Hot on the heels of hiring former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach—a move I roundly supported upon the announcement being made official—Cleveland Browns have made another addition, bringing on former San Diego Chargers head coach and 27-year NFL veteran Norv Turner to be their offensive coordinator.
Just as the hiring of Chudzinski is a reunion for him and the Browns, for which he worked as tight ends coach and offensive coordinator in the 2000s, the on-boarding of Turner is yet another reunion.
Chudzinski was Turner's tight ends and assistant head coach in 2005 and 2006 and in 2009 and 2010, making it clear that the two can certainly work well together in their new locale.
Immediately upon Chudzinski's hire, the rumors flew that Turner would be joining his staff, so the move on Thursday came as little surprise. Much like the Chudzinski addition, Turner's presence on the Browns staff is eliciting mixed reactions—with the Browns, it's understandable and warranted that there is skepticism—but, truly, it was the smartest move they could make.
At the very least, it's a marked upgrade from Brad Childress, the team's offensive coordinator in 2012.
Like Chudzinski, Turner's resume is long and impressive. He's been head coach for the Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins and an offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, the Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys. Though criticized for not being fiery enough as a head coach, there's been little criticism of his offensive capabilities.
Turner's experience includes time with strong passing offenses, as well as the notable achievement of building offenses that produce the NFL's best running backs.
Five times he's presided over an offense that has produced the league's leading rusher for that season—Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys in 1991 through 1993, Ricky Williams with the Miami Dolphins in 2002 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007 with the Chargers—boding well for the continued development of both Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty in Cleveland.
Though Turner's time as a head coach was fraught with disappointment—such as his recent presiding over the slow decline of the once-great Chargers—there was only so much that was in his control.
Besides, his greatest career work had been done as a coordinator, not a head coach (the offenses he built in Dallas won them two Super Bowls, for example) and now he's back in the position that made his name.
Despite the familiarity with Cleveland, the hiring of Chudzinski was still an aggressive move. And the hiring of Turner is similarly as aggressive, even if the familiarity between he and Turner is also one of its defining traits.
The moves are geared towards getting the most out of the Browns young, potential-filled offense, and the two men they chose are particularly skilled at doing just that.
In all but his first and his final years with the Chargers, Turner's offense ranked in the top 10 in yards per game, and they were a top-10 team in points per game in all but 2012. He's presided over offenses both run- and pass-heavy during his career, and a great number of his offensive players have gone on to Pro Bowls and record-breaking seasons.
He can not only spot talent but also draw it out of his players.
Just as with the hiring of Chudzinski, there were hotter names out there for the Browns to pursue. However, it's not just the name attached to the coach but the resume he carries with him, the tangible improvements he's made for teams everywhere he's gone.
Turner is one of the brightest offensive minds of his era, his head-coaching missteps aside.
Further, it's likely that Turner is just as enthusiastic about being with the Browns as Chudzinski revealed himself to be in his introductory press conference last week.
Think about it: Turner just came off a stint (yet again) as head coach, in a year that saw at least six vacancies open to him, not to speak of the changes that have come already or those yet to come at offensive coordinator around the league.
However, once Chudzinski got the hire, it was immediately viewed to be an inevitability that Turner would land in Cleveland. Despite the recent history of sub-.500 records, there's an incredible amount of potential on the Browns' roster, especially on offense, so it's likely that Turner was coveting this job as soon as his release from San Diego was finalized.
It's easy, therefore, to assume that this isn't just another paycheck opportunity for Turner—it's more likely the place he wanted to be.
Turner isn't a has-been—he's a still-is. He builds offenses and makes them far better than they were when he found them.
There's no better hire the Browns could have made at offensive coordinator than Turner, and the hire is yet another feather in the caps of owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.
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