Norv Need Not Apply

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December 13, 2000
Norv Need Not Apply
by Dave Sabo

The record books will say that it was Terry Robiskie’s head coaching debut, but make no mistake about it, the farce that played out in the Stadium at Irving on Sunday was redolent with the stench of Norv Turner.

While the utter collapse of Li’l Danny Snyder’s $100 million fantasy team is the result of the combined incompetence and ignorance of a multitude of know-nothings, I am focusing on Turner’s role in this shambles.  And I do this only because I’ve heard people suggest that, despite Turner’s role in Washington’s firing of current Texans GM, Charley Casserly; Bob McNair might want to add Turner’s name to his list of head coaching candidates. God help us all.

In case you missed it, Norv Turner was axed last Monday after nearly seven years as head coach of the Redskins.  He should have considered himself lucky to last that long.  Compiling a 49-59-1 record, the Turner-led ‘Skins made only a single playoff appearance during his tenure. He was fired after a disappointing home loss to division rival New York and at 7-6, he was the only head coach in NFL history to be fired mid-season with a winning record and a chance at a playoff berth.

While blame for the Redskins ineptitude can be placed at the feet of any number of scapegoats, Turner must shoulder his share. In the aftermath of his firing, many around the NFL said he got a raw deal. They blamed injuries, Li’l Danny’s meddling and the ridiculous expectations and the resultant pressure to win a Super Bowl THIS YEAR on the ‘Skins collapse. What they fail to realize, however, is that none of that can change the fact that Norv Turner was a sorry head coach.

Let’s start with Turner’s supposed strong suit, his ability to develop young quarterbacks. Actually, that should be young quarterback. Singular.  Like so many other “geniuses”, Norv Turner established his rep with the “Cryboys That Minnesota Built”. He’s been credited with molding a young Troy Aikman into a future Hall of Famer. Once again, it looks more like a case of people completely ignoring the work of arguably the greatest offensive line ever in order to pump up an overrated Cryboy skill player. Conversations about Aikman no longer involve the Hall of Fame, but rather, what he plans on doing in the wake of his most recent concussion. Norv was supposed to be the guy who turned Heath Shuler into the next young stud.  Unfortunately, that Dallas O-line didn’t make the trip to the District with him. After a rookie preseason holdout, Norv threw him to the wolves, never giving the youngster a chance to gain any confidence. According to the numerous billboards I saw on my Thanksgiving drive through Tennessee, Shuler’s now selling real estate in Nashville.

Gus Frerotte took over under center and had a string of respectable outings. We can only assume that this was because Norv was too busy screwing Shuler up to ruin Frerotte, too. But, once he had a chance to work with him, Norv turned Gus into a wreck that he shipped out of town in favor of Trent Green. Gus recently turned up in Denver where, under the tutelage of Gary Kubiak, led the Broncos to a couple of wins.

Trent Green, luckily, was in the final year of his contract when he took over as ‘Skins’ QB. He put up some respectable numbers and, before Norv could torpedo his career, bailed out for a sweet deal in St. Louis. While a knee injury opened the door for Kurt Warner, Green should wind up starting for somebody next year. I hear Dallas may be looking for a new quarterback.

Once Green hit the bricks, the ‘Skins brought in Brad Johnson who had success in Minnesota though he was injury prone. Under the watchful eye of Norv Turner, Johnson has regressed to the point that he’s been benched in favor of Jeff George, the Rich Kotite/Bruce Coslet of NFL quarterbacks. No matter how bad he sucks, somebody always gives him a job.

So, with the Texans looking at possibly starting a young, unproven quarterback, the last person I want to see mentoring him is Norv Turner. Unless, of course, said quarterback is being protected by that early to mid 90’s Dallas line and throwing to somebody that can get away with pushing off as much as Michael Irvin (Randy Moss anybody?).

Norv’s inability to mold winners wasn’t limited to quarterbacks. No, he was an equal opportunity failure, leading some of the most undisciplined and unmotivated teams in franchise history. His inability to get highly touted draft picks such as Desmond Howard, Michael Westbrook, Champ Bailey and LaVar Arrington to produce on a consistent basis combined with his knack for getting the least out of free agent veterans like Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson leads me to wonder how this guy kept the same job for seven years. At one point, his offense was so out of sync and undisciplined that merely snapping the ball without anybody moving became a challenge.

When players weren’t beating the hell out of each other on the sidelines at practice, they were sleep walking through must win games and continually snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And then Tuner would mumble his way through the post game press conference. If you’ve ever heard the guy speak, you know what I’m talking about. Anything he said after a loss always sounded like one huge apology.  He sounded like, for want of a better word, a wussy. The man couldn’t motivate me to attend a free all-you-can-eat BBQ.

In addition to his failure at his supposed strong suit and his inability to control or motivate his players, Norv was roundly criticized in Washington for his play calling.  With Stephen Davis at running back, Turner would constantly abandon the running game. No matter what the situation, like clockwork, he would take to the air late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. Never was this more apparent than during last season’s playoff loss in Tampa Bay. Leading by 13 in the second half, the ‘Skins all but gave up on Davis and the running game, allowing the Bucs to squeeze out a 14–13 win.  How he survived the off-season, I’ll never know.

So, what we have here is a career-squashing, confidence-killing, milquetoast with a losing record and the inability to motivate high-draft picks and former Pro-Bowl veterans alike. If anybody can give me a single reason why Bob McNair should even take this man’s phone calls, I’d be interested to hear it. For the life of me, I can’t come up with a single thing that Norv Turner does well as a head football coach.  The best I can say about him is that he never tried to shift blame or duck responsibility for the Redskins’ failures. That and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Something tells me that Bob and Charley are looking for something a bit more for our Texans.

I’ll leave you with this. Even Ol’ Yella Teeth up in Dallas has said he has no plans to talk to Norv about the Cryboys looming head coaching vacancy. What more do you need to know?


Dave Sabo is an Archives Specialist with the National Archives and Records Administration. A native of Spring, TX and a life-long Oiler fan now languishing in the heart of Redskins country (Laurel, MD), Dave is utterly convinced that new ‘Skins owner, Daniel Snyder, is, indeed, the anti-Christ.

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