Raiders' Turner becomes latest NFL coach fired
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Al Davis preaches winning, and for three seasons now the Oakland Raiders have been losing.
"I just didn't feel the fit was right, and I think he agreed with me.''
The 53-year-old Turner, who had a year remaining on his contract worth about $1.75 million, knew his job was in jeopardy for the last two months. He struggled to get the most out of star receiver Randy Moss and an offense also including quarterback Kerry Collins, receiver Jerry Porter and running back LaMont Jordan. The Raiders managed only one victory in their division during Turner's tenure.
Oakland lost its final six games and eight of nine to finish 4-12, one fewer victory than Turner produced in his first season. The Raiders have strung together three straight losing seasons for the first time since Davis came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the team.
"I don't think this was a surprise to anyone. It was speculated over the last two months,'' Turner said. "I wanted to be here, and you take a job with the idea of doing a good job, getting the job done and being successful.''
Turner grew up in nearby Martinez rooting for the Raiders. His firing leaves eight coaching vacancies in the NFL.
Detroit fired Steve Mariucci in November and Kansas City's Dick Vermeil retired on Sunday. Other coaches who have been fired: Mike Martz of St. Louis, Jim Haslett of New Orleans, Mike Tice of Minnesota, Mike Sherman of Green Bay and Dom Capers of Houston.
Davis is left looking for another coach. He ousted Bill Callahan following the 2003 season, a year removed from the Raiders' 48-21 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.
"The No. 1 thing I've learned in this league, and what everyone's looking for, is the quick fix,'' Turner said. "I'm not sure there's such a thing.''
Turner was not necessarily Davis' top choice to replace Callahan. Dallas offensive coordinator Sean Payton told people he thought the job was his, but things didn't work out and he stayed with the Cowboys.
Turner had the support of many of his players, some of whom insisted they should get the blame for the team's failures.
"I think he did what he could,'' linebacker Danny Clark said. "Ultimately, everybody involved didn't get it done. Unfortunately, this is a production-based business and if you're not winning the weight falls on someone.''
The Raiders made major strides defensively this season and thought they would have one of the best offenses in the league with the addition of wideout Moss and Jordan at running back.
Turner, who has a reputation as a talented offensive coach, was hired as the organization's 14th head coach in January 2004 to invigorate a franchise that flopped after losing the Super Bowl. There were big expectations to produce an immediate turnaround.
Davis will seek "someone who will bring a hope and a passion to our fans that we can get this done and get it done quickly.'' Senior personnel chief Michael Lombardi will immediately begin heading the coaching search.
"This organization's not going to turn back,'' Davis said. "We're going to find a way. I'd like my next head coach to be winning-oriented. I want the right guy.''
Oakland's ineffective offense managed only 51 points and six touchdowns in its last five games and the Raiders failed to win a division game for the first time in Davis' tenure as owner.
"We didn't score enough points with the firepower we have,'' Davis said.
They were 1-11 against the AFC West during Turner's two seasons.
"It's definitely a sad day, because Norv is a great guy, a great players' coach,'' fullback Zack Crockett said. "It's sad things weren't better here for him and we didn't win for him. You hate to see a guy like him go.''
Turner said he will keep his options open after giving himself a little time to deal with leaving Oakland.
"I imagine based on readings I'm getting and the feeling I'm getting, there's people interested in me being an offensive coordinator again, so I'll look into that,'' Turner said. "I wouldn't rule anything out, but I do know I want to coach.''
Turner spent nearly seven seasons as Redskins coach, leading them to a 49-59-1 record and just one playoff berth from 1994-2000 before being fired with three games left in the 2000 season. He took the Raiders to Washington in November and beat the Redskins 16-13, and Turner was emotional afterward.
Oakland didn't win again.
Potential successors to Turner include Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel, former Raiders coach and current NFL vice president Art Shell, and Fresno State coach Pat Hill, who has NFL experience.
Davis has repeatedly said he regretted firing Shell after a 9-7 season in 1994.
Martz's name has also been mentioned, but Davis said he would have concerns about the health problems that forced him to step down in October with a heart ailment.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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