with, you'll see us come together," Mitchell said.
The Redskins are off to a 1-4 start for the second straight year and are 5-16 since Gibbs resigned 18 months ago. They did start off 0-5 in Gibbs' first year in 1981, but they had Joe Theismann and John Riggins and rallied to finish 8-8.
It could have been worse if Emmitt Smith hadn't gone out in the first half with a strained hamstring after gaining 48 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Cowboys aren't sure how serious the injury is. Lincoln Coleman gained 74 yards running out the clock in the second half.
The Cowboys need work in one area -- the rule book. They let Mitchell pick up a punt they didn't bother to down in the end zone, and he returned it 58 yards for the Redskins' big play in the fourth quarter.
"The rules state the ball is not dead until the whistle blows or the ball is handed to the official," Mitchell said. "The special teams coaches taught me that since I got here."
The Cowboys are so good they don't have to bother knowing the rules.
NFL WEEK 5
Dallas 34, Washington 7
Cleveland 27, N.Y. Jets 7
Tampa Bay 24, Detroit 14
New England 17, Green Bay 16
Indianapolis 17, Seattle 15
Atlanta 8, L.A. Rams 5
Chicago 20, Buffalo 13
Arizona 17, Minnesota 7
New Orleans 27, N.Y. Giants 22
Philadelphia 40, San Fran. 8
Miami 23, Cincinnati 7
Coverage: Pages 5-7C