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Call for continuity

Turner right choice for Chargers after Marty debacle

Posted: Tuesday February 20, 2007 3:28PM; Updated: Tuesday February 20, 2007 3:55PM
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Chargers president Dean Spanos, left, shakes hands with new coach Norv Turner.
Chargers president Dean Spanos, left, shakes hands with new coach Norv Turner.
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Normally, I am not in favor of hiring a coach with a career record of 24 games below .500, a coach who, as T.J. Simers so cuttingly put it this morning in the Los Angeles Times, is a less inspiring hire than a wax likeness of Tom Landry.

Or, as e-mailer Abel of San Diego writes this morning: "Norv Turner. Really? I was against the firing of Marty Schottenheimer from the start, not only 'cause he didn't lose that playoff game, but also because they chose the worst possible time to do it. Then, they respond by putting Turner in his place? Am I the only one that thinks this is 10 steps in the wrong direction?''

Abel, we concur that firing Schottenheimer when they did was stupid, and president Dean Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith should have found a way to be adults about this and make this ship sail straight for one more season. But in the current environment of the San Diego Chargers, where the general manager is the most powerful man in the football organization -- by far -- a guy who gets along with people like Turner is ideal.

Particularly when he's the guy who installed the offense that Cam Cameron got so many plaudits for running so well in San Diego last year. Turner was Cameron's mentor going back to their days with the Redskins a decade ago, and he taught him to run an offense that became very chameleonesque over the last three years. Once Drew Brees and Philip Rivers proved their worth, the Chargers had the kind of offense that could drill you through the air one week, mash you on the ground the next. And Turner's the guy who installed that in San Diego.

Moreover, one of Turner's strengths is that he could put his arm around Tony Soprano before a whacking and convince him that, Hey, can't all of us crime families just get along? He'll work with Smith the same way he would have worked well with Jerry Jones in Dallas had Turner gotten the head coaching job there. He'll work well with his San Diego higher-ups because that's part of the job description, and Turner leads the league in coloring the color book between the lines.

The Ted Cottrell hiring at defensive coordinator, obviously, is Smith's doing. Cottrell's a better fit than Ron Rivera at coordinator because he's a veteran 3-4 guy, and the Chargers won't change that defense. Nor should they. There is no better pure nose (and with some Warren Sapp-like rush ability) among 345-pounders on defense right now than Jamal Williams, so why try to make this a 4-3 scheme?

We'll see if this works well in the end. The Chargers have too much talent to go down the road they were heading after the Schottenheimer firing -- which is to say, a potholed one. Turner gives them the best chance to win next year while maintaining the things they do well on offense and defense. This is not about making an inspired choice. It's about making a correct one. And given the constraints left by an impetuous decision last week, the Chargers got it as right as they could.

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