Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year...New Coach...so long, Norv

Yesterday the San Diego Chargers made official what nearly all Chargers fans had known was coming for the past month or so.  They fired Norv Turner as the Head Coach, ending a six year run.

Norv needs some Advil.
So as Team President Dean Spanos and other executives begin the search for his replacement (And the replacement for GM AJ Smith, as well), a quick recap of the Norv Turner era.

He was not an inspired choice.

In fact, if you go back six years, to when the Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer...they interviewed the following candidates:  Ron Rivera, Rex Ryan, Mike Singletary, and Norv Turner.  I said at the time (and I meant it)  "anyone but Norv".  Most of the members of my favorite Chargers Message Board felt the same way.  In fact one guy started a thread titled, "I'll Punch myself in the Nuts if it's Norv".

So he wasn't exactly a celebrated hire.

Norv was a known quantity.  He was a great Offensive Coordinator, but a poor head coach.  He'd failed in that capacity twice before:  first with the Redskins, and then with the Raiders.  His record as a Head Coach was a woeful 58 wins and 82 losses.

A familiar site for Charger fans the past 6 years.
Norv was a punchline.  The poster boy for the "good coordinator, but can't handle the head job", was handed the keys to a 14-2 team.

Over the past six years there were many highs (Making the AFC Championship game in his first year, beating the Colts twice) and many, many lows (missing the playoffs the past 3 years, and a .500 record in that time).

He ended his run as a Head Coach winning 3 of his last 4 games, to finish his final season with a 7-9 record (his only losing season in SD).  This was not surprising, as Norv's teams in San Diego had a history of "finishing" strong.  In Norv's second season, the team was sitting at 4-8, and dead in the water...and promptly won the last four games....won the division at 8-8, and then won a home playoff game.

That kind of sums up the Norv Turner era.  He wasn't a bad coach.  Not terrible.  Only 1 losing season in 6 years (and that one being 7-9) is not the mark of a poor coach.  However, he wasn't a great coach either.  They lost games they shouldn't have, on multiple occasions...at which point you'd count them out, and then they'd go on a run.

I'm not a gambling man, but I would think placing wagers on the Chargers in the Norv Turner era would have been an exercise in insanity.

And it wasn't always that they lost games...but the way they lost them.

You had the 2010 season in which the Chargers had four blocked punts (and one that was "deflected"), and 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns, and a punt return for a touchdown.  These breakdowns were directly responsible for 3 losses, for a team that finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.  They could have been 12-4.

You had the 2011 season in which the Chargers, driving for the win late in the game in Kansas City, Phillip Rivers fumbled the snap on a "kneel down" play (the Chargers were just trying to run the clock down before the final snap), the Chiefs recovered, and went on to win in Overtime.  The Chargers finished that season 8-8 and missed the playoffs (9-7 would have won the division).

Norv Turner seemed somewhat like a tortured genius   Somewhat like the "absent minded professor", there were moments of brilliance, but often moments of befuddlement.  It seemed like he was almost too smart for his own good.  That he was so far in the future, setting up plays for the 4th quarter or something, that he forgot where he was...what he was doing.

Throughout 6 seasons of (mostly) ridicule, derision, and (mostly) failed expectations, Norv Turner was able to hold on to the locker room.  I've seen teams quit on coaches before (see last year's Chiefs team, or the Vikings quitting on Chilly in 2010).  In fact, it's fairly common once it's understood in the locker room that the coach won't be back.  It would have been easy for the Chargers to "mail it in" these past two weeks, after losing to the Panthers in week 15.  They didn't.

So an era has ended, and a new one will begin.  Who will they hire?

  • A previous NFL HC like Jon Gruden?
  • A college HC like Chip Kelly?
  • A NFL Coordinator like Mike Zimmer (Defense) or Pete Carmichael (Offense)?
Will Bengals DC Mike Zimmer get a shot in San Diego?
Regardless of who the Chargers hire, Norv Turner will land on his feet.  I expect him to be calling plays on an NFL sideline next season (there are 6 other staffs that will be looking for coaches), and Charger fans will no longer be calling for his head.

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