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San Diego Chargers: Norv Turner Doesn't Matter

San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner (center) watches as fullback Mohamed Marah (35) and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6) stretch at organized team activities at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner (center) watches as fullback Mohamed Marah (35) and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6) stretch at organized team activities at Chargers Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

I hear so many San Diego Chargers fans complain about Norv Turner as the Head Coach that I think I've grown numb to it. The common criticisms of him are just ludicrous. He's not a motivator. He always looks confused. He's ugly.

Here's the thing that people need to realize: Head Coaches don't matter. Not at all. Not one iota. Well, let me restate that.... Head Coaches aren't there to motivate. Head Coaches are basically like GMs on the sideline. Their job is essentially to make sure that everyone beneath them (assistant coaches) is doing a good job, and if not it is their job to fire those guys and hire new guys that will do a good job. They also get to make any tough decisions that the people beneath them don't want to make. That's it.

Has Norv done a poor job of hiring/maintaining his coaching staff? That's another conversation for another time. I'm here to tell you that NFL players don't need a Head Coach to motivate them. They've motivated by glory and bills and family and pride and assistant coaches. Also, championships aren't won by motivation or even by Head Coaches. Championships are won by luck, talent, assistant coaches and balance. I'll explain after the jump.

Let's talk about Rex Ryan. The Chargers famously interviewed Ryan, his first Head Coach interview, before hiring Norv Turner in 2007. The anti-Norv people desperately wish that had happened.

There's a reason that Ryan immediately turned the Jets around, and it's not his motivational tactics. Rex Ryan got the job because he was (is?) the best Defensive Coordinator in the NFL. The Jets needed someone that could stop or slow down Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and they've gotten that in Ryan. Their defense dragged them to two consecutive AFC Championship games in Ryan's first two seasons in New Jersey, and their lack of balance (no offense) kept them from going any further.

The San Francisco 49ers didn't win their division in 2011 because Jim Harbaugh is a master of motivation. They won because the defense become dominant under Vic Fangio (remember that name), which allowed Harbaugh to avoid risks on offense.

Bill Belichick's teams don't win because they're more motivated. They win because Belichick is one of the best defensive minds that the NFL has even known and because, along with Tom Brady (who is just as much of an Offensive Coordinator now as Peyton Manning is), their offense is good enough to keep them balanced.

Mike Tomlin didn't win a championship because he looks like Omar Epps or because he's a great motivator. Hell, part of the reason he was hired is because the team already had their Offensive and Defensive Coordinators in place and wanted someone that didn't want to bring in their own coaches. The Steelers knew that it was Dick LeBeau and Bruce Arians that won them the title in 2005, and those guys brought the Steelers back to the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2010.

The Colts. The Colts did it right. The Colts knew that Manning was ready to run his own offense, and what they needed, not a motivator....BALANCE. They brought in Tony Dungy, who had the best track record of turning mediocre players into a solid defense with his Cover 2 scheme, and he brought the team enough balance to win a championship.

Let's look at all of the recent Super Bowl Champions:

  • The Giants had a +6 turnover margin in the 2011 playoffs (4 games) and their offense put up 25.5 points per game.
  • The Packers also had a +6 turnover margin in the 2010 playoffs (4 games) and their offense average more than 30 points per game.
  • The Saints has a +7 turnover margin in 2009 playoffs (3 games) and were 2nd in defensive turnovers for the season. Their offense put up over 35 points per game in the playoffs.
  • The Steelers had a +6 turnover margin in the 2008 playoffs (3 games), including a +2 against the Chargers in the divisional round. Their offense average over 28 points per game in the playoffs.
  • The Giants had a +5 turnover margin in the 2007 playoffs (4 games) and their offense scored more than 21 points per game.
  • The Colts, with Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks (now with the Chargers), had a +4 turnover margin in the 2006 playoffs (4 games) and their offense scored more than 26 points per game.
None of these teams lost the turnover battle in any of their playoff games. Not a single one. That's pretty cool.

Anyway, back to my point. The Chargers failures can be simplified as such: The team has lacked balance since 2007. Back then, the team had Ted Cottrell (basically running Wade Phillips' system until he got figured out), Shawne Merriman, LaDainian Tomlinson, a young Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers and Norv Turner. That was enough to put pressure on teams, win the turnover battles, and be balanced. Then, in the playoffs, Merriman, LT, Gates and Rivers all got injured and the balance disappeared. That's where the luck comes in.

To the contingency that believes that Norv Turner needs to be fired for things to be fixed, I have some rough news for you: Things will not be fixed until the defense gets playmakers and a dynamic playcaller. Might John Pagano be that playcaller? Maybe. Might Melvin Ingram, Jarret Johnson and Brandon Taylor be those playmakers? Could be. Once again, we'll see. However, if they're not, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith will pay the price.....and that's fine, because they'll be paying the price for bad hires and bad drafts. They will not be fired because Norv can't motivate.