words by tosten burks


Why it is time to start respecting Norv Turner

He could have a better first name I suppose.

And maybe he is a little short. Also, the cowlick is somewhat disappointing.

But other than that, I really don’t understand Chargers fans. This is a city banded against its leader, a fan base united in opposition to its most important man. San Diego is anti-Norv Turner.

And the time has come for it to stop.

As the NFL Draft approaches on the horizon, the 2010 season talk is rolling into harbor. With it, as is the case every year, has arrived head-coach-complaining.

Turner was hired into disapproval. When the Chargers signed him to take over for Marty Schottenheimer in 2007, there was uproar. After losing their first playoff game following a 14-2 regular season, this coming just two seasons removed from San Diego’s 2004 first round loss, Team President Dean Spanos decided that Schottenheimer was a choker and that Norv Turner would finally lead a team full of talent to the Super Bowl.

Fans did not agree.

In the first games of the season, Qualcomm’s stands were chanting “Marty.”

Firenorv.net was established after just three weeks of the Turner administration.

It took barely any time at all for the hire to become a disaster. “This move has got to be right up there with the drafting of Ryan Leaf! Buckle up Chargers fans…we are in for a stormy ride filled with thunder and lightning. I just hope we are not on the receiving end of those charges! Ouch!” a commenter on espn.com said.

It was a big, bad deal man! The move was right up there with the making of Bruno! Hey!

Three years later, I don’t think anyone feels electrocuted.

At least not at the hands of Turner. Nate Kaeding has blown some sockets — and playoff field goals — LaDainian Tomlinson has faded late on occasion, Shawne Merriman has stumbled to off-field problems.

But all that the short, 57 year old man with the cowlick has done is amass a three year record of 35-18 and win the AFC West every single season.

Turner has molded Philip Rivers into an all-pro quarterback. He has pushed Vincent Jackson to pro-bowl levels. He has advanced San Diego further into the playoffs than Schottenheimer ever did.

Yet, people are still calling for his head. On ESPN’s news article from Jan 19 reporting that Spanos signed Turner to a three year contract extension, the fan response was rabid.

“No Super Bowl, no stadium, no coach. It looks like the toilet bowl for us.” Also, “No way the Chargers go anywhere with Norv at the helm.” But one in particular really puts it in perspective: “Norv has coached great players but consistently does the least with the most amount of talent.”

I guess it’s comforting to lay all the blame on one person, especially when it is the head coach. People love to glorify the players; these are their idols. People love to hate the coaches; these are the ones who tell them to do sprints.

San Diego is the ultimate example of this dynamic. For years, the Chargers have been “the NFL’s most talented team.”

It doesn’t matter that the defense last year was absolutely mediocre, 16th in the league in yards allowed. It doesn’t matter that only one offensive lineman made the pro-bowl last year (guard Kris Dielman was a reserve), and zero defensive players did.

The Chargers are super talented. And “Turner wastes it.”

The issue here is accountability. Complaining about someone in power is a call to action, a call for change. People hold the president accountable when he overreaches his executive powers, people hold students accountable to do their homework, and people hold sports figures accountable to produce wins.

The anti-Norv’s of the world are blindly and disturbingly blaming Turner for all of San Diego’s woes.

Look at this way. I don’t remember an uprising calling to release cornerback Antonio Cromartie after he missed a crucial tackle in the fourth quarter of last season’s playoff game against the Jets.

However, Cromartie actually is gone now, traded to that same New York team. It is well known that Turner felt him to be a distraction, tweeting in practices among other infractions. Think the coach didn’t have a say in this decision?

Norv gets it. Because he is a strong coach.

Heading into a new season already missing the long time face of the franchise, Tomlinson, it wouldn’t be unwise to support the leader who remains.