By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
What are you doing?: Norv Turner is entering his 29th NFL season of coaching. The Browns are his eighth team. He broke in with John Robinson when the Rams still played in Los Angeles. Robinson has been out of the NFL since 1992 – and Turner keeps humming along.
Turner’s career took off after piloting the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships in three years as Jimmy Johnson’s offensive coordinator. Troy Aikman still calls him the best play-caller in the NFL.
The Cowboys’ gig earned Turner the head coach job with the Redskins. He also was head coach of the Raiders and Chargers. With the Chargers, Turner hired Rob Chudzinski two times after Chud’s tenure with the Browns was blown up – in 2005 as tight ends coach and in 2009 as tight ends coach and assistant head coach.
When Turner joined the Browns at age 61 -- this time with Chudzinski as his boss -- it was the fifth different team for which he held the job of offensive coordinator.
“I’ve had people say, ‘What are you doing?’” Turner mused.
I tell him he’s a lifer.
“No. I like coaching,” Turner said, affirming my assertion. “This is a great opportunity. My relationship with Rob … the opportunity to work with my son (Scott, Browns receivers coach) … and this offensive staff, I have a connection with almost every guy other than (running backs coach) John Settle. We have a really good offensive staff.
“And a chance … I think there’s some real fun and sense of accomplishment when you can get involved with a group that you hope is going to make a move. This is a good young group and we have a chance, if we do the right things, to be a real good group.”
Setting it up: I first met Turner in the middle of the 1993 season when Bernie Kosar joined the Cowboys after he was fired by Bill Belichick.
Kosar was cut on a Monday morning. Within 24 hours, Kosar was on a plane to Dallas. In a first class seat, Kosar devoured scribbled notes on the Cowboys’ terminology dictated to him on Monday night by Turner. (This was before the Internet and Ipads.)
With the help of Turner and Jason Garrett – the Cowboys’ backup quarterback who now is the team’s head coach – Kosar crammed the Dallas playbook and played three quarters on his fifth day with the team. The Cowboys, needing every win to keep pace with the 49ers for NFC best record, beat the Arizona Cardinals with Aikman sidelined with a concussion.
I spoke with Turner on Thursday after the team’s third OTA practice of the new season. This was about two hours before news broke of the Browns’ contract agreement with quarterback Brian Hoyer.
This first part of a two-part interview is devoted exclusively to Brandon Weeden.
The impression is that you and Chud went to bat for Weeden when the CEO and GM wanted him replaced. What do you like about him?
Turner: I don’t know if it comes down to Brandon as much as it comes down to this team and where we’re at. Brandon’s got the physical skills to do what we want to do. I think getting Jason (Campbell) is a bonus, because you’re getting a guy that’s played and knows how to play the game, played in a lot of games and been a successful quarterback.
I think it’s just being realistic about the position. What’s thrown this out of whack a little bit is there have been some players at the position the last couple years that have had immediate impact. Sometimes that has more to do with the situation they go into as the player himself. I don’t know that there’s a lot of guys in a certain sense last year would have great success offensively at the quarterback position for a lot of reasons.
I think Brandon can have success in this offense in this system. But we all have a lot of work to do. The thing we have going for us, we’re pretty good in the offensive line. Everywhere else we’re awfully young, so we all have a lot of work to do.
Weeden said he’s been working on his footwork. Any other fundamentals he needs to work on?
Turner: His footwork’s improving a great deal. I don’t think he’s a lot different from most guys that come out of college now in the spread and shotgun type offenses because I just don’t think there’s a lot of emphasis on that. There are some things he’s very comfortable with that we’re doing. He is comfortable in the shotgun. There are some things in the shotgun he needs to work on. There are some things you have to be able to run under center and he’s working to get better at that. His feet have improved a lot in six weeks and he needs to keep working on it.
What about the way he throws? Anything there he needs work on?
Turner: His throwing mechanics are outstanding. He’s got an outstanding release. I think it’s speeded up already. He’s got very good accuracy. He’s got a good feel for how to throw different styles of balls. I watched all his college tapes. The games he played against all those guys picked a year ago, they (Oklahoma State) beat them all. A lot has to do with your team, but he knows how to play quarterback and he knows how to play in a spread-out passing game. I think playing in the NFL’s a little different because things happen a lot faster than they do in college, and he’s making that transition.
How do you make him play faster?
Turner: He does throw the ball up the field awfully well. There are some things we still need to work hard on to get him speeded up. We did it with Brad Johnson when he came to Washington. First of all, the physical act of your drop(back), putting your foot in the ground, turning the ball loose. What helps speed that up is recognizing where we want to throw the ball and then making quick decisions.
In 2007, Chud coached Derek Anderson to an alternate spot in the Pro Bowl. Should we expect something similar from Weeden?
Turner: We have high standards in terms of what we want to do on offense. I’ll preface everything by saying we have an awful lot of work to do. But you have to have an expectation of going out to execute, not having negative plays, not making mental errors. We want to score points. We want to have an explosive offense. That’s what we talk about every day. An explosive play … we threw a ball today in the flat to Josh Gordon and he would have run for 40 yards. So an explosive play, the ball doesn’t have to go 40 yards. We want to move those guys around and put them in position to use their abilities. And we’ve got a number of guys with good ability.
Next: Trent Richardson’s big impression, Josh Gordon’s unique skills, Jordan Cameron and the tight ends, the fullback position and the pistol formation.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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