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Wednesday, 29 August 2007 18:02
NFL Headline News

 By now every person picking first in every fantasy football draft in America has either chosen LaDainian Tomlinson or is about to.
The decision to take a 31-touchdown running back is a brainless one, of course, but it's also exciting because there's a chance LT could somehow get even better now that he's teamed with offensive guru Norv Turner.
It does make you wonder, though: Just how much of a guru is Turner? We've all readily accepted his guru-ness, but exactly what kind of impact will he really have on the Chargers' top fantasy players?
If history repeats, LT and Antonio Gates will continue to dominate, and at least one other skill player will get much better. In each of Turner's six NFL stops as coach or offensive coordinator, one or more player's numbers immediately skyrocketed.
(History also indicates San Diego will underperform, Turner will eventually get fired and everyone will moan, ``Why'd they go and overpromote such a gifted offensive coordinator?'' But I'll leave that to the people who write about real football.)
For fantasy purposes, Tomlinson will of course continue to go crazy under Turner. Yes, it's a bold statement, but I'll bravely stand by it.
Even if LT weren't so amazing last year, he'd be in for some big numbers. Good backs always thrive in Turner's offense, starting with Emmitt Smith and continuing with Terry Allen, Stephen Davis, Ricky Williams, LaMont Jordan and Frank Gore.
In fact, Turner was Tomlinson's coordinator his rookie year, when he had 1,236 yards and 10 scores.
Quarterbacks usually post better numbers as soon as Turner arrives. Philip Rivers is especially intriguing because he's the best quarterback - statistically - to ever be waiting at Turner's next job.
In an interesting quirk during his guru-hood, Turner has often milked production out of crummy quarterbacks. He's guru-ed up the likes of Heath Shuler, Jay Fiedler, Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte, John Friesz and Doug Flutie.
If Turner can get the underachievers achieving, imagine what he can do with a guy like Rivers who had nearly 3,400 yards, 22 TDs and nine interceptions in his first season starting.
Just look at what Turner has done for QBs in their first season with him.
Last year Alex Smith threw 16 touchdowns with Turner as offensive coordinator in San Francisco - a huge increase from his one-TD, 11-interception rookie debacle.
In 2004, when Turner arrived as head coach in Oakland, he somehow extracted 3,500 yards and 21 TDs from Collins - an increase of eight scores from the year before.
Turner got about 3,500 yards out of Flutie when they were together in Turner's previous stop in San Diego, as offensive coordinator in 2001.
He even got 10 touchdowns out of Shuler as a rookie in 1994 in Washington. (He also had 12 interceptions, but this is Heath Shuler we're talking about.)
As Dallas' offensive coordinator, Turner helped Troy Aikman cut his interceptions by eight in their first year together. The next year he coached Aikman's only 20-touchdown season.
The glaring post-Washington exception to his QB work was Fiedler, whose numbers got worse in an offense bent on feeding Williams so much that he'd rather wander the planet in search of himself.
Turner's offense is also known for feeding the No. 1 receiver.
The most famous example was Michael Irvin in Dallas, who went over 1,500 yards the year Turner arrived - an increase of about 1,100 yards from the season before.
The featured receiver for the Chargers appears to be Vincent Jackson, who caught three touchdowns in the last two games of 2006 and has three preseason scores in limited play.
Of course, that's not to say Jackson has to be the next Irvin to thrive under Turner.
When Turner took over in Washington, the 33-year-old Henry Ellard went for 1,397 yards even though the Redskins were dreadful. In Turner's first year in Oakland, Jerry Porter had 998 yards and nine touchdowns - a year after he had just 28 catches and under 400 yards.
Again, the biggest exception in his career is Miami, where Chris Chambers' numbers actually fell as he took up blocking for Williams. There wasn't really a big receiver in San Francisco, either, because Gore was pretty busy doing everything.
At tight end, it seems Gates will continue to be ridiculous - again a courageous opinion, but one I'll spice up with some evidence.
If there's one thing Turner's run-Ricky-till-he-drops tactic in Miami shows, it's that Turner will stick with what works. And Gates has worked pretty well, averaging 11 scores the past three years.
Plus, Turner has shown an eagerness to use a tight end before, feeding Jay Novacek 60 balls a year in a Dallas offense that didn't pass all that much.
So the stats have been assessed in a very scientific manner, and they seem to support Turner's guru-osity continuing in San Diego.
Even if he gets canned sooner rather than later, a system featuring LT, Gates, Rivers and Jackson should only add to his reputation.
 

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