Norv Turner: Assessment Of the Chargers' Head Coach

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Norv Turner: Assessment Of the Chargers' Head Coach

Fired twice as a head coach?  Yes.

Vilified?  Yes.

Fiery?  No.

Motivational?  No.

All those questions and answers apply to Norv Turner. Norv has even answered a couple of those questions himself.

Coming into a hostile environment is never an easy task regardless of what profession it may be. I can imagine it's even harder when that job is so easily put into the public eye.

However, that's just what Norv Turner did on February 19, 2007 when Turner became the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He took over for highly popular Marty Schottenheimer after he was fired.

Turner brought in a 58-82-1 regular season head coaching record and only two playoff games to San Diego. However, as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, he helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls in '92 and '93.

His tenures with Washington and Oakland are a hard assessment. Oakland, never the same since their drubbing in Super Bowl 37 by Tampa Bay in San Diego. I don't think any coach could have turned that ship around.

He did have some success in Washington, leading them to the playoffs in the 1999 season. He could never seem to keep any winning momentum going while coaching the Redskins though.

Which leads us to the here and now in San Diego.

After two full seasons as the Chargers' head coach, Norv Turner has won the AFC West twice, reached the AFC Championship game once and reached the AFC Divisional round once. He's 3-2 in the post season as head coach for the Chargers.

His regular season record as San Diego's head coach is 19-13. Percentage wise, it's almost identical to his postseason record. 59.4% to 60% for those keeping track.

Turner was brought in to bring a NFL championship to San Diego. AJ Smith has said that he only cares about making the playoffs, regardless of how. Well, after the Chargers went 14-2 in Marty's last year as head coach, the Norv Turner version of the Chargers have gone 11-5 and 8-8, respectively, in the last two seasons.

There's a disturbing trend in all of this. Both teams that Turner coached prior to coming to San Diego, all regressed in regards to their win/loss records. He has continued that trend with the Chargers.

He was given the reigns to a highly talented team and has been successful in the postseason (to a degree) with those players. However, it is apparent that the Chargers players (as a team) are not self motivators. The Chargers players also seem to feed off of fiery individuals. Turner is neither a motivator or a fiery individual.

Therein lies the rub, in my opinion, regarding Norv Turner. He knows football. He knows how to manipulate an offense and he knows how to work with elite talent. However, it doesn't appear he can motivate the team and get them to get into a 'take no prisoners' mind set for games.

I think that is why the Chargers underperformed in 2008 and have come up short in the playoffs the last two seasons. You look at a coach like Bill Belichick and it is obvious that his players are ready and motivated to go out there and kick some tail.

Turner also tends to get into play calling ruts. Far too often calling the same play on the same down regardless of its previous failure rate. It did not seem until late in the 2008 season, that he was willing to change things up a bit. So, there does appear to be a willingness to change when things are not working.

For the 2007 season, I really give him credit for bringing the Chargers to the AFC Championship game and who knows what could have happened had LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers not have been hurt.

However successful you could call the 2007 season, there was a lot of frustration during the season as well, which I think can be fairly attributed to Norv Turner's coaching style. Players need time to adjust and it did seem to take longer than what was expected. Again, I think it's the motivational thing that Turner lacks that may have been the basis for San Diego's slow start in 2007.

Unfortunately, 2008 didn't start any better than the previous season for the Chargers and Norv Turner. Besides what happened in Denver with the officiating, the Chargers really did seem to lack the motivation to win games and they paid for it all season long.

Granted, due to injuries, he really didn't have LaDainian Tomlinson as much as he'd like for most of the season (and only for a few plays in the Playoffs) and was without Shawne Merriman for the rest of the season after he went on IR after the Chargers loss to the Panthers in week one.

Two big weapons that were no longer at his disposal, really hurt the Chargers of being able to gain any momentum during the regular season. You can't blame injuries on a head coach and I'm not going to either.

However, it's what you do as a head coach when those key players are not at 100 percent or gone for the season. You have to make adjustments and watching the games, it seems that the adjustments always came in the second half of games or not at all. A lot of times a little too late.

Giving Turner an assessment after his first two seasons in San Diego, I would have to give him a mixed review. I judge him poorly in motivational and player preparedness and some unimaginative play calling. However, I score him high for getting the Chargers to the postseason and having some moderate success.

To be fair to Norv, I think the 2009 (barring any key injuries or player departures) season should be when we all judge whether or not Norv should stay or go in San Diego. Three seasons is more than enough time to have a system in place with the talent of the Chargers.

San Diego has never had a championship of any kind and everyone (including Norv Turner) would like nothing more than to bring one to America's Finest City. I think he may be able to do that, despite my doubts, if he changes a couple of things about his coaching style.

Good luck in 2009 Norv.

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