Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Dec 2012

Chargers Fire A.J. Smith and Norv Turner

Finally, no more "sources reporting." It is done.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 31 Dec 2012

38 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2013, 6:30pm by Will Allen


by speedegg :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:00pm

Really hate to say I'm happy someone got fired, but I think the Peter Principle applied to the Chargers and it was a long time coming. Wish Norv the best as OC with his new team. Wish Smith.....

by dancingeek@gmail.com :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:00pm

A year late, but at least it happened.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:07pm

Norv was a head coach for 15 seasons. He won 10+ games 3 times in those 15 seasons, and made the playoffs 4 times (once by going 8-8 to win the 2008 AFC West), despite taking over a loaded Chargers team that had gone 14-2 the season before he arrived.

Is it possible that both the Cooke family and the Spanos family never actually watched any football since the heyday of the early-90s Cowboys? I can't think of any other explanation for how a coach with such a thoroughly mediocre track record lasted 7 years at one job and 6 years at another. He even lasted two seasons with the Raiders, which is about double the average tenure of a coach in the last few years of Al Davis' time as owner.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:14pm

I don't know about the Cooke or Spanos families, but I'm pretty sure Ralph Wilson is thinking: "Norv Turner, he's the young whippersnapper whose offense beat us twice just a couple of years back, we should give him a look."

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:58pm

I am utterly terrified that you're right.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:15pm

I totally agree with the overall picture.

However Norv's record in San Diego went ...
2007 - 11-5 reached AFC championship game
2008 - 8-8 won the AFC west
2009 - 13-3 3rd AFC west title in a row.

At this point there's little question you keep him (other than he's Norv).

2010 - 9-7 another winning record.

Keep or fire? Probably keep after all it's a winning record and last year you were 13-3.

2011 - 8-8 not a losing season.

Possibly given his overall body of work it was time to go BUT think they said Norv had a 25-5 record with the Chargers in December; 3-2 this year which means they were 22-3 for the other six seasons. The end of season surges were enough to give ownership the belief that the next year would be different. Tom Coughlin 'suffers' from the same effect.

by speedegg :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:54pm

Um, did you miss the FOA article "In Defense of Norv Turner"? Yeah, because there wasn't any. They tried to defend Norv as they did Mike Martz and Turner's record was indefensible. Norv was a bad head coach, not because he loss, but because he consistently underachieved...even with a winning team.

And as for the "Tom Coughlin effect", the Giants schedule gets harder in the last part of the season. The Chargers? Gets easier. So, does that really qualify as a "winning" coach?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:36pm

I missed it. I was saying back in 2008 when I saw the Chargers lose to the Saints at Wembley that I expected Norv to destroy the legacy that Marty had built - so in no way am I a believer in Norv. In fact it took him a few more seasons than I expected.

My comments were made from the perspective of if you're the owner that following the superficial win-loss records / making playoffs I can see why they decided to keep Norv on for all those years.

But yes, you only need to look at the ineptitude of his special teams unit these last couple of years to know that he didn't instill enough discipline in the team to get it to win consistently.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:05pm

I think the joke was there was no article "In Defense of Norv Turner."

I still believe that they would have won a super bowl if they kept Schottenheimer, or replaced him with, say, Sean Payton.

by speedegg :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:35pm

It was a half joke. They were going to do an article in PFP 2007, but found that there was no defense of Norv and rolled it into the Chargers Chapter. Their previous study of Mike Martz found that statistically Martz was a decent head coach despite all the controversy with benching Kurt Warner, not running, etc, etc. Martz consistently over performed his projections, despite the fact he had an abrasive personality and couldn't work with anyone.

Statistically, there is no defense for Norv Turner led TEAMS (note emphasis on plural). They under performed their projections and often lost when leading only by a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Basically, Norv was an incredibly bad choice for HC. Despite that they predicted he'd AT LEAST get to one Superbowl and have a career like Barry Switzer. The fact that he only went to the AFC Championship once says a lot about his ability as a HC. As for OC, that's a different story...

by Other Dean (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 11:30am

I don't think the Chargers would have won a Super Bowl with Schottenheimer as their head coach. He was 0-2 in the playoffs with them, losing to teams that they frankly should have beaten. For some reason it seemed like Schottenheimer's teams would overachieve during the regular season, then underachieve in the playoffs. Of course that would be preferable to what has happened the last three years.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 12:43pm

Is that you, A.J.?

Two games is not a large enough sample size to draw conclusions like "Schottenheimer's teams underachieve in the playoffs." Do you also believe Peyton Manning can't win in the playoffs? Before 2006 he never won a super bowl, and in 2005 people said he couldn't do it. You're using the same logic for Schottenheimer; people were wrong about Peyton, and you're wrong about Marty.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 4:56pm

if the assumption is that schottenheimer didnt win one but could, then you are wrong about norv as well. quite frankly, schottenheimer has had more time to win a superbowl and hasnt. that should atleast say something

by RickD :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:11pm

Schottenheimer got a reputation for underperforming in the playoffs long before he started coaching in San Diego. In his last three playoff appearances in KC, his teams were 1-and-done. And two of those teams were 13-3! And then in San Diego he has a 12-4 team lose in the first round and a 14-2 team lose its first playoff game, too!

Think about that! Four teams with 52 regular season wins and zero playoff wins!

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 3:50am

You're not that good with math, are you? Schottenheimer had 5 playoff wins, he was 5-13 in the playoffs and 200-126-1 in the regular season. He made it to the AFC Championship Game 3 times. Technically, as Head Coach Norv only made it to the AFC Championship once.

And as one of those four teams (Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington, and San Diego), Schottenheimer got fired after one season (8-8 record) in Washington for Steve Spurrier who was just 12-20 in two seasons with 0 playoff wins.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 3:32pm

Can you really blame Marty for the DB that just caught the game-winning INT stupidly deciding to return it instead of falling down?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 4:09pm

Actually I think that is precisely the sort of thing that headcoaches have to get through to their players. Just as I'd say it falls on him to coach Ernest Byner to hold onto the ball against the Broncos in 87. That's the deal with headcoaching you take responsibility for what players you put on your team, how you coach them, and what emphasis you put on the details.

(But just to say I liked Marty, apart from Parcells he's probably the best headcoach I've seen for turning around rubbish teams to play consistently good football. I'd like to see him coaching on NFL sidelines again and to finally win the Super Bowl so he can get that monkey off his back)

by AT (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 12:16pm

I'm guessing you've not coached much. It's pretty common for (even very good, intelligent) players to do the opposite of what they've been coached to do in the heat of the moment. Sometimes it bites you and sometimes it doesn't.

by Independent George :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 6:07pm

Interestingly enough, NFL Films filmed him during practice that week, telling his DBs about precisely that situation. He actually tells them to be prepared to just fall down if they make the game-clinching interception, and don't blow the game by fumbling the winning play.

So he actually did emphasize those precise details that you're talking about. He just lost on a freak play because his player didn't actually listen to him.

Marty coached 25 years, and finished 8-8 or better 23 times. Two losing seasons in 25 years. He had real faults - his conservative playcalling being the most notable - but he was still a great coach.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 6:30pm

I really should let it go, but it still irritates the hell out of me that Schottenheimer left his last job due to a conflict with that jackass A.J. Smith.

by sydsho (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 12:38pm

Boy you got that right. I've said all along Norv's the luckiest man in football. Don't even get me started on his legendary reputation for developing quarterbacks!

by speedegg :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:57pm

Oh, good lord. AJ Smith is recommending Jimmy Raye as the next Chargers head coach. Don't know if that's humor or sarcasm.

by Dave0 :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:32pm

Smith mentioned Raye as a candidate for GM in his waste-of-your-time exit interview with the UT.

by leeroy1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 9:17pm

the jimmy raye he mentioned is the son of the former 49ers OC

by An Onymous (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 7:23pm

Norv Turner isn't the worst coach in history... but I think he's pretty clearly the worst head coach to achieve any decent level of longevity. Normally, coaches like Norv get 30 wins before they get fired and never heard from again. Only 35 coaches in history have reached 100 wins. Only one of those 35 has a losing career record. Ladies and gentlemen... Norval Turner.

As for The Lord of No Rings- it's one thing to be a d-bag when you're good at what you do. It's another to continue being a d-bag as the wheels fall off the wagon. I suspect Schotty, VJax, Marcus McNeil, and all the other players and coaches he's screwed over the years are meeting in secret to raise a toast to his fall from grace.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:08pm

I wouldn't say Norv "screwed" anyone, he was just in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a situation he didn't create. Smith is who screwed everybody.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 1:26am

That's who he was talking about. Smith's quite widely nicknamed the Lord of No Rings.

by Alternator :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 4:04am

Norv's not really a guy who anybody could say bad things about as a person, because he's about as flavorful as oatmeal and as fiery as a turnip.

by Dean :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 2:50pm

Marion Campbell called. He said, "bitch please."

by tally :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 7:27pm

In defense of Norv Turner...well, some of those career losses he incurred when taking over mediocre teams. The good thing about Norv Turner, he can take a bad team and get it to 8-8. the bad thing about Norv Tuner, he can take a good team and get it to 8-8.

We should just rename regression to the mean to Norv Turner.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:09pm

This is the greatest thing that's ever been written about the man.

by sydsho (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 12:47pm

That's a really good way of describing Turner. He managed to take the Skins from horrible to underachieving, and the Chargers from invincible to mediocre. As a Skins fan, I was giddy when the Cowboys were considering him before choosing Wade. Oh well, that worked out pretty well anyway. Do we really know more than these owners and GMs? Sometimes it seems so.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 9:23pm

The Chargers have hired Ron Wolf as a consultant.


by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:16pm

Seems like Norv won when they had talent. Injures kept them from challenging in the championship game. The team slowly bleed away talent and their drafts were eeck. Is that the GM or Norv not coaching the young guys up? Who knows? Hard to feel sorry for him, he had some generally good seasons, some he should have won more game seasons and the team looks ready to rebuild. Why not rebuild with new faces?

by Mash Wilson :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:07am

A.J. was pretty bad, but now the owner's kid is going to be running the team. I have a bad feeling Chargers fans will be begging to have A.J. and Norv back within a few years.

by GeorgeBush (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 5:21pm

The spanos kid will be the gms quote boss the same way dean spanos was as boss. The spanos kid won't be masking draft picks etc

by GeorgeBush (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 5:21pm

The spanos kid will be the gms quote boss the same way dean spanos was as boss. The spanos kid won't be masking draft picks etc

by Displaced Bolthead (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 3:22pm

No, absolutely NOT. That's like saying San Diego will miss the Bobby Beathard era. Beathard took the team to the Superbowl, but also got us the "Knucklehead" and a 1-15 season. Some eras just need to end. Whether Spanos takes the team from catastrophic to apocalyptic is a different story.