Chargers hire Turner as head coach


Mar 27, 2006
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Chargers hire Turner as head coach wire reports

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 19, 2007) -- Norv Turner got his third shot at an NFL head coaching job when he was hired by the San Diego Chargers, a week after the surprise firing of Marty Schottenheimer.

The hiring came less than 24 hours after the Chargers wrapped up their interviews. The Chargers also hired Ted Cottrell as defensive coordinator.

Turner, the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator, was the only one of the six candidates who's been an NFL head coach, and the only one from the offensive side of the ball.

He inherits a team that was an NFL-best 14-2 last season but melted down in its playoff opener, a stunning 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots.

On Feb. 12, the Chargers again surprised the NFL when president Dean Spanos fired Schottenheimer, citing a "dysfunctional situation" between the coach and general manager A.J. Smith.

Turner had trouble winning in the regular season, going 58-82-1 in head coaching stints with Washington and Oakland. Schottenheimer had trouble winning in the postseason, going 5-13 overall and 0-2 with the Chargers.

Turner was San Diego's offensive coordinator in 2001, when LaDainian Tomlinson was a rookie and Smith was the assistant to the late John Butler.

The Chargers still use the same offense Turner installed.

"This isn't a team where you're rebuilding," Turner said. "We should start fast. We should be good early and we should be good late. Not having to go through the normal things you have to go through when you make a coaching change is going to help the players more than anyone."

Turner was fired by the Raiders in 2005 after going 9-23 in two seasons.

San Francisco's Mike Nolan quickly hired Turner to take over the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense. Turner got remarkable progress from quarterback Alex Smith and an improved offensive line. He helped Frank Gore become the NFC's leading rusher in a breakout season.

Turner will be able to help with the continued development of quarterback Philip Rivers, who was voted to the Pro Bowl but saw his play tail off down the stretch. Tomlinson was the league's MVP after setting NFL records with 31 touchdowns and 186 points.

Turner might be viewed by some as a safe pick, but Spanos said the Chargers were swayed by his experience as a head coach and the continuity he can bring.

"You can say whatever you want to say," Spanos said. "If we hadn't made a change and we lost, we made the wrong decision. If we do make the change and we lose, we made the wrong decision. So the net result of all this is, there's only one thing we have to do this year, and that's get back in the playoffs. Just get to the postseason and win the first game, is our goal. And then I think we're off to a good start."

Turner was one of the masterminds behind the Dallas offenses led by Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin and NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, winning two Super Bowl titles in three seasons as Dallas' offense coordinator.

He had been the apparent front-runner to replace Bill Parcells in Dallas earlier this month before that job went to Wade Phillips, who had been the Chargers' defensive coordinator.

Turner wasn't specific about the reasons he didn't end up in Dallas, but it's widely assumed Turner wanted more control than owner Jerry Jones was willing to give -- control Turner never had in Washington or Oakland.

It's up for debate whether he'll get it with the Chargers, since Schottenheimer lost his power struggle with Smith.

The loss of Phillips to the Cowboys apparently accelerated the departure of Schottenheimer. Spanos and Smith were stunned that the Chargers lost both coordinators -- Cam Cameron was hired as Miami's head coach -- and two assistant coaches became coordinators elsewhere.

In firing Schottenheimer, Spanos would say only that the breaking point was the "process" the Chargers were going through in filling the void left by the staff exodus.

Turner took over the Redskins in 1994, going 49-59-1 with one trip to the playoffs. He was fired by Dan Snyder with three games left in the 2000 season, when he could produce only a 7-6 record with a $100 million roster.

After Terry Robiskie coached the last three games in 2000, the Redskins hired Schottenheimer, who went 8-8 in 2001 before being fired by Snyder. Schottenheimer was hired by the Chargers, a job Turner interviewed for. Turner then became Miami's offensive coordinator.