Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jan 2007

...And the Cowboys Consider Norv Turner

The world's most dangerous football reporter, FOX's Jay Glazer, is reporting that the Cowboys are interviewing Norv Turner with the idea that he might be their next head coach.

One day, we will be able to figure out which coordinators are suited for head coaching jobs and which coordinators are not. I think it is safe to say that one of the ways we will be able to verify the validity of such a tool would be the appearance of Norv Turner as a member of the latter group.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 25 Jan 2007

54 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2007, 2:49pm by Wanker79


by navin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 7:48pm

I guess Norv has been an ok coordinator out in San Fran, considering what he was given to work with. However I definitely agree that he's not suited to be a head coach. I'm a big fan of offering head coaching jobs to new blood.

From a Niners fan point of view, this would be bad. I say this not because SF is losing Norv, but because the offense would probably have to learn a third offense in three years, which is never good.

by Fargo (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 7:55pm

I can't believe this one has legs. It would be bad for us (9ers) and it would be bad for the Cowboys. How often do you get to see such an all-round crap idea get put into practice?

by Joe (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 7:58pm

Given the report on ESPN that Dallas has already hired a new o-coord I think many smart coaches will blow them off. And I'm not saying anything bad about Garrett, part of becoming a head coach is picking your own staff. Since Jones is apparently not even willing to allow the new HC even that much control this is shaping up to be a nightmare job.

by t.d. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 7:58pm

I'd like for bellicheck to leave the pats for the Giants, saying as he steps out the door that Kraft is a yahoo who's impossible to work for. then you'd know our pain. we almost made it back with parcells, and now we're faced with five more years of shit. but at least we get to enjoy the excellence that is the t.o. experience. what, matt millen wasn't available?

by NF (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:05pm

If anyone thinks that Norv Turner can run a good offense as head coach, they should only have to look at the 2005 Oakland Raiders to change their opinion. It makes no sense that he'll be a good head coach after failing twice before.

by admin :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:09pm

I told Mike Tanier this was proof that God loves him. By the way, the tool would also need to put Wade Phillips in the second group.

by PaulH (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:16pm

I sent my brother, the big Cowboys fan, the link.

He's on suicide watch.

Pray for him.

by x42 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:20pm

You mean the Wade Phillips with a 48-39 record as a head coach?

by navin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:26pm

If anyone thinks that Norv Turner can run a good offense as head coach, they should only have to look at the 2005 Oakland Raiders to change their opinion. It makes no sense that he’ll be a good head coach after failing twice before.

Look at the Raiders offense post-Norv. That would lend credence to the theory that Norv can coach offense. I'm not saying that actually can, but don't use the 2005 Raiders against him.

Also, he was ok with the Redskins, it's not like they've improved since he left, so I can understand why Jerry Jones would look at him. I just don't agree.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:28pm

If this happens, I will so hate my father for buying that electric football game, when I was five, that came with a pre-painted Dallas Cowboys team, and which has led now to this dark, dark place.

I think I feel a new mantra coming on: At least it's not Martz. At least it's not Martz. At least it's not Martz.

by PaulH (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:32pm


Disagree with Martz, he's a great offensive mind.

The 'Boys may not win a lot with him there, but they'd put some big points on the board.

Martz will get a second chance in the NFL as a head coach somewhere, it's just a question of when and where.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:38pm

NF: I just don't understand how an opinion like that continues to spread. Would you like to compare the Raiders offensive performance this season with Turner's last year in charge? The personel is the same (apart for swapping Kerry Collins for Aaron Brooks) but the 05 Raiders threw for 3750 yards and Lamont Jordan ran for 1000. This year they were one of the worst offenses in history. If Norv Turner had still been in charge, the Raiders would have been in playoff contention, given the progress made by the young defense. Instead the Raiders have the no 1 pick. I'm not sure that any coach will be able to succeed in Oakland until major changes are made to the front office (possibly the same could be said for the Redskins)

by the K (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:42pm

#8 No, the Wade Phillips with 2 playoff appearances in 3 seasons. He was fired the third season for going 8-8. Gregg Williams went 3-13 the following year and never made the playoffs in 3 seasons as HC of the Bills following Phillips' firing. Speaking of Gregg Williams, isn't he a much better example of the second group?

by Jimmy Two Times (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 8:50pm

#9: Word. By DVOA, the Raiders' offense ranked #13 offense in 2005 and #16 in 2004, with Kerry Collins at QB. I know it doesn't work this way, but if the Raiders' offense was just as good under Shell as it had been under Turner, the Raiders would have been about as good as the Redskins this year-- still bad, but not the epic embarrassment they were. They would easily have been 5-11, and might have been as good as 7-9 with some breaks.

Actually, it's interesting: if the Raiders don't fire Turner last year and go like 7-9 this year, are they still the joke of the NFL? More coaching stability, only 2-3 wins away from the playoffs... Doesn't that make the Raiders job at least as attractive as, say, the Cardinals job?

When Turner was fired last year, I never thought it was possible that the move might be bad for the Raiders. Man, this last year has been a catastrophe.

Anyway, saying that firing Turner was a bad move in retrospect is not the same as saying that he's a good head coach. It just seems to me that the guy can coach offense pretty darn well, for the production he got out of those Raiders teams.

by Gus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 9:19pm

13: Er, well if Washington's defense had actually played well this year, the Gregg Williams would belong to that group.

Wasn't Wade Phillips the guy who benched Flutie for Rob Johnson? If that's the case, no pretty good career record redeems him in my eyes.

by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 9:24pm

The only way this makes sense is if Jerry Jones wants Garrett to get some training/seasoning under an experienced offense guy before he gets his shot.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 10:10pm

Oakland was -11 DVOA on offense in 2003, then .1 and -.1 with Norv, then -35 this year. Of course it's arguable that they didn't have "replacement level" coaching this year, but it's hard to take those numbers and say Norv screwed the offense. San Francisco went from -39 to -8 this year. Norv wasn't the only factor by any means, but Norv's departure from Oakland coincided with a loss of over 30 points of offensive DVOA in the same year his arrival in SF coincided with an improvement of 30 points. Hmm.

He was also the last Redskins head coach to have the team at 8-4 (and absolutely nobody at WR) in 2000. It's true they struggled with him, but in the beginning that was mostly due to botched high draft picks that failed to replace a dynasty that was at its end (Des. Howard, Heath Schuler for starters) and at the end due to ownership meddling (Jeff George, Deion, Adrian Murrell, Mark Carrier instead of backups at WR and OL) and injury.

I'm not Norv's biggest fan--actually by his reputation with fans maybe I am--but the facts don't really back up the "Norv is a joke" sentiment. Both of the teams he's been head coach for were worse before he arrived and after he left, if not as dramatically as the offensive DVOA number this year.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 10:15pm

On the Turner in 2000, make that 7-4 (he was fired after two more close losses). Note that year they beat both of the Super Bowl participants on their home fields.

by COINFLIP (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 11:05pm

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Norv Turner is the Wedding/Childbrith Sitcom Episode of Coaching.

His arrival is a clear signal that the people in charge have Run Out of Ideas.

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 01/25/2007 - 11:19pm

So when a team considers to bring in a good offensive mind who has had average results as head coach it is " suicide watch" material...

but when a team brings in some guy under 40 with no experience it's a good idea to bring in " fresh new blood"?

Thanks for the laughs, you guys all crack me up.

by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 12:18am


Was it Wade Phillips?

I can't say I really remember anything within +/- a week of the Music City Miracle game.

by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 12:45am

I don't know what I'm missing, but why is Jay Glazer the world's most dangerous football reporter?

by Gus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:03am

21: For the record, it was. Damn Wade Phillips to hell.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:04am

Also, he was ok with the Redskins


by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:06am

Wade Phillips:

48-39 career record.

Given a 4-8 New Orleans team in mid-season 1985, he went 1-3 with them.

Given an 8-8 Denver team he went 16-16 in two years before John Elway decided he didn't really like Mr. Phillips and he'd go make mooxy-faces to the owner.

Given a 6-10 Buffalo team, he went 29-19 with them in three seasons, leading them to the playoffs in two of those years. Yes, he made the major gaffe of Rob Johnson over Doug Flutie, but he still coached very well in that stint.

Given a 3-10 Atlanta team mid-season in 2003, he went 2-1 with them before being replaced with Jim Mora, Jr.

The man has never gotten a real chance anywhere outside of Buffalo, and there he did quite well. Why do people think he can't coach? He made one big mistake, replacing Flutie with Johnson. I don't think I've ever seen a coach so incorrectly maligned.

by TracingError (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:09am

Don't know why this Turner thing is sticking in my craw but here are the numbers (and yes, there are some mitigating factors).

Here are the changes in offense when Turner enters according to DVOA.
SD: +24.3
Mia: +20.9
Oak: +11.2
SF: +31.8

Here are the changes in offensive DVOA the year after Turner left.
Was: -13
SD: +6.6
Mia: -14.7
Oak: -35.4

So on average, since 2000, Turner plus whatever other differences has been worth on average 18.1 in offensive DVOA. The one case where a team was better without him was the blossoming of a San Diego team that was in the midst of rebuilding and benefitted from significant growth from you players in Brees and Tomlinson and the O line.

We know that he can run a top offense (Dallas, Washington in 1999) when he has good talent. I think the problem is that he's had mediocre offensive performance in SF, Oak, Mia, and SD--so people think he's no good. But really he's had pretty bad talent (Fiedler, 40 year old Flutie, Collins, Smith) and squeezed as many first downs and points out of it as anyone could have. He has outperformed Chan Gailey, Mike McCarthy, and Bill Callahan among others in year to year DVOA comparisons, and not by small margins.

I'm not saying he's Belichik (or Joe Torre, another "mediocre" manager who blossomed in the right situation), but really, how can you tell that he can't succeed as a head coach? If we take DVOA seriously at all, then don't we have to think Turner's chances with a talented Cowboys team would be decent (bearing in mind that 1/3 of coaches end with winning records)?

by navin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:49am

Hey, whoever mocked me for being a fan of "new blood," notice that I actually *defended* Norv Turner.


by MFurtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:52am

The perception of head coaches in the NFL. Marty Schottenheimer can't win playoff games and has to practically beg to keep his job back. Norv Turner is perfectly mediocre as a head coach and could find his 3rd job. Not to mention the fact that people like Sean Steakhead openly lobby for Schottenheimer to get fired. ... how will they react to a Turner hiring?

Great coordinator, not a great head coach.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 3:17am

BlueStarDude - I honestly think Martz would be an excellent fit for the Cowboys. Joking about Bledsoe lining up in the slot aside, Romo and Glenn in particular are perfectly suited to Martz's offense. He might have some hilariously epic face-offs with Owens, and he'd have to be paired with a sound defensive mind and kept well away from personnel decisions, but at the end of the day we are talking about a guy who is 53-32 in five and a half seasons as a head coach, with four playoff appearances including a trip to the Superbowl. There is also a pretty good case for saying he's better at developing quarterbacks than anyone else in the game. So he's a loon, and a bad clock manager who has no understanding of special teams and no belief in their importance. Big whoop. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 4:46am

On a slightly related note, isn't it a bit ironic that the Seahawks just hired the Cowboys' special teams coach?

by Topas (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 8:56am

Re: the Phillips issue.
I think you have to account for team talent. He had a super bowl talent team and went nowhere. Ok. He is is not responsible for tackling Kevin Dyson on the return, but following the whole three seasons, the team underachieved dramatically.

by joel in providence (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 10:41am

i lived in DC during the Norv years there and my take on Norv was always that he's a pretty good x's and o's guy who knows offense very well (i believe he learned under don coryell) but has absolutely none of the leadership/management skills that head coaches need. the man just does not steer the ship very well.

by Mr.X (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 11:29am

Re: 31

What do you call what they have done since he left?

by Mr.X (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 11:33am

New York Times reported that Wade Phillips was fired, NOT CAUSE OF HIS RECORD, but because we wouldn't fire the special teams coach. Now is that a fair shake?

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 11:35am


So let me see if I get this straight. Your argument is that Phillips had a Super Bowl calibre team. A Super Bowl calibre team that went 6-10 the year before he got there.

Then you argue that the team underachieved after he left. Perhaps that's because they overachieved when he was there. That would kind of mean that he didn't have a Super Bowl calibre roster, and also that he was rather a good coach. So which is it?

by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 12:38pm

As a Dolphin fan, I wasn't very impressed with those Wade Phillips' Bill teams. They didn't stink, but they didn't scare anybody either. I think Wade definitely belongs in the second group. And, remember, fans of rival teams usually know best. Remember Mularkey? Every Bill fan said it would destroy the Fins offense and it did (according to a very good CKparrothead analysis... that's Chris Koufman I think).

By the way, maybe he's in a category of his own, but I was scared to death when Pete Carrol's name came up for the job in Miami. I think I'd prefer Phillips.

by Mark (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 12:41pm

Well, Norv's no Dave Campo, but I'll take it.

by Paul (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 2:32pm

Wade Phillips is knoiwn as "The Son of Bum" in my circles.

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 3:09pm

What kind of a three-ring circus is face-lift boy running down there?

Who in their right mind would take this job knowing that Jerry's "boy" is running the offense and it will take the Dallas media approximately one milisecond after the first loss to question that Garrett should be the HC...which of course being the media whore that Jerry Jones is...he will use it to "defend" his choice...keeping the story going vs. letting it die like it should.

Any HC prospect with options would rather go to a team where they can choose their own direct reports and not have a ticking clock above their head while working for an owner who will go out and sign TO even though you advise them not to.

Looks like Jerry Jones is neck-and-neck with Artie Blank and Danny Synder in the "Worst Owner" award.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 3:49pm

Some people here are just exposing themselves as haters. Jerry Jones has done many dumb things, but hiring Garrett is not one of them. The Cowboys wanted him even when Parcells was rumored to be most likely coming back. Parcells retired Monday. The Dolphins told Jones they had till Thursday to make a decision on Garrett. No reason for Jones to let a guy he wants just walk, when his number one candidate is probably Phillips, maybe Turner, both of whom are not going to have a problem keeping Garrett (and have now said as much in recently published reports). Phillips is going to be 60 this year; it's the perfect time for him to get one more chance; to coach 3-4 years and then turn the keys over to young blood.

by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 4:21pm

re 40: "The Cowboys wanted him even when Parcells was rumored to be most likely coming back. Parcells retired Monday. "

Exactly - who on earth hires assistants BEFORE the Head Coach. This automatically puts Dallas in the third tier of candidates - those who are so desperate they will accept any conditions to get an HC job.

by C (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 5:16pm

Call me insane, but I bet Jerry Jones names HIMSELF head coach. Just watch.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 8:30pm

Make it an anonymous team and an anonymous owner and the attitudes would be different. You can dislike Wade Phillips all you want, but it's not fair to dismiss him as a THIRD-rate candidate. Who are the first rate candidates? Good Defensive Coordinators who may or may not turn out to be successful Head Coaches? Some college guy? Jones is gunning for immediate success with an experienced coach, while at the same time locking up a smart, young football minid to be the potential long-term solution. Any other owner would at least be praised for taking the long view, even if his top "now" candidates are questionable.

by dave whorton (not verified) :: Fri, 01/26/2007 - 11:46pm

why do teams keep hiring these retread coaches. it seems that any coach that has been fired once he is never any good a being a head coach anywhere else. i wish i had a study to back my opinion. belichek maybe the only one, was he fired in cleveland or did he quit.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 1:49am


You've got a good point. I mean, really, what have Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy, and Marty Schottenheimer done lately?

And for that matter what did Dan Reeves, Chuck Knox, Marv Levy and countless others ever contribute to the game of football? Huh?

by Fargo (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 9:21am

#42: Hey, I can totally see that. And then he appoints his face as the new defensive coordinator.

by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 1:52pm

Truth is, blue star dude, that this couldn't happen to an anonymous club. Just Dallas, because it's the only team run by the owner. I guess they're going back to the puppet coach formula. You know, like: "Norv, Wade, you guys know there isn't a chance in hell you'll ever get another HC gig again, right? Where here's the deal, I'll give you my team, and all you have to do is..."

by Isaiah C. (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 3:54pm

Both the Cincinatti Bengals and the Oakland Raiders are "run by the owner". I could see this happening with them, as well as with several other teams with risk-taking attitudes.

by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 6:01pm

To defend my remarks about Norv Turner, he didn't lead the team much better than Shell did, as the team quit on him at the end of the season just like the offense did on Art Shell. The offense was even worse after Turner left because Norv Turner at HC > Tom Walsh OR John Shoops at OC. Also, LaMont Jordan was injured, and Jerry Porter did absolutely nothing. Kerry Collins was also a better QB than Aaron Brooks is.

However, Norv Turner completely mis-used Randy Moss in the red-zone, and either Kerry Collins kept having to check down to LaMont Jordan as a dump-off option or Norv Turner tried to make Jordan a big part of the passing game, which was a bad idea. LaMont Jordan was thrown 103 passes, more than any other RB in 2005, on a team that had Jerry Porter and Randy Moss, and Jordan had only an average receiving DVOA. As far as not using Randy Moss well on offense, even the Oakland TE in 2005 was thrown more passes in the red zone than Randy Moss.

by Paul (not verified) :: Sat, 01/27/2007 - 6:30pm

17's litany of Redskin idiocy is enough to knock me off the wagon. And as to Norv to the Cowpies, what,Ron Erhardt can't be found?

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Sun, 01/28/2007 - 8:33pm


Belichick decided to quit rather than relocate to Baltimore with the franchise. Given the way the team had cratered, and his own unpopularity thanks to moves like benching Bernie Kosar (justified or not), his resignation was happily accpeted, and he was relegated to the pile of "good coordinators/bad HC's" for a time.

by joe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/29/2007 - 4:40pm

The Norv Turner 'Skins (fortunately) are a distant memory now, but I distinctly remember them being anti-clutch, blowing games they should have cinched up, on numerous occasions. It was like having 53 Mike Vanderjagts or Tony Homos on the roster. I think somebody else mentioned it, but they lacked discipline (Norv's fault) and had personnel issues (Danny Boy and Jack's fault). And for a coach who was supposedly an offensive mastermind, Norv sure did cycle thru the QBs (Schuler, Frerotte, Trent Green, Brad Johnson, Jeff George, God knows what other 3rd-string washouts who took snaps). I'm willing to bet that Aikman made Turner, not the other way around.

by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 10:27am

and now Mike Singletary is going for an interview - tokenism or is Jones reconsidering his plan?

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 2:49pm

Re: 53

Apparently Jones interview all of Parcells' former staff, and one of those guys is black, so the token quota is already filled (stupid Rooney Rule). That would make it seem like a legitimate interview.