Chargers hire Turner as new head coach

Updated: February 20, 2007, 1:46 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Hoping the third time will be a winner for Norv Turner, the San Diego Chargers on Monday hired the San Francisco offensive coordinator to succeed Marty Schottenheimer as head coach.

Clayton: Nice guy first
John Clayton
The Chargers get a good coach and a good guy gets what he deserves, John Clayton writes. Story

Longtime league assistant coach Ted Cottrell, whose experience with the 3-4 defense is extensive, has been hired as defensive coordinator for the Chargers.

Turner, 54, compiled a 58-82-1 record as head coach of the Washington Redskins (1994-2000) and the Oakland Raiders (2004-05). He served as the San Francisco offensive coordinator last season and was credited with the dramatic progress achieved by 49ers' second-year quarterback Alex Smith.

Turner was signed to a four-year contract. Cottrell was given a two-year contract.

One of six known candidates interviewed by San Diego officials after Schottenheimer was dismissed, Turner was the lone man with primary expertise on the offensive side. Originally, it was believed the Chargers preferred that their new head coach have a background on the defensive side of the ball.

Norv Turner's Coaching Record
Norv Turner
The Chargers are giving Norv Turner his third crack at being an NFL head coach. He's 58-82-1 with one playoff appearance in nine seasons leading an NFL team.
Year
Team
Record
Playoffs
1994
WAS
3-13
None
1995
WAS
6-10
None
1996
WAS
9-7
None
1997
WAS
8-7-1
None
1998
WAS
6-10
None
1999
WAS
10-6
1-1
2000
WAS
7-6
None
2004
OAK
5-11
None
2005
OAK
4-12
None

"You can say whatever you want to say [about hiring Turner]," team president Dean Spanos said. "If we hadn't made a change and we lost, we made the wrong decision. If we do make the change and we lose, we made the wrong decision. So the net result of all this is, there's only one thing we have to do this year, and that's get back in the playoffs. Just get to the postseason and win the first game, is our goal. And then I think we're off to a good start."

Turner interviewed earlier this month for the head coach vacancy in Dallas, where he played a big role as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator during the team's dominance in the 1990s, but did not land that job.

In San Diego, he will inherit a high-octane Chargers offense featuring star tailback and 2006 most valuable player LaDainian Tomlinson. But Turner will also be responsible for the continued development of quarterback Philip Rivers, who was in his first year as the starter in 2006.

"Norv is a perfect fit for our team," said Tomlinson. "He will know exactly what to do with our team."

"This isn't a team where you're rebuilding," Turner said. "We should start fast. We should be good early and we should be good late. Not having to go through the normal things you have to go through when you make a coaching change is going to help the players more than anyone."

Elias Says
Norv Turner is getting a third chance despite posting a 58-82-1 (.415) record in his first two head-coaching jobs, in Washington and Oakland. Only three coaches in NFL history had lower winning percentages than Turner at the time of their third hiring: Marion Campbell (.326 when he returned to Atlanta in 1987), Mike McCormack (.345 when he replaced Jack Patera in Seattle in 1982) and Roy Andrews (.406 when he joined the Cleveland Bulldogs as a player-coach in 1927). Elias Says

Beyond Turner, the other known San Diego head coach candidates -- Gary Gibbs (New Orleans), Mike Zimmer (Atlanta), Mike Singletary (San Francisco), Ron Rivera (Chicago) and Rex Ryan (Baltimore) -- are all coaches whose expertise is on the defensive side. All but Singletary are current coordinators.

Cottrell has interviewed in the past for head coach positions, and came very close to landing the top job in San Francisco four years ago.

San Diego officials prefer to retain a 3-4 defense, the scheme for which the personnel is best suited, and hiring Cottrell allows that. Cottrell was actually recommended to Schottenheimer by Smith when then-Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as their new head coach.

Schottenheimer instead leaned toward hiring his younger brother, Kurt Schottenheimer, as the replacement for Phillips. In addition to Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers, who posted an NFL-best 14-2 record in 2006 but were ousted in the divisional round of the playoffs, have lost five assistant coaches since the end of the season. That includes both coordinators.

Cottrell, 59, possesses 22 seasons of NFL experience as an assistant coach, including three stints as a defensive coordinator. He most recently worked as coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings (2004-05). Cottrell lost his job when the Vikings fired coach Mike Tice after the 2005 season, and he worked in the NFL office in 2006.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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