Norv Turner's secret is out.
"We felt we would be good four weeks ago and expected to be 4-0 at this point in the season," said Turner. "We got blindsided and slapped in the face in the season opener. We're not where we want to be, but we're playing into the game better than ever since I've been here."
The Redskins (3-1) have won three in a row since losing the opener at home to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-14. It is the first time Washington has won three straight since the 1992 season, which was Joe Gibbs' last year as coach.
So just why did Turner believe a team that won only six games all last season would start 4-0 this year?
"Being in a lot of close games last year helped us improve for this year, and when we won three of our last four games I felt we were on the right path," said Turner.
Turner didn't say it, but another reason for his optimism had to be the soft early schedule.
The second eight games will be tougher than the first eight, with two games against Dallas and one each against San Francisco and Buffalo.
That rugged second half of the season is why Turner said last week, "The key for us is our development over the next two months."
It turns out that Turner wasn't alone in his high early expectations for Washington.
Offensive tackle Ed Simmons upstaged Turner a little last week when he said, "I thought we'd start out 5-0 because of the players we have on the team and the way they came in during the off-season to get ready to play."
Turner might have also been thinking 5-0 but would never say it until tonight's 8 o'clock battle with the 0-4 Jets is over.
No NFL coach is going to go on record predicting a win before the game is played, but Simmons can get away with it.
All of which doesn't endear Turner or Simmons to Philadelphia Eagles fans, who believe their team thoroughly dominated the Redskins in the opener and deserved to win by a larger margin.
Turner has been praising his defense for leading the way for three straight weeks, but he did admit, "We're struggling a little in the nickel defense."
Meanwhile, Jets coach Rich Kotite is sticking by quarterback Neil O'Donnell through all the tough times the 0-4 start has caused in New York.
"I believe in Neil O'Donnell," said Kotite. "No one man can do it by himself. He needs support and execution from the rest of the team. He has leadership qualities and a tough mentality.
"If you go back and check out the stats on Neil, you'll see how every year he got better in the last three years."
Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte believes there is only one way he and his teammates can avoid a loss: "We have to go in fired up, with our eyes wide open, our brains working and play ball."
Pub Date: 9/29/96