Norv Turner seems poised to be the next coach in Dallas, creating a unique chain reaction: The Cowboys, 49ers and Turner would all be hurt by his decision. Turner had two chances at being a head coach, in Washington and with the Raiders, and he was underwhelming both times. Granted, he coached under the two most demanding owners in the league, Dan Snyder and Al Davis, but he never seemed to have the commanding presence a coach needs.
Working for Jerry Jones isn’t easy, either. Jones backed off with Bill Parcells, but he isn’t likely to do that with Turner or any other coach without Parcells’ reputation. Parcells walked away because he knew he didn’t really have a playoff team — and he had Terrell Owens. Owens’ history indicates that his behavior and his play get more erratic each year he plays for a team, so it’s not difficult to predict that he’ll be a disruptive factor for the Cowboys.
Turner is an outstanding offensive coordinator, though. Troy Aikman selected him as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of Turner’s influence on his career. Turner also was a big help to the 49ers’ second-year quarterback, Alex Smith, last season.
Turner’s loss would be a blow to Smith, who would be working with his third coordinator in three seasons, and to the 49ers.
The decision on coordinators is vital because, in today’s NFL, the coordinators do more hands-on coaching and game planning. The coach is the CEO.
But it’s not easy to find the right fit for a coordinator. If the coordinator is under contract with a team, he can’t be interviewed for a parallel job. So, if you want an experienced coordinator, you have to find one who is no longer under contract. Niners coach Mike Nolan had hoped to pick up Dom Capers, whose contract in Miami had expired, but Capers decided to re-sign with the Dolphins.
Nolan wanted a veteran defensive coordinator who had experience with the 3-4 defense. Failing that, he chose Greg Manusky, who had worked with the3-4 defense as the linebackers coach with the San Diego Chargers.
Manusky sounds like a good choice. He played 12 years in the NFL, as a defensive player and special teams standout, and was known for his work ethic. And, since Nolan’s specialty is defense, he knew the right questions to ask when Manusky was interviewed.
It won’t be so easy for Nolan to hire a replacement for Turner because he knows nothing about offense, except that you kick a field goal when you have inches to go for a touchdown on fourth down.
I would like to see Nolan ask around the league and hire one of the bright young quarterback coaches, because it’s vital that the new coordinator be able to work with Smith. What I think he will do, though, is take the safe route and promote somebody on his current staff, probably wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, who has some previous experience as a coordinator.
It would be far better if Turner would stay with the 49ers. There’s something to be said for knowing your limitations and staying on a level where you can be successful. But Turner seems determined to prove for a third time that he really isn’t head-coach material.
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