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The Psychology of Norv Turner and the San Diego Chargers Fans

Norv Turner doesn't look like a leader. He doesn't sound like a leader. He doesn't act like a leader. This doesn't mean he's not a leader, but that won't change the perception.

Scott Boehm

You may not know this about me, but I have interests outside of football. I enjoy a fine glass of wine and a cigar, for instance. I'm currently enamored with Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" graphic novel series. I also happen to read and study psychology quite a bit. Why? I don't know. Because it's interesting, I guess.

As a fan of psychology, I couldn't have asked for a more entertaining coach for the San Diego Chargers than Norv Turner. Norv could have all the success in the world, but he won't garner respect from the fans because there's a few things wrong with his public image. Let me explain.


One of the easiest ways to convey confidence is through speech. Speak loudly (that doesn't mean yelling), clearly and with the right tone and you can get anyone to believe that you fully believe every word you're saying. Here's my favorite example of a man that spoke clearly and confidently, Winston Churchill.

*waits for distant sound of AvengingJM's head exploding before moving on*

Each word should sound important, if not be important. Tone is also, unfairly, important in this regard. If your voice is naturally high and/or whiny, you'll have a hard time getting respect as a leader. If it's too deep, the same. There's a tone in between that comforts while commanding respect. Mike Tomlin has excellent pitch, but that's just something he was born with.

Norv Turner is not a great public speaker. He's confident, but it doesn't come across. He mumbles, he stutters and his words only get loud when he's upset. His pitch isn't great (but it's not bad either). Want to know why people aren't lining up behind Turner after emotional press conferences like they did with Mike Singletary? It's because his speech doesn't convey confidence.


Attractive people are trusted more often and, therefore, accepted as leaders more often. This is an unfortunate fact of life.

Remember when it was shown that Top NFL Quarterbacks are above average in attractiveness? That's not a coincidence. Part of the QB's job is to be a leader, and the good-looking ones have an easier time getting their teammates to follow them. There is an unspoken power to attractive people, and an unspoken weakness to unattractive people.

Norv Turner is not an attractive man. Perhaps he would be, but people spend most of their time focusing on the scars on his face and neck (I don't know or care what they're from). He's got a little bit of a gut. Nobody's mother or sister is saying "Oh, I'd like to do bad things to Norv Turner" the way that female fans of the 49ers do with Jim Harbaugh, or female fans of the Steelers do with Mike Tomlin, or female fans of the Saints do with Sean Payton.

Trust me, I know how silly this point seems, but it's real. When you meet an attractive guy, your first thought of him is typically about how cool he is or must be. Is that your first thought when you meet an unattractive guy? Of course it isn't. There's more to both of those men than what you see in the first meeting, but when it comes to the fans' relationship with their Head Coach there isn't much more to it.

Sideline Demeanor

Ever see Jim Harbuagh's pregame ritual where he beats up Alex Smith? On Monday night, when the Steelers were lining up for the game-winning FG, Mike Tomlin was shadow-boxing with Ben Roethlisberger. The one time we've seen anything from Norv besides screaming at the refs is the one time he hugged LaDainian Tomlinson on the sidelines after a big win. That seems like eons ago.

Norv can look angry, happy or even in control on the sidelines. However, it's rare that he looks relaxed, confident that he and his team have done everything they can and that they won't screw everything up.

Let's Stop and Summarize

There's nothing wrong with Norv Turner. His sideline demeanor is fine. His attractiveness is fine. His speech patterns are fine. Hell, Bill Belichick has almost all of those same flaws. I'm talking mostly about the psychology of a coach and how he's perceived by the fanbase. Could Norv be loved by the fanbase? Sure, but it would take a Belichick-ian level of success to get truly loved by the fanbase.

It's easy to love Jim Harbaugh, so it only takes a small amount of success for the fans to buy in. Heck, they were ready to buy in to Mike Singletary because he had some of the psychological keys that they look for in a leader. Marty Schottenheimer had these psychological keys, which is a big reason why fans of his have been so unwilling to buy into Norv Turner with the same fervor.

In actuality, whether or not the fans connect with the coach on a psychological "first date" level is not very important at all in most cases. It can get a bad coach further than he should go (Josh McDaniels) the same way that it can keep a good coach from ascending as quickly as he should (Rob Ryan). These limitations can be overcome with success (Belichick) the same way that it can become overblown with failure (Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis). You don't need charisma to be a great coach, but the fans will believe that you're destined to be a great coach based solely on charisma.

So, What Does This Mean?

At this point? Nothing. It means that Norv faced an uphill battle his entire head coaching career because people are crazy and don't actually know it. However, it's probably too late to hire a PR person and try to adjust the psychological image that the fans have of him … not that Norv would actually care.

Barring some incredible chain of events, Norv Turner will be fired at the end of this season or sooner. He'll then need to decide what his next move will be. Owners will be hesitant to hire him as a Head Coach ever again because their fans think that Norv's a "loser", despite the fact that he's yet to have a losing season with the Chargers. Owners want their new Head Coaches to be charismatic and get the fans going wild, and Norv's not the guy to do that.

Turner can choose to retire. He can be an Offensive Coordinator in the NFL and he'll have the opportunity to do that. I actually would like to see what Norv could do as the Head Coach of a major college program, where public image doesn't matter as much as "How good are you at coaching?" (i.e. Frank Beamer).

One thing is for sure, if the San Diego Chargers want their fans to immediately buy in to a new Head Coach, they better make sure he is charismatic and has the traits of a leader.