If a news conference is called today to announce the firing of Norv Turner as coach of the San Diego Chargers, it would be a shame. He has earned the right to stand on the sideline and look lost for the season’s final five games.
Turner, the beleaguered leader of a clumsy crew of losers, has turned into one of the NFL’s great entertainers.
Nobody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory quite like this guy. And even if it’s not all his fault – and it’s not – the coach usually gets most of the blame when things go bad. The wins and losses go on his record. It’s his team.
Why Turner was brought back to coach this season was a mystery to me and pretty much everyone. Watching things go bad in San Diego is not surprising to anyone.
“Once again, the Chargers find a way to lose,” LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “It’s amazing. How did they lose that game?”
Leading by 10 points with five minutes to go, the Chargers appeared to be in control, which meant the Baltimore Ravens, who had produced one field goal in 3½ quarters, had them right where they wanted them.
Joe Flacco narrowed the gap with a touchdown pass, Philip Rivers led a futile three-and-out drive for San Diego, and Flacco eventually faced a fourth-and-29 from the Ravens 37-yard line. On an all-or-nothing play, Flacco dumped off a short pass to Ray Rice, who made a spectacular run to pick up all 29 yards.
To make an entertaining story short, Justin Tucker kicked a pair of 38-yard field goals, and Baltimore, a 1-point road favorite, won 16-13 in overtime. Turner looked beleaguered and lost.
I would say it’s hard to believe, but it’s not, because Turner and Rivers are experienced with the tough-luck stooge routine. Bettors on the 4-7 Chargers got struck by lightning, a bizarre bad beat not soon to be forgotten. Bettors on the Ravens got a gift.
“It wasn’t a big decision for us, but we certainly needed the Chargers,” Kornegay said.
There was some so-called sharp money on San Diego, and you definitely can argue that was the right side, but also never be shocked when things go wrong for Turner. He doesn’t coach the defense, obviously, but he did oversee an offense that went stagnant and put his team in position to lose.
“Most of the square money was on Baltimore,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.
Speaking of the bookmakers, they finally ended up on the winning side of an NFL weekend, something that had not happened since around the time the Chargers blew a 24-0 halftime lead to Peyton Manning on Oct. 15.
“It was the best Sunday we’ve had in November, but that’s not really saying much,” Kornegay said. “We had some positive results to show for the first time since probably mid-October. This has been one of the worst football seasons we’ve seen on the books’ side.”
Kornegay credited the books’ profits to the “mixed results that we normally see.”
Five underdogs covered, and four of them (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Miami and St. Louis) won outright.
In no way was it a major upset, because Charlie Batch was the quarterback and Pittsburgh was just a 1-point road favorite, but the Browns beating the Steelers 20-14 dealt a body blow to a lot of bettors. The Steelers offense scored seven points and committed eight turnovers.
“Whenever the Steelers lose and the Browns win,” Kornegay said, “it’s going to be a positive result for us.”
Same goes for the Denver Broncos losing and the Chiefs covering. Manning passed for two touchdowns, but you could tell right away the underdog came to play, and the Broncos, laying 10½ points, were in trouble. Manning got the win, 17-9, but failed to cover for the second straight week.
I lost with Pittsburgh and Green Bay, which did not come to play in a 38-10 loss to the New York Giants. (Here’s a bad beat story for over-the-total bettors: Eli Manning and the Giants had a first down at the 6-yard line with six minutes to go, but somehow failed to score, and a scoreless fourth quarter kept the final under the total of 51.)
I pushed with the underdog in Tampa Bay’s 24-23 loss to Atlanta – thanks to the Falcons missing an ill-advised 48-yard field goal try with eight seconds remaining – and finally cashed a ticket on San Francisco in its 31-21 victory over New Orleans.
The 49ers rolled the dice with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and were rewarded. The Saints’ Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes, but two were to San Francisco defenders.
The day will be remembered most for the Chargers’ choke job.
“There’s something wrong with Rivers. Maybe he’s just a broken quarterback,” Rood said. “I think they will let Turner ride the season out. But they could get rid of him.”
The latest of many fiascos in the Turner error surely signals the end of his era.
But hopefully he’s not fired today, because his team is entertaining in an odd sort of way.
Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.