Turner latest candidate for Cowboys' job


Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

IRVING, Texas — Norv Turner got the best out of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin when he was the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator. He thinks he can do the same with Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and the rest of the club as their next head coach.

Turner interviewed for the job Sunday, becoming the seventh — and likely final — candidate being considered by owner Jerry Jones.

"I was excited to get a chance to visit and talk about things that are important to me," said Turner, San Francisco's offensive coordinator. "In this league, it's all about timing and circumstance. ... I've got a lot of confidence in the things I can do. I think there are a lot of people in this league that look at it in that manner."

Turner was the offensive coordinator in Dallas from 1991-93. He called the plays that catapulted the Cowboys to Super Bowl titles his final two seasons. Along the way, he became so close with Aikman that Turner introduced the quarterback when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer.

Although Turner went 59-83-1 over nine years as a coach with Washington and Oakland, he's considered the front-runner to replace Bill Parcells because of his long relationship with Jones and the success they had together.

Turner had not been inside team headquarters since he was hired by the Redskins in February 1994. Being back triggered many memories.

"It's just a very, very unique place," he said. "When you're away from it some time you don't realize it. But it certainly hit me at Troy's Hall of Fame induction ceremony — the Cowboys fans, all the people wearing Troy's jersey, just the excitement and energy that's always there with this organization."

Parcells retired Monday after going 34-32 the last four years. He went 0-2 in the playoffs, extending a postseason drought that dates to 1996.

Others being considered to replace him include defensive coordinators Wade Phillips of San Diego and Gary Gibbs of New Orleans, and Jason Garrett, Aikman's longtime backup who already has been hired for an undetermined job — maybe head coach, probably offensive coordinator.

Turner said he'd have no problem having Garrett on his staff. In fact, Turner tried getting Garrett on his staff in Oakland.

"That tells you a little something about how I feel about Jason," Turner said.

Jones also interviewed three of Parcells' assistant, including secondary coach Todd Bowles, who is black, thus fulfilling the league rule requiring a minority candidate.

The 54-year-old Turner has had his greatest success as an offensive coordinator.

His skill was evident again last season, when the 49ers averaged 80 yards per game more than the previous year when he was coaching the Raiders. Turner got Alex Smith to show why he'd been a No. 1 overall pick and he helped turn Frank Gore into the third-leading rusher in the NFL.

Dallas' offense was fine last season, scoring the second-most touchdowns and averaging the fourth-most points and fifth-most yards in the league. It was a collapse by the defense that had more to do with the Cowboys losing four of their last five games, including the final three.

Still, if Turner gets the job, a priority would be continuing the development of Romo, who went from undrafted, unused backup to Pro Bowl pick in only a half-season.

"My exposure to Tony is just from watching games on TV," Turner said. "Certainly he's an exciting player capable of making plays and really that's a big part of what this game is about, what this league is about. There's not a lot of guys that have that natural, great playmaking ability."

There's plenty of other talent on offense: Owens, who led the league in receiving touchdowns; Marion Barber, who led the NFC in rushing touchdowns; Julius Jones, who became the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since Smith; tight end Jason Witten, headed to his third straight Pro Bowl; and receiver Terry Glenn.

Owens, who is due a $3 million roster bonus in June, is as flamboyant as they come. Turner is used to that, having dealt with Irvin and, more recently, with Randy Moss in Oakland.

"I want to coach good players," Turner said. "Being with a new team, there's an evaluation process, and there's a lot of things that go into it. I like the players that are here and T.O. is one of them."

BROWNS

After only two weeks on the job, Alabama assistant coach Steve Marshall has left to take a job with Cleveland.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for Steve," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Sunday. "It's a shame that it didn't work out for him here, but I wish him well."

Marshall was out of coaching this past year after two seasons as an offensive line assistant with the Houston Texans.

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