- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Former Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner returned to the assistant ranks yesterday as offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers and said he's looking forward to teaching players rather than dealing with the politics of running a team.

Citing the successful transition Redskins defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes made last season when he joined Washington after coaching in Philadelphia and Green Bay, Turner accepted the lesser role without reservation.

"Watching Ray enjoy himself just pure coaching without having to deal with other things was impressive," Turner told The Washington Times. "I want to be a head coach, but I'm 48 years old, and if I can be part of the turnaround [in San Diego] and an opening comes again I'll look forward to it."

Turner turned down recent offers from Arizona and Tampa Bay before signing a four-year deal with San Diego. More than a dozen teams talked with Turner about becoming an offensive coordinator, but none showed interest in him as its coach. Turner's wife Nancy is a San Diego native, and that contributed to the decision. Turner's family won't join him until eldest son Scott graduates from Oakton High School in June.

San Diego was 1-15 and finished 28th in offense last season. The team is considering whether to keep troubled quarterback Ryan Leaf or veteran Jim Harbaugh or draft Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick if he forgoes his college eligibility with the first selection in the April 21 draft.

Turner also might be reunited with Washington quarterback Brad Johnson or St. Louis quarterback Trent Green. Johnson is an unrestricted free agent who said he wouldn't mind following Turner. Green started 14 games for Washington in 1998 before signing with St. Louis but probably will be traded during the offseason.

The Chargers' offensive woes don't bother Turner. After all, Dallas was 28th in 1990 before Turner's arrival, then won Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII.

"Teams turn around fast in this league," he said. "This team was in a lot of games last year. They had a lot of close losses. You can find a way to improve the people here and add players, and with a normal improvement you can win some games."

Turner was looking for an AFC job, believing the conference would be less defensively oriented than the NFC. However, Turner has spent his entire 16-season pro career in the NFC. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams from 1985 to 1990 and the Cowboys offensive coordinator from 1991 to 1993 before joining Washington.

"This change will be good for me," Turner said. "There will be some people that are unfamiliar."

Once considered the hottest NFL assistant coach, Turner was signed by Washington in January 1994 before he could visit Arizona. Turner was 50-60-1 in nearly seven years with the Redskins before being fired by owner Dan Snyder on Dec. 4. The Redskins reached the playoffs only in 1999 under Turner, beating Detroit in the first round before losing to Tampa Bay. Still, Turner finished with winning seasons in four of the last five years.

Turner didn't look back with bitterness over his firing, which came with a 7-6 record in a season in which the Redskins were expected to contend for the Super Bowl.

"I've had a long time to put that behind me," he said. "I'm looking forward to this situation."

The Redskins will visit the Chargers this fall. While new Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer recently admitted he will be charged up when the Redskins play his former Kansas City Chiefs, Turner could only chuckle over the prospect of revenge.

"That's way too far away to worry about," he said.

Meanwhile, former Redskins offensive line coach Russ Grimm visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, and former quarterbacks coach Rich Olson soon will meet with the Cincinnati Bengals. Grimm is considered a front-runner to join the Steelers.

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