Despite San Diego Chargers' Success, Norv Turner Still NFL's Rodney Dangerfield

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Despite San Diego Chargers' Success, Norv Turner Still NFL's Rodney Dangerfield
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All things being equal, a coach with a .667 winning percentage, three consecutive division titles, and three playoff victories in two years shouldn't have to worry about fans constantly calling for his head on a platter, particularly in a legendarily laid-back sports town like San Diego.

That is, unless the coach's name happens to be Norval Eugene Turner.

Sure, an 11-game winning streak and a No. 2 playoff seed will inevitably blunt the criticisms of Internet bloggers, sports-talk radio callers, and the like, but the fact remains that the gulf between Turner's track record on the field and his perception in the community is perhaps the widest of any coach in recent NFL history.

Even now, with the Chargers having just completed the second-most successful regular season in their history and segments of the national media anointing his team the AFC's likely Super Bowl representative, there remains a widespread and persistent belief in San Diego County that the Chargers' success is more in spite of Turner than because of him.

Maybe it's the dullness of his demeanor on the sideline and in the press room. Maybe it's the perception that he doesn't motivate his players as well as his predecessor, Marty Schottenheimer. Maybe it's the continuing belief (harbored by many, perhaps irrationally) that he didn't "deserve" to be handed the reins of a 14-2 team in light of his unimpressive won-lost record in Washington and Oakland.

Whatever the case, the disparity between perception and reality is a very large one where Norv Turner is concerned. As much as the folks over at fire-norv.com might not want to hear about it, as it stands today Turner is the most successful coach in Chargers history, by any statistical measure one chooses to employ.

In the regular season, Turner's teams have won twice as many games as they've lost (32-16), his .667 winning percentage a comfortable 47 points better than the nearest runner-up, the legendary and much-revered Sid Gillman. Additionally, Turner's three consecutive AFC West titles are matched only by Don Coryell's 1979-1981 teams.

In the postseason, Turner's three victories tie him with Coryell and Bobby Ross for the franchise lead, and his .661 playoff winning percentage easily outpaces any other Chargers coach. Indeed, shocking as it may be to some, Turner's .571 career playoff winning percentage is 15th all-time among coaches with an equal or greater number of playoff appearances than Turner's seven.

To put things in perspective, these are the names above his on that particular list: Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, Tom Flores, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, Jimmy Johnson, George Seifert, Chuck Noll, George Halas, Hank Stram, Brian Billick, Mike Shanahan, Andy Reid, and Bill Parcells. Pretty exclusive company no matter how you slice it.

Much has been made of the Chargers' slow starts since Turner's arrival in 2007. Much has also been made of his undefeated Decembers. What many people fail to realize is the direct correlation between the two. In other words, Charger Fan, Norv Turner is smarter than you. And he might actually know what he's doing.

There are many cliches in pro football, most of them useless and incorrect. Of the ones that aren't, "Your team has to peak at the right time" might be the most valid and the most important. Norv Turner has a better grasp of this concept than probably any coach in the NFL, and his late-season record confirms it.

The fact is, if you run a grueling camp and sell out to win games in September and October, your team is likely to wind up tired and hurt when the games really matter in December and January. Ask Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos about that.

Those guys looked like world beaters when they were 6-0 at the end of October, and what did it get them? An 8-8 record and no playoff berth, because they peaked at the wrong time. The Saints and Vikings are experiencing similar issues as we speak, and for the same reason.

I understand there are some people who recalcitrantly dissaprove of Norv Turner and will not have their opinion swayed by anyone or anything. This is their prerogative.

But these people may want to think twice and consider the bigger picture before the next time they call for Turner's firing over a 2-2 or 1-3 start. Perhaps the sight of Norv hoisting the Lombardi Trophy a few weeks from now will instill the necessary pragmatism into that crowd. One can only hope.

 

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