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Back from oblivion

Turner, Coughlin defy critics with postseason runs

Posted: Tuesday January 15, 2008 2:43PM; Updated: Tuesday January 15, 2008 2:43PM
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Norv Turner's Chargers started out 1-3, but ended the regular season at 11-5 and have won their first two playoff games.
Norv Turner's Chargers started out 1-3, but ended the regular season at 11-5 and have won their first two playoff games.

One of them had his name virtually turned into a punch line in recent years, and it was often said of him that as a head coach he made a heck of an offensive coordinator. The other one spent a good bit of the past two seasons playing the role of a piņata, taking blows from all directions while folks stood around and debated when he'd crack.

But look at Norv Turner and Tom Coughlin now. They've coached their resurgent and resilient teams all the way to the NFL's final four, and while they'll be leading heavy underdogs in their respective conferences on Sunday, it's not as if they don't know what it's like to be counted out.

In San Diego, Turner replaced Marty Schottenheimer last offseason and assumed control of a talent-laden team that went 14-3 last year. Everyone said there was nowhere to go but down for the Chargers, and four weeks into the regular season, San Diego had already matched its 2006 loss total. The predictable howls of protest and finger-pointing in Turner's direction ensued, with every coaching stereotype he's ever heard -- he's overmatched, not tough enough, a loser -- being quickly trotted out.

But for all those who loudly grieved the demise of MartyBall in San Diego, mocking Turner as a failure-in-waiting, consider this: Turner has taken San Diego to its first AFC title game since 1994. Schottenheimer last advanced one of his teams to a conference title game in 1993 (Kansas City), which is also the year he last won a playoff game. He was 0-2 in the postseason with the Chargers, so Turner already has managed something that Schottenheimer never did.

San Diego has won eight games in a row and is 12-2 since that 1-3 start. The Chargers just knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions on the road in a game in which their three most important offensive weapons were either hobbled by injury or knocked out of the game. That could sound a little flukey until you realize it's the second time this season the Chargers have beaten the Colts. They upset them in San Diego in November when Indy was injured, and they did it again on Sunday in Indianapolis when they were the ones who had to resort to backups. Different story, same result.

And then there are Coughlin's New York Giants. At 0-2 in mid-September, they looked not only defensively dysfunctional, but also the noxious fumes that overtook their 2006 season internally were again forming in the locker room. The fans and media immediately resumed a death watch for Coughlin's job that had really never ended since December 2006. That one-year extension that New York awarded him in January 2007 -- after making him twist in the wind for a few days -- looked like it would wind up being money thrown out the window.

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