Since the day the Chargers hired him, I’ve always been a Norv Turner supporter. After the Chargers canned Marty Schottenheimer, there were rumors the next Chargers coach would be Jimmy Johnson. So while everyone was flabbergasted when the Chargers ended up with Norv Turner I drank the Kool-Aid and argued that it was a good move to keep the offense intact since the Chargers’ previous offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, was a Norv Turner disciple.
(In retrospect I can sympathize with everyone who thought we were getting Jimmy Johnson. It’s like being caught up in bank robbery, expecting Batman to show up – in this analogy Jimmy Johnson, and getting his sidekick Robin—in this case Turner, who was Johnson’s offensive coordinator with his Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl teams.)
Under Norv Tuner, the Chargers have been notorious for their slow starts. For some reason or another the Chargers stumble through the first part of the season. Again, I rationalized this by maintaining that if you blame Tuner for his slow starts you have to give him credit for the way the Chargers inexplicably turned it on in December, played perfect football and always won the division. But now that the Chargers are a pubic hair away from missing the playoffs, I’m jumping off the Norv Turner bandwagon. I’m saying that if the Chargers don’t make the playoffs this season, the Chargers have to fire Norv Turner.I am finally ready to admit that Norv Turner is a horrible football coach. Since the loss to the Raiders this past Sunday, I’ve been pulling my hair out thinking how incredibly unprepared the Chargers have been this season. For instance:
– How can the Chargers not be ready for the run and let the Raiders run it 52 times for 251 yards? (Think about that for a second… FIFTY TWO RUSH ATTEMPTS! TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONE YARDS!)
– How can Richard Goodman not know that you have to be touched down in the NFL?
– How can the Chargers come out flat against a team with a rookie QB that won one game last year?
– How can your special teams allow two consecutive block punts?
– Or two consecutive kick returns?
– How can your equipment people not bring long cleats to a game in the mid-West where it always rains during the latter months of the summer?
In the end it always boils down to the coach. The teams that have the best coaches may not win all the time, but they also never make mistakes that cost them games: The Steelers (Mike Tomlin), Patriots (Bill Belichick), Saints (Sean Payton), Ravens (John Harbaugh) never beat themselves. Or to put it a better way: Good coaches don’t let their teams beat themselves.
For the Chargers these past few seasons, it seems like they can’t get out of their own way. They’re complacent. They think they’re better than they actually are. And they only show up to play in about half their games. The coach has to be held accountable for this. In the preseason, instead of pounding it in his player’s head that they overachieved last year, that they finished near the bottom of the league in rushing, that they couldn’t get off the field on defense, that they couldn’t consistently pressure the QB, that they won a lot of games in the final minutes, Turner gloated that this is the most talented team he’s ever coached. In hindsight this probably made his players overconfident and a little complacent. I can’t fathom Belichick, Tomlin, or Payton doing this. Football teams inevitably take on the personality of their head coach. The Chargers have been unprepared and unmotivated for too long and it may have finally caught up to them.
The Chargers should have missed the playoffs two years ago and would have had it not been for an epic collapse by the Broncos. If the Chargers somehow make the playoffs this year, it will be due to the fact that Matt Cassel’s appendix got microwaved earlier this week. After the news that Cassel could miss the up to four weeks with his appendectomy this week, my running joke has been that God must love the Chargers. Think about it: God (if there is a God, but that’s a totally different discussion) loves suffering. There’s suffering all over the place. People die of cancer. We have 18 year old kids dying in some dessert 10,000 miles away because of… what was it again? There’s homeless people, poverty in third world countries, natural disasters that take out cities at a time. They’re high school and college kids that shoot their classmates, priests that molest kids. My point is, there’s suffering all over the place and this supposedly omnipotent entity is just sitting there watching the show. God is probably a sadist and if he were one, wouldn’t you think that he’d love the Chargers? They’re the team that drags their fans to hell every season, brings their hopes up and then slaps them in the face. The reason why this happens EVERY… SINGLE… YEAR… is Norv Turner! God must love Norv Turner. But we, as Charger fans, don’t.
(Did I just make an argument that Norv Turner is an agent of God? I’m going to watch out for lighting tonight when I take my dog out to take a leak just in case He decides I’m the person he wants to see suffer next.)
Every Charger fan would love for the Chargers to get rid of Norv Turner after this year but the question is who would they get to replace him? The easy answer is Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden, but we know that’s not happening. It’s almost a shortcut thinking to suggest that there’s a remote possibility that one of these guys would become the Charger’s next coach. Those guys not only want to coach, but they want control of personnel decisions as well and AJ Smith isn’t going anywhere. Plus, anyone who was a Charger fan in the 90s knows that the Spanoses would never spend the kind of money it would take to land a coach like Cowher or Gruden. So while it’s cool that Gruden auditions for the head coaching job every time the Chargers are on Monday Night Football let’s think outside the box.
I want a coach who’s smart. I want a coach who’s hungry. I want a coach who can motivate his team to overachieve rather than accept the fact that his teams underachieve. Here are my top five choices:
Brian Schottenheimer: This would never happen because AJ Smith canned his dad but there is no doubt Schottenheimer is going to be a great head coach one of these days. The only problem with hiring him is you risk the potential that he carries the same “choke in the playoffs” gene that his dad has. Imagine the crapstorm the first time Brian Schottenheimer loses a playoff game. Herm Edwards’ head would explode while arguing about this with Mark Schlereth in the Coors Light Silver Spotlight segment in SportsCenter. It could affect Schottenheimer his entire career.
Russ Grimm: Grimm interviewed for the Charger head coaching job after Marty Schottenheimer was axed and also was a finalist for the Steeler job that went to Mike Tomlin. He coached under Cowher and coaches under Ken Whisenhunt (another fine coach that would have made the “good coaches” section a few paragraphs ago had he not entirely botched the QB situation in Arizona this season). The only concern I have with him is he’s an offensive line coach and he hasn’t proven that he can run a scheme in the NFL yet. Regardless, the fact that he coached under Cowher and Whisenhunt makes him a worthy candidate. Also it’s hard to imagine an offensive line coach that would put up with one of his lineman on special teams missing an assignment twice. (Yes, I’m talking about you Antwan “I Can’t Count to Four and Fall for the Bootleg” Applewhite.)
Eric Mangini: Say what you want about the way it ended for him with the Jets but this guy knows how to win football games. The Jets were coming off a 4-12 year when he took over and he took them to the playoffs with a 10-6 record. And this year the Browns are 5-7 but they’re overachieving by everyone’s expectations. I mean, the guy won five games – with wins against the Patriots and Saints – and has Colt McCoy and Jake Delhomme at QB. If Mike Holmgren and the Browns are dumb enough to get rid of him for someone like Gruden the Chargers should pounce. Norv Turner underachieves with Philip Rivers at QB. If you want to know how Turner would do with QBs like McCoy and Delhomme Google “Oakland Raiders 2004-2005” and “Norv Tuner Washington Redskins.”
Leslie Fraizer: This guy is Mike Tomlin 2.0 and it’s not just because they’re both African American. Both guys used to coach the Vikings secondary and by all accounts Fraizer, like Tomlin, is extremely smart and tough. In other words he’s the exact opposite of Norv Turner.
Jim Harbaugh: The ideal choice in my opinion. He clearly has the coaching aptitude (his dad was a coach and he’s John Harbaugh’s brother). The way he coached up USD at first and now Stanford shows that he can get his teams to over perform. He has obvious San Diego connections and his DUI history may convince AJ Smith to re-sign Vincent Jackson (just kidding).
In all seriousness, there will be a glut of great coaching candidates out there this offseason. If you figure teams like the Cowboys, Frisco, Denver the Browns and Minnesota are in the market for a big-time coach the Chargers could sneak in there grab a dark horse candidate and potentially snatch better coach. It’s like going from an ugly girl to a girl that’s a little prettier. It’s the smart move. It’s a move that someone like Norv Turner would never make.
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