Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner a perfect fit for former Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden

Offenses usually have experienced significant improvement the first season under Norv Turner. If that trend continues, former OSU QB Brandon Weeden could have a breakout season.
by Michael Baldwin Modified: September 1, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: August 31, 2013
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photo - Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) passes as offensive coordinator Norv Turner watches during practice at the NFL football team's facility in Berea, Ohio Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) ORG XMIT: OHMD102
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) passes as offensive coordinator Norv Turner watches during practice at the NFL football team's facility in Berea, Ohio Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) ORG XMIT: OHMD102

Throw out the name Norv Turner and a typical response is: “Great offensive coordinator, not a good head coach.”

At age 61, Turner might be running out of chances to be an NFL head coach after posting a cumulative sub-.500 record with the Redskins, Raiders and Chargers. But when it comes to designing plays and scoring points, Turner has been one of football's top offensive minds for two decades.

Offenses usually have experienced significant improvement the first season under Turner. If that trend continues, former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden could have a breakout season with the Cleveland Browns.

“Look at his track record with Troy (Aikman), Alex Smith, Phillip Rivers, all those guys,” Weeden said. “He put them in position to throw for a lot of yards and win a lot of games. As a quarterback that's what you want. You can learn so much. He will make you a better player.”

Turner's career took off two decades ago in his first NFL offensive coordinator gig when he inherited a Dallas Cowboys offense ranked 28th{+ }— dead last in the NFL. Aikman was entering his third season.

In Turner's debut season, the Cowboys doubled their scoring output, improving from 15.2 points a game to 30.3.

Turner oversaw similar turnarounds with the Redskins in 1993, the Chargers in 2000, the Raiders in 2003 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2005.

So, what's Turner's secret?

“I have a tremendous appreciation for his knowledge of offensive football,” Aikman said. “But what separates Norv from others is his confidence as a play-caller. He finds out what his players do best and puts them in position to make plays.”

Weeden made plays at OSU during his two years as the starter. After throwing for 9,260 yards, 75 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, Weeden was selected 22nd overall by the Browns in the 2012 draft.

“When you watched him in college when he got set and he got his sights on someone, and the guy was running open, he didn't miss him very often,” Turner told the Cleveland Browns' website. “He's been doing that here. He's capable of throwing every pass in the playbook.”

Developing quarterbacks of all ages

During his 22 seasons as an NFL head coach/offensive coordinator, Turner has worked with a variety of quarterbacks.

Turner has trained No. 1 overall picks like Aikman and Smith. Rivers, a No. 4 overall pick, made four Pro Bowl appearances in six seasons.

Some of Turner's success stories were quarterbacks in their 30s.

In the middle of a 15-year career, Tulsa University product Gus Frerotte was Turner's quarterback for three seasons in Washington. Brad Johnson, at age 30 and 31, had two highly productive seasons with the Redskins. In Oakland, Kerry Collins turned in two solid seasons at age 31 and 32.

Turner's ability to adjust was most evident during his first stint with the Chargers. In his one season as offensive coordinator, San Diego finished in the middle of the league in scoring in 2001 when Turner leaned on 39-year-old quarterback Doug Flutie.

“Norv learned from one of the best passing coordinators in league history in Don Coryell,” Frerotte said. “What Norv is really good at is understanding when a team is going to blitz, knowing their defensive tendencies, knowing the coordinators. He's a great game-planner.

“It's the digit system that Norv is really good. The digit system takes a little time to learn, but it's a system designed to beat defenses because it's an offense that can do everything and beat defenders to a spot. Norv uses everyone: receivers, tight ends, running backs.”

The Coryell offense philosophy is a combination of deep- and midrange passes and a power ground game. The passing game is based on timing and rhythm. Quarterbacks have the option of throwing a pass before the receiver completes his route.

“Norv has a philosophy that you're going to push the ball down the field,” Frerotte said. “As a quarterback you set up in the pocket. There's not a lot of scrambling around. Quarterbacks throw everything from deep routes to 15- to 20-yards timing patterns.”

Frerotte watched some of Weeden's games last year in Cleveland and some of his games at OSU.

“He's been around the block,” Frerotte said. “He's not your typical second-year player. He's older. He's more mature. Life experiences can help you on a football field. He understands where he's at right now. This offense will be a good fit for him once he learns it.”

Emphasis on the running game

Aikman said balance is the primary reason Turner's game plans are difficult to defend.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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