Posted January 01, 2013

Will Philip Rivers thrive or fold without Norv Turner at his side?

NFL Coaches, San Diego Chargers
Norv Turner and Philip Rivers have four playoff trips together, but none since 2009. (Joshua Blanchard/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Norv Turner and Philip Rivers have four playoff trips together, but none since 2009. (Joshua Blanchard/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Go ahead, try to explain Philip Rivers’ current legacy as an NFL quarterback without mentioning (or is it blaming?) Norv Turner.

I’ll wait …

The truth is that, even though Rivers opened his career as a starter with a 14-2 season under Marty Schottenheimer, he and Turner have been linked, for better or worse, like characters in some campy ’80s buddy comedy. Through all the Chargers’ successes and, more noticeably, their failures, the two headlining constants from 2007-12 have been Rivers and Turner.

Now, it’s time for Rivers to venture out on his own. And that legacy of his depends on what he does with the opportunity.

“My only goal is the Super Bowl,” Chargers president Dean Spanos said Monday, in announcing the firings of Turner and GM A.J. Smith. “And that is why I have decided to move in a new direction with both our head coach and general manager positions.”

He said nothing of his 31-year-old quarterback, who, presumably, will be waiting to run the offense for San Diego’s new coach.

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On paper, Rivers’ presence should be a boon in the coaching search. There are not many teams out there with such an accomplished QB in their back pocket. Rivers has 70 career wins, nearly 28,000 passing yards and four trips to the playoffs.

But he is coming off two of the worst seasons of his career — he tossed 35 interceptions over 2011 and ’12 en route to a combined 15-17 record. After reaching the postseason during his first four years as a starter, Rivers has not been back since 2009.

The Chargers may be banking on that drought being the faults of Turner and Smith. What if Rivers, though, was the biggest part of the problem rather than hope for a quick solution?

It’s odd to still be wondering about the prospects of a nine-year NFL QB, but Rivers’ head-scratcher of a career has left more questions than answers. Perhaps, by going 3-4 in the playoffs and then slumping this season, Rivers actually solved the riddle. With each passing year, the possibility increases that Rivers is nothing more than a solid quarterback who cannot win the big one — an AFC Tony Romo.

Still, as with Romo, we’ve always gotten the sense that there is something more. An untapped greatness that occasionally shows up for a game or two, only to vanish just as quickly.

Turner shouldered the brunt of the criticism in recent years, understandably. His time in San Diego was pockmarked by coaching blunders and collapses.

He paid for his missteps in the form of his job. How much longer will the rope be for Rivers?

Rivers signed a seven-year, nearly $100 million contract back in 2009, but almost all the guaranteed money from that deal (upwards of $38 million) has been paid out — San Diego would save more than $10 million by releasing him. While the Chargers probably will not consider that option or trading their franchise QB, it’s hard to argue (despite a league-leading 4,710 yards passing in 2010) that San Diego has been rewarded for that investment.

Rivers stood by Turner throughout the coach’s ill-fated time in San Diego, even when the two butted heads. Was that merely loyalty or did Rivers 100 percent believe that Turner gave him the best chance to succeed?

The Chargers have to hope it’s not the latter — they need the post-Turner era to be a golden one for Rivers, if anything in the near future is to work.

As we turn the calendar to 2013, however, there’s no way of knowing how Rivers will react to his new situation. His career arc has been intertwined with Turner’s for what feels like forever. With the Chargers looking for change, there is no better time than now for Rivers to fully carve out his path.

21 comments
rma1015601
rma1015601

He has already folded time and again, even with Tuner babying him.  He and Romo are the most ever-rated under-perfroming QBs in the NFL

RoyCrim
RoyCrim

Chargers are a nightmare ...it all came from the front office..they let LT go before his time...blew away any chance of continuity with the V Jax saga...meanwhile Gates just keeps getting older...Norv doesn't need an excuse any more than Rivers doesn't need one...he is not that good...take away the players around him and he is worse...as a Maryland guy...we beat him every year he was at NC St...and in a couple of those games...he was the guy who melted down...I knew the Chargers got the raw end of the Eli-Rivers thing...they are just a bad organization

George
George

"It's SPANO's fault!!"

:D

 

JohnCarrasco
JohnCarrasco

No mention of why Rivers has regressed like he has......could it be his Oline?  As the sacks increased the past 3 seasons  the ints and fumbles increased.  The last time I checked football was a team game...how would Manning do with no Oline in Denver?  This article seems to be an attempt at character assassination.

fmfrijoles
fmfrijoles

I called it from the beginning Norv Turner wasted all the years of potential of that star packed Chargers roster and produced mediocre seasons again & again. Just as he did with the REDSKINS.....this guy is not meant to be a head coach....I am amazed he got gigs with the Raiders and Chargers over much more deserving candidates......

 

Please let this be the last we ever hear of Norv Turner as a head coach......PLEASE.

redskinsfan
redskinsfan

"His [Norv Turner] time in San Diego was POCKMARKED by coaching blunders and collapses." i see what you did there.

RaidersUK
RaidersUK

As a Broncos fan, ther is nothing I would like to see more than for the Chargers to release Rivers. He is a very good QB. He lost many of his really good recievers and of course LT2. The Chargers window may have closed to reach the Superbowl, but Rivers is probably their best hope at his point in time. Please release him Spanos! 

NeoSmith
NeoSmith

Sometimes, I get the sense that these articles are generated to fill space.  There is very little analysis and everything that was discussed is nothing new.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I've been making the Rivers/Romo comparison for several years. Gaudy stats with nothing substantial to show for them. Neither is a successful NFL quarterback in my opinion.

russell.tenzing.campbell
russell.tenzing.campbell

This article lacks any sort of qualitative analysis.  The reason Rivers has done bad the past two years is that he has had the absolute worst offensive line in the NFL.  Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill were both forced into early retirement 2 years ago and their replacements are absolutely awful.  

 

If Tom Brady or Drew Brees or any QB played behind the Chargers O-line their stats would be shadows of themselves on their respective teams,  

gmon
gmon

It also doesn't help that the QBs who were drafted the same year as Rivers (Big Ben and Eli) have combined for five Super Bowl trips and four wins.

papirazzi904
papirazzi904

 @RoyCrim Dude check the STATS...Rivers is better then Eli period...Rivers would have a ring if he had Coughlin and that defense

pandah462
pandah462

 @RoyCrim You have nightmares about a football team?  That's pathetic.  Your grammar is, too.  You should learn how to properly end a sentence.

syndromezed
syndromezed

That's a little over the top, though.  The article's hardly character assassination - Burke doesn't say "The real Rivers is the sucky one."  Comparing him to Romo isn't like saying he's the next Ryan Leaf, either. 

 

Sure, it's very likely bad play by the O line is contributing.  But Manning has a very quick "scan and release" mechanism built-in - even with a leaky offensive line Peyton can survey the field and make a throw fast.  Turner hasn't developed that in Rivers as well as he needed to, from what I've seen.  And Rivers is a little less adept at extending the play by moving around in the pocket than some other elite QB's.  Again, though, Turner and the QB coaches have failed to develop this ability.  Manning would do worse than he did with Denver this year if he had a worse offensive line - but he'd still be pretty darn good because of his innate talents.  We still haven't seen whether Phil has those talents because they were never developed properly.

 

Ultimately it's a combination - Smith's lousy work in maintaining the offensive line's skill, Turner's failure to develop some of Phil's potential, and maybe a lack of potential to develop in Rivers himself that would break him out of the rut he's in.  But that also means his "regression" isn't regression at all, it's his true ability to play under duress.  Most pocket-passer QB's look good with lots of time to sit back and throw - Carson Palmer, front and center! - but turn out to be less able to handle the position when the #2 hits the fan - Palmer, go retire again!  Now we'll get to see if Rivers can step up or not - and that's hardly assassinating his character.

syndromezed
syndromezed

 @fmfrijoles You weren't the only one :)  I spent every year after Marty was fired telling my wife and anyone who'd listen that the Bolts will never win a Super Bowl with Turner as head coach.

 

I still think he had pictures of Spanos at a Tijuana Donkey Show, or something like that, because that's the only reason I can think of for his staying power as a head coach.

mc501
mc501

 @redskinsfan Kinda harsh I know.

 

But REALLY funny for those of us who also noticed!

LarsWongraven
LarsWongraven

 @Nick5  @russell.tenzing.campbell 

Agree with RTC, and Nick I have to put the INTs largely on the shoulders of a really weak O Line. It seems like Rivers has made a lot of desperate throws to try and keep SD in the game while his protection crumbled around him. I'm comfortable with Rivers in the pocket under new leadership and (hopefully) with a couple of good linemen. But we'll see I suppose

syndromezed
syndromezed

 @LarsWongraven  @Nick5  @russell.tenzing.campbell Except a lot of those "desperate" throws were simply bad decisions on Rivers' part.  Football's more of a team sport than any other big sport, and the fact that the defense would let the opposition march up and down the field building a lead - or like with Denver, giving up a huge lead - contributed.

 

But think about that Denver game - the offensive line didnt' just stop playing in the second half, you know.  Rivers still made some bad decisions and lousy throws when he had a big enough lead to be able to just chuck the ball away.  And the Tampa game, where he threw two incredibly dumb INT's.

 

RIvers has to shoulder some of the blame too, it's not just his offensive line.  If he can't make good decisions on the fly or under pressure, he's not going to be much more than Burke's "Romo of the AFC" (sounds like a reality show title).