ALAMEDA — At one point this season, the Oakland Raiders were being referred to as the best 0-3 team in the NFL. Thirteen games and nine losses later, nobody was shouting this was the best 4-12 team in football.

That, ultimately, led to Tuesday's unavoidable end game as the Raiders fired coach Norv Turner, the point man. His team had been an underachieving debacle. A price had to be paid.

After two seasons and a 9-23 record, Turner went to his checkbook and paid it.

"We weren't scoring points," owner Al Davis said. "The facts are the facts. The rsum is out there. You can all read it. We didn't score enough points with the firepower we have."

When Turner was hired on Jan.26, 2004, it was based on his expertise as the designer of successful offenses. Jimmy Johnson, Turner's former boss, said Turner was the best he had ever seen at calling plays.

It did not translate in Oakland.

"He came in with a trademark of power running, vertical football," Davis said "And for whatever reason, it wasn't there. I didn't feel the fit was right, and I think he (Turner) agreed with me."

Turner was far from surprised. Asked if he wondered ifthis could be his last drive to the team's Alameda facility Tuesday, he found it possible to crack a rare joke.

"I think I had a pretty good feel for where this was going," he said. "I really kind of thought Sunday might have been my last day, so I think you can't have that feeling two days in a row."

Both Davis and Turner called the parting amicable. Davis praised Turner as a "fine person. This is a tough part of professional football. I don't particularly like it. But the football was not acceptable."

Davis said he "would not denigrate" the job Turner had done. "It is a very tough moment for people. In a sense, our heart goes out to him, but we also know the Raiders do have a commitment to excellence. We want to win. We didn't win."

No decision has been made regarding Turner's assistants, including defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

Davis gave no indication of where the Raiders might be headed in terms of hiring their 15th coach. He said he would base his choice, ultimately, on his "gut instinct."

Asked about recently dismissed St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, an offensive specialist, Davis indicated he was intrigued about his availability as a coordinator, but was concerned about Martz's health.

As for Jets coach Herman Edwards, the only other potential hire Davis responded to, the owner said he could not comment without risking a tampering fine. According to speculation, the Kansas City Chiefs are trying to pry Edwards loose from New York and are willing to give up draft picks to lure him as Dick Vermeil's replacement.

Davis said he expected preliminary interviews might take place with senior assistant Mike Lombardi within a week, adding, "if certain criteria is met, then I will meet with them." None of the current staff is expected to be invited to interview.

"I would consider anyone we think is right," Davis said. "The Raider fans deserve it, the Raider players deserve it. My passion, my drive, is to see that we have that commitment, and that we get it done. That's where we will go."

Turner, 53, was the eighth NFL coach to either be fired or retire this year. He said he wanted to continue to coach in some capacity, but that "I'm certainly not going to rush in."

Both Davis and Turner noted that the fateful flaw was that the team did not improve from 2004 to 2005.

"I thought the second half of the first year we did make improvement, and I thought we got some things established," Turner said. "The first half of the season this year, I believe we were a good football team. We certainly had a tough early schedule, particularly the first two road games playing against Super Bowl teams.

"Obviously, the wear and tear of playing that kind of schedule took its toll on this team, and we were not a good football team in the second half. Ultimately, we weren't heading in the direction he (Davis) wanted to be headed."

Davis said the relatively strong finish in 2004 was "acceptable" and led to efforts to make a run this year. A trade for Randy Moss and the signing of free agents LaMont Jordan and Derrick Burgess ensued.

"We went on the market with the idea we would bring in players that would not only give our fans passion and give the whole organization passion, but give the coaches what they wanted," Davis said. "Actually it was more than what they wanted. I thought that would make a big difference."

But after winning three of four games following that 0-3 start, the Raiders proceeded to go into free fall. They lost eight of their last nine games, including the final six in a row. The team's 4-12 season equaled its worst since Davis joined the team in 1963. The three-year record of 13-35 is the worst in club history.

Worse, the Raiders only scored 30 points in the month leading up to the finale, a game in which the offense showed some spark in a 30-21 loss to the New York Giants.

"You have to score in the NFL to win," Davis said. "Maybe the Chicago Bears have proven a little different, but we don't have a stadium where it's 20 degrees, 10 degrees on certain days, and the rain is coming down. We have a stadium that means (it is necessary) to score points, and we didn't do it."

Who would you like to see the Raiders hire as their new head coach? Include your first/last name and your city, and send choice and reasons why to

Turn2@angnewspapers.com.