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Why Norv Turner's Shaky Reputation Is Likely To Turn Around This Season

Alex MagrinoContributor IAugust 13, 2009

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 21: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers talks with coach Norv Turner against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

On Feb. 17, 2007, Norval Eugene Turner was hired to be the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. His tenure with the organization has been shaky, to say the least, but it has had some bright spots including the drafting of Antoine Cason, Jacob Hester, and Eric Weddle.

Turner's offensive mind has helped the Chargers put one of the best offensive units on the field the last two seasons. He has sent seven offensive players to the Pro Bowl, and an argument could be made for Philip Rivers last season. Turner's knowledge and wisdom about the quarterback position has helped guide Rivers to set team records for passing TDs (34) and QB rating (105.5). Turner has made the Chargers an offensive juggernaut over the last two seasons. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers have gotten progressively worse. In 2007 the defense gave up 320.2 YPG and 350 YPG in 2008. Some of the increase can be credited to missing Shawne Merriman in 2008. But there is no reason to go from 300 YPG to 350 YPG in a two-year span.

How and where Turner's wins come from has been pretty consistent.

His overall record (including playoffs) is 21-15 (18-13 regular season). His first year, he led the team to a 11-5 record and an AFC championship appearance. That's good, but the team was 14-2 the previous season. In 2008, the team got off to a bumpy start and managed to finish 8-8 and win the division. The team has lost three more games each season.

Turner went 9-0 in December and 10-2 (5-1 each season) against AFC west opponents (including the controversial Broncos game). The team went 1-3 vs. playoff teams in '07 and 1-5 vs playoff teams in '08. Both years the team has gotten off to a rocky start (1-3 and 2-2), yet always finished strong. 

I have taken all this data and formulated it into my "Norv Turner Season Preview Formula." This formula predicts that the team will go 10-6. It breaks down as shown:

  • W @ OAK
  • L vs BAL
  • L vs MIA
  • L @ PIT
  • BYE
  • L vs DEN (Fans begin to call for Norv's Head)
  • W @ KC
  • W vs OAK
  • L @ NYG
  • L vs PHI
  • W @ DEN
  • W vs KC
  • W @ CLE
  • W @ DAL
  • W vs CIN
  • W @ TEN (Fans begin to proclaim Norv a saint)
  • W vs WASH

As you can see, the team starts off slow, but ends up going 7-0 the last seven weeks to finish the season 10-6 winning the division and probably making some noise in the playoffs.

On defense, the return of Shawne Merriman should help the Chargers generate a better pass rush. Also the release of Matt Wilhelm and signing of Tim Dobbins will create more presence in the middle that should in turn help the Chargers stuff the run. The newly revived pass rush will help the secondary because the QBs decisions will be rushed letting the healthy Antonio Cromartie use his ball-hawking skills to force about 6-8 picks.

After his performance last season, the offense will be able to rely more on Philip Rivers and less on LT and the running game. Defenses should receive a healthy dose of Sproles in releif of Tomlinson as they will most likely be splitting carries about 40-60. Sproles will likely see about 8-12 carries and 2-5 passes each game and with those 10-15 touches he should wreak havoc on opposing defenses.

The injury-less Antonio Gates should return to his former self giving Rivers a deep threat (Vincent Jackson), a possesion receiver (Chris Chambers), a red zone threat (Gates),and three backs to bail him out when he gets in trouble (Sproles, Tomlinson, Jacob Hester). 

The special teams will be good as usual thanks to punter Mike Scifres career 44.1 yard average. Nate Kaeding has a career 86.1 percent field goal percentage. Darren Sproles is an electrifying kick returner and his 26.0 yard average was eighth best in the league among full-time kick returners. As a punt returner he wasn't bad either, averaging 11.3 yards per return. 

The Chargers future looks bright and won't be hindered by Turner. The upcoming season should be successful even if the win-loss record follows the suit of the past two seasons. the chargers should finish 10-6 and could do as good as 12-4 (win vs DEN/MIA/BAL), but no worse than 8-8 (loss vs DAL/WASH/TEN).

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