National Football League
By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
Norv finally running out of time in San Diego
Give Norv Turner credit, his true gift isn't offense, it's convincing people that it is.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - San Diego sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Norv Turner might want to take a couple of moments over the next few weeks to stop by Mission Beach or Sunset Cliffs because that same sun is finally setting on his time in "America's Finest City."

The joke in NFL circles is that Turner is part-feline because the embattled coach has nine lives. And to be honest he might be some kind of supernatural being since Norv probably passed nine back in Oakland in 2005.

Turner, of course, made his bones in the NFL as the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator back in the early 1990s and he should still be sending royalty checks to Jimmy Johnson for cultivating his undeserved reputation as an offensive genius.

After all, how big of an accomplishment was it to succeed with that bunch?

The so-called architect of Johnson's offense had Hall of Fame skill position players like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin at his disposal in Big D, along with one of the greatest offensive lines in the history of the game.

You could take the running backs coach off the 120th ranked University of Hawaii offense, give him that group, and he would look like the second-coming of Sid Gillman.

But give Turner credit, his true gift isn't offense, it's convincing people that it is.

He left Dallas to coach the Redskins in 1994 and is still living off the success "he built" in North Texas 18 years later.

Somehow Turner lasted seven seasons in D.C, despite compiling a less than stellar 49-59-1 mark and reaching the playoffs just once.

Average stints as an offensive coordinator in San Diego and Miami got him another shot as a head coach in Oakland, where he was even worse than he was in Washington. Turner spent two years with the Raiders and won just one AFC West game and nine total.

Another less than fruitful stint as an offensive coordinator across the bay in San Francisco was all that stood between Turner and the Chargers head coaching position.

To be fair Turner's time in Southern California has been much more successful than his other stops. He has won three AFC West titles and compiled a 52-34 record in parts of six seasons. But, understand Turner took over perhaps the most talented team in football.

The 2006 Chargers finished an NFL-best 14-2 under Marty Schottenheimer but the patented Schottenheimer close-to-the-vest playoff coaching style resulted in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round, costing Marty his gig.

Norv took over LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Co. and promptly turned them into an 11-5 club, although they did make the AFC Championship Game in '07 before losing to the Pats again.

It's been a steady decline since, with the exception of '09 when San Diego finished 13-3 but lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

General manager A.J. Smith finally reached the end of his rope after watching Norv's team blow a 24-0 halftime lead at home to Denver on national television, allowing Peyton Manning to lead the Broncos to 35 unanswered points.

"It was an embarrassing and humiliating performance by a team going in the wrong direction fast," a disgusted Smith told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We played a team that's coming together fast and building confidence. Peyton Manning had one of the greatest second-half performances I've ever seen in my time in the league "

Perhaps angry at himself for unleashing Turner on Ron Burgundy's town, Smith put the coach on notice.

"Obviously we cannot play as a team," Turner's boss said. "We appear to not be able to handle adversity or finish games. Individual and team confidence appears to be going south."

Talk about an indictment.

The Chargers enter their bye week with a 3-3 record, tied for first in the AFC West, one of the worst divisions in football. Although far from its '06 peak under Schottenheimer, San Diego remains the most talented team in the division. That said, it's hard to imagine Manning, even a weak-armed, post- surgery Peyton Manning, not finding a way to cobble together enough wins to get the best of Turner.

And if that happens, Norv will be on the lookout for his next mark.

Smith just better hope it's not Alex Spanos.

"I take full responsibility for the present mess this team is in at this point in time," Smith said. "The construction and direction of this organization is on my watch. In the next 10 games we will either rally and see a slow, steady rise from the ashes to a division championship or the beginning of a new era in Chargers' football."