In With The Old

Which one of the following three events is least likely to happen? (a) meeting Santa Claus, (b) winning the British Open by six strokes, (c) becoming head coach of the best team in the NFL after failing in that position all your life?

You can't blame Norv Turner for taking the Chargers job...how many times is a hack coach with a .415 winning percentage invited to captain the best team in the NFL? The answer is one, one time, Norv Turner's time. He's been handed a can't-fail mission. Next year, no matter what he does, the Chargers will win more games than they lose.

Turner was Washington's head coach for six full seasons and 13 games into a seventh, finishing 49-59-1. He made the playoffs once -- in 1999 -- and lost in the second round to Tampa Bay. He was fired in 2000.

His next head-coaching job was with the Raiders, four years later. You had to be an absolute unknown or an absolute washout to take a job as Al Davis's toady. Turner lasted two years, left with a record of 9-23. And that's it, and that's all, 58 wins, 82 losses, and 1 tie. Good enough to coach the best team in the NFL.

We can assume he wasn't hired in San Diego because of his record. His record sucks. Why then, was he hired? One front-office alibi is that by the time the Chargers got around to firing Marty Schottenheimer, every competent coach already had a job. Don't believe it. NFL assistant coaches will torture their mothers if that's what it takes to become a head coach. Being handed this team, a Super Bowl--caliber team, well, there is no dam strong enough to keep back the horde of assistant coaches who will assemble at its base and begin clawing at the cement.

There was a saying back in the 1980s, when computers started flooding into American corporations and IT managers came into being and began ordering thousands of computers at a time; the saying went, "Nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM computer." Didn't matter if the computer was overpriced. Didn't matter if it underperformed any number of clone computers; it was an IBM and that made you safe from criticism.

That's Norv. That's why he was hired. Spanos and A.J. Smith did not hire him because he's a great head coach or even because he's a good head coach, which is infuriating; they hired him because he's a safe choice and won't backtalk to the general manager.

This is as good a place as any to say I liked Marty best in his leaving. I think that being offered a one-year contract extension after a 14-2 season insulted him. I think he delivered a beautifully crafted "fuck you" to management when he turned it down. That let every sub-coach in Chargerland know that this was Marty's last year, causing most of them to act like any reasonable person would act when their job depends on their boss keeping his job; it caused all hands to jump ship. A jump made less dangerous since it was done with Marty's blessing.

As considerable bonus, Marty guaranteed himself $3 million plus by getting himself fired. More, he got himself fired at the right time; leaving a 14-2 team is not a career killer. All in all, not a bad way to go, particularly if you hate your boss. Which is different than knowing your boss. Marty also knew his bosses and played them. Spanos and Smith never saw it coming.

I was calling for Marty's firing from the first day he was hired because he will always play not to lose when big chips are on the table. Hiring Norv means, among other things, that Chargers management hasn't learned anything. Once again, they've hired a certified second-rater and soon enough we will wonder whatever happened to that great team we saw back in 2006.

Jerry Rice, the Jerry Rice, told reporters that Turner had no control over the Raiders when he was head coach. Rice was there. Rice has no reason to cause trouble, has never gossiped about players or coaches in the past, has an impeccable reputation.

Turner has a reputation as a terrific offensive coordinator. That's where he belongs. This move up isn't going to end well.

Wade Phillips left his job as San Diego's defensive coordinator to take the head coaching position in Dallas. Phillips has been the head coach for New Orleans, Denver, Buffalo, and Atlanta. His record is 48 wins, 39 losses. Dallas is a 9-7 team with a crazy wide receiver and a rookie quarterback whose last play in the 2006 season cost his team the postseason. Norv Turner inherits a 14-2 team littered with MVPs. Here's the bet: whose team will have a better record when the 2007 season ends?

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