Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t expect Norv Turner to change much with the team’s offense because, well, Turner created it.
The Panthers made official Friday morning what seemed like a done deal all along, naming Turner the successor to Mike Shula as offensive coordinator.
It was a pretty straightforward hiring process involving two guys who worked together for four seasons in San Diego. Turner was Rivera’s top choice the last time the Panthers had an opening for an offensive coordinator in 2013, and that was true again this week.
“I wanted to hire somebody who’s had success. I also wanted to hire somebody that has a knowledge of what we do,” Rivera told the Observer in a phone interview.
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“I don’t want to change our entire offense. This is about being able to keep things going. Norv, he’s the one that basically set the language. He’s the one that basically set the system up. So bringing him into the fold I think would help to maintain this very easily.”
But this isn’t only about maintaining.
Quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense slumped during the two seasons after the 2015 Super Bowl appearance. And Rivera said he expects Turner to take Newton “to another level.”
Turner, as Dallas’ offensive coordinator, helped mold Troy Aikman into an All-Pro quarterback, and also worked with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers early in Rivers’ career.
The Panthers did not make Turner available to the media after Friday’s announcement, which came three days after the firings of Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey.
Turner, 65, has coached 32 years in the NFL, including 15 seasons as a head coach. That included a stint with San Diego, where Turner hired Rivera after the Bears chose not to renew Rivera’s contract following their Super Bowl season of 2006.
Rivera was Turner’s linebackers coach for two seasons in San Diego, then became the Chargers’ defensive coordinator for two years before he was hired in Carolina.
“I told Norv this – some of the best years in my coaching career have been spent with him,” Rivera said. “There’s a trust factor. There’s a familiarity. And I really do appreciate the way he does things and the way he handles a game and calls the game.”
Rivera and Turner have remained close, and Rivera often spoke glowingly of his former boss.
Rivera has employed three of Turner’s relatives in Charlotte, including two presently.
Rivera confirmed that Scott Turner, Norv’s son and a former quality-control coach for the Panthers, will return to his staff as quarterbacks coach.
Ron Turner, Norv’s brother, came to Carolina last year as an offensive consultant. Cameron Turner, Ron’s son, is the assistant quarterbacks coach.
While conceding that a large portion of his staff will be Turners, Rivera added: “It’s about hiring people that do a good job for you.”
Norv Turner has been out of the league since late in the 2016 season when he left as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator because of philosophical differences between him and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Minnesota was ranked in the bottom six in the league in total offense during Turner’s three years as offensive coordinator. The Vikings struggled during Turner’s final season after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater injured his knee and the team signed Sam Bradford a week before the start of the season.
Rivera tried to hire Turner when former coordinator Rob Chudzinski left after the 2012 season. But Turner, who was fired in San Diego after that same season, had agreed to join Chudzinski in Cleveland.
“I thought, wow, this might be a cool thing. And I reached out. But unfortunately he had already agreed to go with Chud,” Rivera said.
“It’s going to be a different set of eyes, a different perspective from which we’re going to approach this as we go forward.”
Not only a different set of eyes, but the original set of eyes where the Panthers’ offense is concerned.