By Joe Tash
As San Diego football fans look forward to the start of the Chargers’ 2011 season with high hopes for the home team, one person is leaving nothing to chance — head coach Norv Turner.
Turner, 59, is starting his fifth season as the Bolts’ boss. As with his entire coaching staff and players, Turner has to make up for lost time following the NFL owners’ lockout, which ended last month after players and owners came to terms on a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement. The lockout meant that training camp and other normal pre-season preparations had to be put on hold through much of the summer.
The Del Mar resident is a self-professed “early guy,” who hits the Starbucks near the Chargers’ Mission Valley headquarters about 5:15 a.m. on his way into work, then spends his day in a non-stop succession of meetings with players and coaches, along with daily four-hour practice sessions.
Turner said he usually heads home about 11 p.m., feeling like he still didn’t get everything done. But he expects the hard work and long hours to pay off.
“We’ve got a very strong nucleus of veterans and a lot of good young players. And we had an outstanding draft,” Turner said. The coaching staff has some new additions: notably, Greg Manusky, former defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, will run the Chargers’ defense, after former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera left to become head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
The Bolts also have a new special teams coach on board, following a series of missteps on special teams during the 2010 season.
“I’m excited about where we’re going,” Turner said.
Charger fans are hoping the team will rebound from last year’s disappointing finish, when it failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons under Turner. There were bright spots, however, the Chargers had the league’s top-ranked offense, with 395.6 yards per game, and scored 441 points, the second-highest in the NFL last season.
Turner has coached football for 35 years, 27 of them in the NFL. One of five children raised by a single mom in the Bay Area suburb of Martinez, Turner played football in high school and college, and coached at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Rams under John Robinson before becoming offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, where he helped the team win back-to-back Super Bowls.
He later served as head coach for the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins before joining the Chargers at the start of the 2007 season.
Football runs in Turner’s family: his younger brother, Ron, served as offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears for nine years, and is now the wide receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts. Turner’s oldest son, Scott, is offensive quality control coach for the Carolina Panthers.
Turner said he turned to coaching after his college playing career because he thought it was something he would enjoy and a career where he had something to offer. Another reason, he said, was the inspiration of coaches he had growing up, from his Little League coach to the coach of his high school football team, who he said is one of the best coaches he’s ever been around at any level.