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Sunday, October 24, 1999

Offensively speaking, Norv Turner and Chan Gailey are like night and day
By Ray Buck
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(KRT)

IRVING - As offensive minds among NFL head coaches go, Norv Turner and Chan Gailey are about as alike as right brain/left brain.

Their names may be symmetrical, right down to the number of letters, but their philosophies on how to move the football and put up points are highly dissimilar, especially in their use of the running game.

Turner, former Cowboys offensive coordinator now in his sixth season as head coach of the Washington Redskins, runs the traditionally two-back, occasionally two-tight end, smash-mouth, run-between-the-tackles offense.

It's the same system being used by offensive coordinators in New England (Ernie Zampese) and St. Louis (Mike Martz). Don't look now, but the Redskins, Rams and Patriots currently rank Nos. 1, 2 and 4 among NFL offenses.

Gailey, the Cowboys' second-year head coach who is under fire by fans and media for a 14th-ranked offense that has produced only three touchdowns in its past 10 quarters, has more of a thinking man's offense. There are frequent changes of personnel packages in the offense, which utilizes running backs as receivers, sometimes even winding up with an empty backfield behind the quarterback. It also features a running game that is geared more to the outside.

Turner dares you to stop him. Gailey challenges you to outthink him.

Turner and Gailey both are first-time NFL head coaches who stepped into their jobs under similar circumstances. Both were former offensive coordinators of other teams - Turner, with the Cowboys, Gailey, with the Steelers.

In 1994, Turner took over a 4-12 Redskins team that was three years removed from a Super Bowl championship. In 1998, Gailey took over a 6-10 Cowboys team that also was three years removed from a Super Bowl win.

In their first 22 NFL games as head coach, Turner was 5-17. Gailey is 13-9.

But the numbers that matters most right now are four and two. Turner is riding a four-game winning streak; Gailey, a two-game losing streak coming into Sunday's showdown for first place in the NFC East at Texas Stadium.

Gailey, who has come under harsh criticism as a result for his play-calling the past two weeks, said, "We're not sustaining and finishing ... (but) I really don't think that we're that far away."

Turner, whose play-calling has made him suddenly a genius in Washington, said, "We're running the same plays as we ran in the past. What we're doing is that we're running them with a lot more consistency, that's all."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered this perspective:

"We all know there are a lot of different offenses, a lot of different schemes, a lot of different ways to play the same player, and if you can put it all together, you can win a Super Bowl. We've seen that. Different types of coaches, different styles of offenses can win Super Bowls." (at)subheds:Outside, inside Gailey's system is more running to the outside; Turner's offense, more running off-tackle.

"In Chan's offense, we put pressure on the defense by making them think and adjust to what we're doing," said injured Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, who has played under both systems. "In Norv's system, it was mainly: `OK, you know what we do. Let's see if you can stop it.'"

These are styles different from each other. There is more power blocking in Turner's offense; there is more pulling in Gailey's offense. They also have their similarities: Both offenses are designed to protect the passer.

"Both offenses believe in keeping a back in to protect the quarterback, which is the antithesis of what they do in San Francisco," said Jones, who predictably gave the Gailey offense the edge over the Turner-Zampese system when asked to compare.

"In my opinion, Chan utilizes Emmitt as a runner in an improved way ... giving him a chance to make a 1/4Rprogression read1/4S, pick out the soft spot and make a bigger play than he might otherwise get running off-tackle.

"Chan also incorporates some unorthodox play-calling into his offense and that scares opposing defensive coordinators. I know this. Dan Reeves does the same thing in Atlanta."

The genesis of the Gailey offense is Reeves, his former Little League coach in Americus, Ga., where both grew up, along with heavy influence from Ron Erhardt, formerly of the same Steelers staff as Gailey.

The Gailey playbook is a monster.

"Chan has ingenuity," said Jones, referring to the gadget plays and multiple sets, "but he does it without sacrificing the fundamental approach to running the football."

Knowing your personnel Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo has had to prepare for both coaches - Gailey while with the Steelers and Turner this week with the Redskins.

"Norv knows how to scheme and create blocking angles, but I think his real strength is how he uses his players to make those plays," said Campo. "He has a real good `feel' for what to call, when to call it and what players to use."

Turner said, "People think we're suddenly now running some kind of different offense. We're not. You're going to have your ups and downs, but the whole key is to continue doing what you believe in."

What Turner believed in nearly got him fired, and as recently as this past off-season when the Redskins were sold.

"Do you think it has something to do with players?" Campo asked with a grin.

Campo believes the difference in the Redskins' offense then and now has been the addition of quarterback Brad Johnson (10 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 106.5 passer rating).

"They've had receivers like this before. They've had running backs like this before. They've had offensive lines like this before, although this one is better overall," said Campo. "But the key to the whole thing is the quarterback."

Turner's offense means more timing routes for the receivers. Gailey's offense has more "read-and-react" routes for them.

Gailey's offense might include two, three or four wide receivers and a tight end or a running back in the slot, and usually has somebody in motion. Turner's offense is more basic, with something as simple as either a fullback or an H-back to give the same formation a different capability.

"They probably use more personnel groups than any team we play. In the first game, they used something like nine different personnel groups against us," said Campo. "(Turner) is very good at using one play to set up another."

The wheels will be turning for both Gailey and Turner on Sunday at Texas Stadium where, almost to a man, the Cowboys know this is a must-win because they can't afford to lose a third consecutive NFC East game and fall behind Washington by two games.

But the reason nobody likes to call it "must-win," said Jones, "is because it puts you in a bind if you don't win."

Jones prefers to call it "a pivotal game" or "a very, very, very important game," - not must-win, but three verys.

Gailey needs to get the Cowboys offense untracked. Turner wants to avenge his team's only blemish, a game in which his offense scored 35 points and lost, 41-35.

The heat is on Gailey. The spotlight is on Turner. How quickly opinions can change in the NFL.

As Johnston said: "The Redskins kept Norv. I'm sure right about now, they're very glad they did."

 

(c) 1999, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit the Star-Telegram on the World Wide Web: www.star-telegram.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


All content copyright 1999, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine

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