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Turner-Phillips intriguing subplot to ‘Boys-Bolts

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-chargers-cowboys&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    By Jaime Aron

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2009/1210/nfl_u_turner_phillips_576.jpg"><img title="Norv Turner and Wade Phillips" src="http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2009/1210/nfl_u_turner_phillips_576.jpg" alt="Norv Turner and Wade Phillips" width="244" height="137" /></a></div>

    ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)-The last time Jerry Jones hired a head coach, he narrowed his choice to either Wade Phillips or Norv Turner.

    Considering how things have turned out, Jones should've hired both: Phillips to run things through Thanksgiving, then Turner to take over from there.

    Phillips got the job, of course, while Turner wound up the head coach in San Diego. Phillips' teams have been terrific the first three months of every season, while Turner's clubs have done the opposite, struggling early, then posting a perfect record in the final month and remaining strong in the playoffs.

    On Sunday, the coaches square off for the first time since Jones chose between them to replace Bill Parcells in Dallas, with their teams following predictable paths.

    Since they were 2-3, the Chargers have rolled to seven straight wins. The latest improved them to 10-0 in December under Turner and gave them an NFL record with 15 straight wins in the month. They lead the AFC West and could even clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win and several other favorable results around the league.

    The Cowboys have a stout 8-4 record and a share of first place in the NFC East, but the outlook isn't so great.

    An ugly loss to the New York Giants last weekend stripped away the good vibes of a 6-1 wave they had been riding. Avoiding a second straight loss is a must because next up is a trip to New Orleans to face the currently undefeated Saints, and because a two-game losing streak would play into the perception/reality of another promising season going down the drain in December and early January.

    The Cowboys haven't had a winning record in the final month since 1996, which also is the last time they won a playoff game. Their unwanted holiday tradition obviously predates Phillips, but he's done nothing to stop it.

    On his watch, Dallas is 27-8 through Thanksgivings, but 3-7 after that, counting a loss in his only trip to the playoffs. Keep it up and he likely won't be back next season, despite Bill Belichick being the only coach with more regular-season wins since '07.

    Cowboys players have spoken out this week about winning to help Phillips keep his job.

    "There's pressure on everyone from the head coach down to the practice squad guys, that's just part of being in this league," Cowboys linebacker <span>Keith Brooking</span> said. "The key is putting your blinders on. Not looking to your left or looking to your right, definitely not looking behind, just facing it, looking forward and just preparing each week, exhaust yourself and take it out on the field on Sunday."

    Phillips is quite popular in San Diego's locker room, too, because of the success he had as their defensive coordinator from 2004-06. He set up the defense Ron Rivera now runs.

    The opposite is true in Dallas. Turner was the offensive coordinator when the Cowboys won the Super Bowl following the 1992 and '93 seasons. Jason Garrett was a backup quarterback on those clubs and uses many of the things he learned from Turner as the team's current offensive coordinator.

    As it turns out, Garrett and Rivera also were among the candidates Jones considered when he hired Phillips over Turner.

    "You look at the tape and a lot of it is very similar to us and what we do," Turner said. "I think in a lot of cases both groups have a handle on what the other is doing."

    Turner's San Diego teams have gone 18-16 from September through November, but they've followed their perfect Decembers with three playoff wins and a trip to the AFC championship game.

    So Turner could be tempted to strut into Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. When he greets Jones, he might say nice things about the $1.2 billion palace and slip in a line about how many bills a home playoff game could pay. Or he could mention what a shame it would be not to have a home playoff game the first year in the new stadium.

    However, none of that is Turner's style. Asked if he believes this game is a chance to prove Jones hired the wrong coach, Turner said, "No, I don't."

    "That's not just talking because there's so many things that are important," he said. "We have so much at stake; both teams do. - So I think any of those side issues, they're really not an issue."

    Actually, this game has plenty of side issues for the Cowboys:

    - Can they prove the loss to the Giants was a fluke and not the start of another collapse? They haven't lost consecutive games all season, and this would be a heck of a time to start with the Saints up next.

    - Can <span>Tony Romo</span> handle a 3-4 defense? He's lost four of his last five against such schemes, twice this season and twice last December.

    - Can kicker <span>Nick Folk</span> end a rut of four straight games with a missed field goal? Romo is likely to replace punter <span>Mat McBriar</span> as the holder in hopes that was the problem. This will be Romo's first hold in a game that counts since a bobble that cost Dallas a January 2007 playoff game.

    - Can Phillips' defense slow <span>Philip Rivers</span> and contain <span>LaDainian Tomlinson?</span>

    Tomlinson grew up nearby in Waco, went to college at TCU, and played the second game of his career at Texas Stadium. He hasn't been back to the area since and realizes this might be his only chance to play in the new stadium.

    "It'll be special," he said.

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