Drilling Down on Coaching Moves: The Firing of Norv Turner

I threw together the chart below as a quick illustration of the trajectory of the San Diego franchise over the past decade.  It shows the Simple Rating for the Chargers over that time and then I’ve drawn a box in to illustrate where the Marty Schottenheimer era ended and the Norv Turner era began.

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To make it easy to understand what the Chargers’ SRS in 2006 would be like, you might think of the 49ers’ 2012 team, which also has an SRS of about 10 positive points.

One of the things that we see with NFL teams is that they sometimes make decisions where they are choosing between a known quantity (that they might find sub-optimal) and an unknown quantity, and they will often choose the unknown quantity just to make a change.  This is a mindset that goes “We’re not where we want to be right now, so any change must get us closer to where we want to be.”  That mentality probably has some application with a losing team, but with winning teams it will more often than not lead to the franchise going in the wrong direction.  This is simple probability at play.  If you have a coach whose lifetime winning percentage is .613 and has been recently winning, your expectation when you fire him is that you are going to be hiring a worse coach.  It’s kind of like in blackjack if you were to hit on a 17 when the dealer is showing a face card.  It might seem like you have to do something in order to beat that expected 20 that the dealer might have, but the action you take (hitting) is actually going to be worse for your odds of winning.

The Chargers probably have bigger problems than just Norv Turner, as their personnel also seems to be a mess now.  But I don’t think it’s debatable that the Chargers fired a good coach and replaced him with a coach who is maybe average.  Again, we have to worry about the decision making ability of franchises that can’t understand the odds when they make choices like that.