It’s pitiful Turner’s turn to hit the nearest thruway

Jan 3, 2006 4:26 AM

I watched, in the waning hours of 2005, what Oakland Raiders’ fans must have hoped were the waning hours of Norv Turner’s tenure as the hapless and clueless coach of that stricken team.

It was a pathetic way to end a year. I sat amazed and unbelieving, as did the Raiders best offensive weapon, Randy Moss, as Turner, given a chance to score from within the five-yard line on an interference call with three minutes to play, frittered away all chances. Instead of using Moss as a decoy or scorer, Turner benched him and sent Zack Crockett straight ahead into the line on three unimaginative plunges, followed by a slow Kerry Collins quarterback sneak. The Giants stopped all four cold on the one-yard line.

Then on Sunday, more of the same. The Arizona Cardinals blow a victory against the Colts. Show ’em you’re tough guys, men. Straight up the middle. No deception. No trickery. That’s only for fancy guys who win games. We have brute strength, but small brains.

How two guys coaching National Football League teams could not come up with one innovative play, one sweep, one trick in eight downs is pathetic. How Turner could leave Moss, with two touchdowns for the day, on the bench, is incredible. Moss’s fury was palpable, the smoke from his ears visible on television a thousand miles away. He started out on the field, buckling on his helmet, convinced he could score again or help Oakland score, and got a good 20 yards out before Turner called him back.

The Raiders’ press blurbs calls Turner "one of the NFL’s finest offensive coaches," citing his past jobs with the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins and his years as head coach of the Washington Redskins before he got canned there.

During those years, of course, he had people like Ricky Williams and Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin and LaDainian Tomlinson to help out. Guys like them can make anyone look like "a fine offensive coach."

A gal named Janie McCauley, writing for the Associated Press, scribbled before the Oakland debacle last Saturday, "When Norv Turner’s children were young, they had a hard time with the constant speculation surrounding his job security that comes with being an NFL coach." The kids are grown now, but they still need to be concerned about the old man fulfilling the final year of his three-year contract with the Raiders.

Turner is the 14th head coach of the Raiders. The man who picked and fired those guys, Al Davis, now is 76 and ailing. Even so, he needs to try a 15th before things get worse. Otherwise, all those hideous black and white skulls and bones will start coming down out of the stands, dismemberment on their minds.

McCauley wrote that Turner "seems determined to keep doing his job in the same tireless way until told otherwise." She must have meant "the same old tired way," the Raiders having lost their last six games and eight of their last nine. Turner told her, "Anytime in a season you start 0-3, you know you’re fighting an uphill battle." He might have said, "Anytime in a season you start 0 and 3 and finish 0 and 6”¦" McCauley pointed out that Davis may not have an easy time finding a replacement, since "finding someone willing to work under the demanding Davis also could prove challenging."

The National Football League had to be ashamed of itself last weekend. There were those super attractions like the Jets (3-12) vs. the Bills (5-10), the Texans (2-13) against the 49ers (3-12), both playing for Reggie Bush and nothing else, and the Ravens (6-9) vs. the Browns (5-10). Exciting stuff, eh? New York writer Judy Battista wrote of the Texan-49er game, "The only person in America who should be watching this game is Reggie Bush, because it will help determine whom he will be running the ball for next season — if he chooses to enter the draft."

Even with NFL salaries as outrageous as they are, if Reggie looks at what was offered as professional football last weekend, he might stay in school and plan and work on his post-football career.