Enough wailing and gnashing of teeth, all you bandwagon-hopping Chargers fans.
Yes, Norv Turner is the new head coach.
No, he’s not Bill Parcells or Pete Carroll. But he’s also not Kevin Gilbride or Mike Riley, two former head coaches who went a collective 20-50 in the late 1990s.
Turner, 54, was selected to fill the shoes of Marty Schottenheimer, fired after taking the Chargers to a 14-3 record last season, the best record by any coach for the team.
Why? Ask team President Dean Spanos or General Manager A.J. Smith.
The fact is that management in the front office wasn’t all that happy. That’s hard to fathom when we have what many consider the best talent in the league (11 Pro Bowlers), a team that waltzed into the playoffs with a powerful offense led by the NFL’s brilliant Most Valuable Player, LaDainian Tomlinson.
But the feud between Marty and A.J. rose to a level that even the dysfunctional Chargers’ management could no longer ignore.
And so they did what the Spanos family did in 1996, got rid of their winning and well-liked coach (last time it was Bobby Ross, the guy who got them into their only Super Bowl) and sided with their demanding and controlling GM (last time, Bobby Beathard).
While the initial fan reaction to Turner appears to be dismay, the selection is a no-brainer when reviewing the rest of the field.
Of the six candidates interviewed, Turner, Rex Ryan, Gary Gibbs, Ron Rivera, Mike Singletary and Mike Zimmer, only one had head coaching experience. That’s Turner, and yes, his record isn’t one that impresses at 58-82-1.
Yet Turner coached in Washington under Dan Snyder, and in Oakland under Al Davis, two of the most demanding and meddling owners, and with less than an all-pro cast of players at either locale.
In 1999, he got the Redskins into the playoffs, losing in the second round.
Turner is an offensive-minded coach, and was chief architect of an offense that is essentially the same used this season by Cam Cameron, who bolted from San Diego to take the head coaching job at Miami.
Turner installed the system in 2001 while offensive coordinator under Riley here in San Diego, and it’s worked so well, Schottenheimer retained the template.
Last season, Turner was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco. The experts credit him with having a big influence on the way their young quarterback, Alex Smith, progressed during the season.
Let’s look past his record as a head coach.
During his stint as offensive coordinator for Dallas from 1991-93 under head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys won two back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
While the coordinator in Miami in 2002-03, the Dolphins went 9-7 and 10-6.
Turner is a coach who has been with winners and knows what it takes to win. His resume is packed with varied and high-quality experience, and turning around lower achieving teams.
That isn’t the case here, of course, and with the talent the Chargers have now, Turner is expected to at least reach the playoffs again.
He will, and the Chargers should even win a game or two when they get there.
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Rugby A Smashing Hit At Petco:
In case you missed it, the most exciting sports event to come to this area in a long time, the Steinlager USA Sevens, attracted a total of 30,000 fans at Petco Park on Feb. 10 and 11.
A variation of rugby union, the sevens game is fast, and unrelenting. It features seven men per side, playing seven minute halves, with practically nonstop tackling, running and scoring. Think American football without pads and all those damn timeouts.
The tournament, part of an international series in seven other countries, featured 16 nations, and was won by Fiji, which beat Samoa in the finals. But the real winner was the city of San Diego, which will host the event at least for the next four years.
Ray Peterson, managing director for the event, said the turnout would have been better had the weather cooperated on Sunday, but all things considered, it was a spectacular success.
“For a first year event that nobody understood, it was great and those numbers will only go up,” he said. “By year four, we’ll sell out Petco and have no reason to leave.”
Peterson said the event posted a loss, but that was expected. Preliminary estimates put the total direct and indirect spending from the event at $14 million, he said.
One highlight: The U.S. team’s huge upset of Kenya on Saturday, and winning three games to come in fourth place. Before the tourney began, the team was 1-31-1.
“The world has been waiting for the United States to start showing us something, and they did during that weekend,” Peterson said.
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Mexico’s Futbol Comes To The Q:
The world’s biggest sport (even bigger than rugby) comes to Qualcomm Stadium on Feb. 28 in an exhibition soccer match (called a “friendly”) between Mexico and Venezuela. This will be the first time the Mexicans have played in San Diego since December 2005, when they packed Petco Park in scoreless match against Sweden.
Expect a big, and raucous crowd, promoters say.
“We’ve got 30,000 tickets already distributed, and if ticket sales keep the current pace, we should have about 50,000 at the game,” said Marisabel Munez, spokeswoman for the game.
In addition to the game, promoters organized an accompanying fan festival that includes live music and interactive games.
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Surf Dawgs Hang It Up:
Apparently the San Diego Surf Dawgs, a minor league baseball team that was started in 2005, is no more. Repeated calls to the parent’s Golden Baseball League weren’t returned, but the league’s Web site shows the San Diego team missing, as does the 2007 schedule.
The team that played its games at San Diego State University’s Tony Gwynn Stadium was apparently trying to renegotiate its five-year lease at the site, and couldn’t come to an agreement with the school.
The Surf Dawgs made a nice debut in the GBL’s inaugural season by signing future Hall of Famer and former Padre Rickey Henderson. They also had another former major league star, Jose Canseco, for a brief time until he went to Long Beach.
The team said it averaged more than 1,000 fans per game in the two seasons, but anyone who attended a game would be surprised by that figure.
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Padres Hire Masur And Miller:
The Padres hired Andy Masur to join Ted Leitner and Jerry Coleman in the radio broadcast booth this season. Masur is a former radio voice for the Chicago Cubs, and also worked as a sports anchor for WGN Radio, the Cubs’ flagship station.
The team also hired Warren Miller as its director of media relations. He was most recently the assistant director of baseball information for the Seattle Mariners.
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