If you had to pick the weakest link on the San Diego Chargers, what or who would it be?
Would you choose the special teams unit or possibly the rushing defense? Perhaps the lack of a solid running game or the porous offensive line would be your pick? Then again, maybe it’s something more intangible, like an affinity for injuries to key players at key moments, or the ability to cough the ball up at the worst possible time?
Truthfully, it’s none of the above.
The weakest link on the Chargers is, without a doubt, the head coach, Norv Turner. Personally, I have very little faith that a Turner-led football team can ever win or even get to a Super Bowl.
There are a myriad reasons why this man should not be coaching the Chargers, let alone finding employment in the NFL, but I only need five to prove my point. Realistically, any one of these should be enough to have him run out of town.
So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons why Norv Turner is the weakest Charger.
I hope nobody's watching!
Norv Turner was once successful as the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson. After the ‘Boys won back-to-back Super Bowls, much of the credit was attributed to Turner, including the development of one particular young quarterback by the name of Troy Aikman. To this day, Aikman is a staunch Turner supporter.
Armed with this pedigree, Turner was offered the Washington Redskins head coaching job in 1994 where he remained for six years. In that time, he amassed an unimpressive 49-59-1 record with one divisional championship in 1999. In that year, Turner won his first ever playoff game, then promptly lost his first ever playoff game
After a few years with the Chargers and Miami Dolphins as an offensive coordinator, Turner got his second chance as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. That was short lived as Norv went 9-23 over two seasons.
With an overall record of 58-82-1, the Chargers made Norv their head coach in 2007.
While it’s true that Turner has a winning record with the Chargers (41-23), it must also be noted that he inherited a team that had the best record in the NFL the prior year (14-2) and the league's MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson. If you consider the number of wins that the Chargers have had in each of Turner’s four seasons as head coach, you can make the case that he has a losing record with the Bolts as well.
In his first year, the team went 11-5, three games worse than the prior season. The next year they were three games worse again at 8-8. That’s minus-six so far in two years.
Then, in his third year, the Chargers rebounded with 13 wins, five better than the previous season and a minus-one overall. Finally, last year was a down season again as the Chargers went 9-7, or four games worse for a minus-five overall.
Some might credit Turner with San Diego’s successful record under Norv, but the way I see it, he inherited an elite team and drove them to mediocrity. My mother, your mother or Mr. Ed could have done as well.
Even with the great record he has posted with the Chargers, Turner still has an overall losing record that currently stands at 99-105-1.
San Diego’s history of slow starts under Turner is well known. He’s kept the Chargers under-prepared to start the season every chance he's had. Records of 1-3, 0-2, 2-3 and 2-5 during his tenure haven’t inspired anyone.
With the Raiders, his opening record was 2-6 and 1-4.
With the Redskins, Norv was 1-6, 1-3, 7-1 (followed by a 2-6 finish), 4-3, 0-7, 4-2 and 1-2.
In 13 years of coaching, Turner’s teams have managed to start strong a whopping three times. His combined record in these early games is an abysmal 28-53. That means the most likely record of a Norv Turner team after six games is 2-4.
It’s a pattern that speaks volumes to Tuner’s ability out-of-the-gate and should be enough in and of itself to keep him from ever being hired by any team using wins as a measuring stick for success.
Perhaps Turner's biggest flaw is his ineptitude in the playoffs.
In his first year with his inherited 14-2 team that also featured the league’s reigning MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner led the Chargers to victories over the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts before falling to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
The following year, Turner’s team beat the Colts again in the playoffs but then lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In his third year, the Chargers lost at home to the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs. Ironically, Turner was given a three-year extension after posting a 13-3 record and being ousted in the first round when his predecessor, Marty Schottenheimer, had been given the axe after posting a 14-2 record and losing at home in the first round.
Then of course, there was last season where the Chargers failed to even make the playoffs.
If it isn’t already clear, that’s two playoff wins, followed by one playoff win, followed by no playoff wins, followed by no playoffs at all. It doesn’t take a genius to see the pattern of playoff futility that surrounds Norv Turner’s Chargers. The fact that he was offered a contract extension is mind-boggling.
Huh, it worked last time.
Turner’s play-calling is like clockwork. That’s not to say it’s akin to a finely tuned performance instrument. Rather, it’s to say that his play-calling is repetitive and predictable.
Let’s play a little game and check your play-calling acumen against Norv’s playbook, shall we?
Question one: If the Chargers have a lead, what will be the first play from scrimmage on first down?
That’s right, Mike Tolbert up the middle.
Question two: What will Norv call now that it’s 2nd-and-9 with the Chargers in the lead in the second half?
If you said Ryan Mathews off tackle, you’d be right again.
Question three: Now it's third and long, what will be the play from the sidelines?
Give yourself another point if you said Philip Rivers would drop back to pass.
I know these answers, you know these answers, every defense in the league knows these answers. Yet Turner will stick with his tried and true tendencies ad nauseum until they eventually work—which they never will.
It was Albert Einstein who said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” If Einstein says Turner is insane, who am I to disagree.
On those rare occasions where Turner comes up with an unusual play that works, he will call it over and over again when the identical situation arises and then be seen wandering up and down the sideline, scratching his head and wondering why it didn’t work this time.
Stop shouting at me Mr. Hand, I know what I'm doing!
Norv Turner must be the worst game coach I have ever seen.
In his defense, he is a decent practice coach and given enough time, he can come up with a playbook.
His problem lies in the fact that if anything deviates from his original plan, he cannot adjust to it. It simply takes him too long to figure out what he’s watching on the field and come up with a new strategy.
In reality, Turner can be out-coached by a third grader. I would prefer to see Norv remove himself from tactical discussions when a game is on the line.
In truth, Philip Rivers or the water boy or fans sending smoke signals to the sidelines from El Cajon ought to be calling plays down the stretch, not Turner. All of these people have a better read on what’s happening in the game than Turner. He is just not a swift or gifted man and would be much better off as a public relations representative or a popcorn salesman than an NFL head coach.