At 66, Norv Turner relishes return to coaching with Panthers
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Norv Turner easily could have opted to keep traveling the world with his wife, writing country music songs and playing with his grandchildren.
At 66, who would have blamed him?
Instead, Turner decided to return for a 33rd season of NFL coaching as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
Turner, who won two Super Bowls as a coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s, wasn’t necessarily looking to return to coaching after sitting out last season. But when approached about the Panthers’ job opening, Turner couldn’t resist the chance to reunite with head coach Ron Rivera — Turner’s assistant for four seasons when he was head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
He’s also joining his son, Panthers quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, and has the opportunity to coach a “talented group” of players that includes 2015 league MVP quarterback Cam Newton.
“It’s a unique situation,” Turner said.
Turner joins a team that has his fingerprints all over it.
When Rivera was hired by the Panthers in 2011 — also Newton’s rookie season — he brought in Turner understudy Rob Chudzinski as his offensive coordinator. And when Mike Shula took over when Chudzinski left to coach the Cleveland Browns, many of Turner’s play calls remained. So it’s not like Turner is starting anew.
But he does have some new ideas.
“We are trying to build a complete offense and that will include things they have done here and it will include things they haven’t done here,” said Turner without elaborating on specifics.
Newton said the onus has been on Turner “to take what we have done good and expand on it, rather than just ripping the sheets of paper up and having a this-is-my-way-or-the-highway mentality.”
So far the two say they’ve bonded well.
Turner was familiar with Newton because Scott worked with him during his first two seasons with the Panthers in his first stint as quarterbacks coach.
Turner said he likes the way Newton sees the entire field, but that his goal is to improve the quarterback’s decision-making skills.
“We want to make sure we get all of our eligible receivers involved,” Turner said.
Turner also wants to see Newton’s career 58.1 completion percentage increase significantly, something Newton has already said he’s eager to work on.
“That has to be my mentality,” Newton said . “We have a lot of guys who can take two yards and turn it into 20 yards, or more. But it starts with me and I have to trust those guys and get the ball to them.”
The Panthers talked last season about limiting the wear and tear on Newton’s body after undergoing rotator cuff surgery in March 2017 by cutting down on his running.
Newton is 29 and entering his eighth NFL season.
But Turner put no restrictions on Newton, Carolina’s leading rusher last season and the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns rushing by a quarterback, when he spoke after practice Thursday.
“Every game is different and all of sudden you are in a game where they are pressuring and he puts the ball down and runs three or four times, and then you have three or four runs called. … so there are games where he is going to carry the ball,” Turner said. “And there are games where he is not going to carry the ball. A lot depends on how people defend us. A lot depends on how well we are playing, too.”
Turner did reiterate Rivera’s point that Christian McCaffrey will be a focal point of the offense, saying that 20-25 touches per game is not out of the question for the second-year running back.
The man who co-wrote a country music song called “Things I’ve Never Done,” with Stephen Ray, the son of former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci, is clearly enjoying the idea of doing what he’s done for more than three decades.
It is, after all, a unique situation for him.
“I am very comfortable with coach Rivera and the things he likes to do,” Turner said. “We were together for four years, so nothing is a shock to me.”