Browns should see offensive turnaround under Norv Turner

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

Norv Turner has a track record of turning around offenses in his first year on the job. (USATSI)
Norv Turner has a track record of turning around offenses in his first year on the job. (USATSI)

There's a reason Cleveland's decided to hold wiener dog races at home games this year, it's because there's not much else to watch when they're playing.

The Browns haven't had a winning record since 2007 and haven't made the playoffs since 2002. And it's not just bad football, it's been bad, boring football: the Browns offense has ranked 23rd or lower in 13 of the 14 seasons since the rebooted Cleveland franchise started play in 1999. That 14-year total includes four seasons where the Browns ranked dead last in total offense and six seasons where they finished 31st or lower.

Now it's time for the good news Browns fans: that could all change this season with the arrival of Norv Turner as the team's offensive coordinator. Since being hired to run the Dallas Cowboys offense before the 1991 season, Turner has done nothing but turn around offenses in his first year on the job.

From 1991-2006, Turner held six different jobs and in each of those jobs, the team he took over for improved an average of 10.5 spots in its total offensive ranking in Turner's first year. By that math, the Browns would finish 14th or 15th in total offense in 2013, a ranking they've only reached once since 1999.

Turner has been able to orchestrate these offensive turnarounds despite having quarterbacks like Heath Shuler, John Friesz, Jay Fiedler and Kerry Collins under center.

In Cleveland, Turner will have the added benefit of Trent Richardson, who, if he can stay healthy, should take some serious heat off of Brandon Weeden or Jason Campbell or whomever the Browns decide to let run the offense.

Richardson could have a breakout year similar to Emmit Smith's in 1991. The two running backs had eerily similar stats as rookies: Smith ran for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1990 while Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

When the Cowboys added Turner in 1991, Smith upped his production to 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns. If Richardson can stay healthy, he could see a big statistical bump too.

Here's a list of what happens in Turner's first year with a team. In all instances except for one -- the 2007 Chargers -- that team's offense improved dramatically. The list also includes the statistics of any quarterback who made a start under Turner in his first-year with a team.

Troy Aikman cut down his interception total by eight in his first year with Norv Turner. (USATSI)
Troy Aikman cut down his interception total by eight in his first year with Norv Turner. (USATSI)

1991 Dallas Cowboys (Offensive Coordinator): Dallas finished ninth overall in total offense after finishing 28th overall (last) in the NFL in 1990.

Troy Aikman (7-5 record): 237-of-363 (65.3 percent) for 2,754 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. In his first year with Turner, Aikman threw for 175 more yards and threw eight less interceptions than he did in 1990.

Steve Beuerlein (4-0): 68-of-137 (49.6 percent) for 909 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions.

1994 Washington Redskins (Head Coach): Washington finished 17th overall in total offense after finishing 26th overall in the NFL in 1993.

Heath Shuler (1-7): 120-of-265 (45.3 percent) for 1,658 yards, 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions. Schuler was a rookie in 1994.

John Friesz (1-3): 105-of-180 (58.3 percent) for 1,266 yards, 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions.

Gus Frerotte (1-3): 46-of-100 (46 percent) for 600 yards, five touchdowns, five interceptions.

2001 San Diego Chargers (OC): San Diego finished 11th overall in total offense after finishing 28th overall in the NFL in 2000.

Doug Flutie (5-11): 294-of-521 (56.4 percent) for 3,464 yards, 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions. Hit a career-high in single-season passing yards under Turner.

2002 Miami Dolphins (OC): Miami finished 15th overall in total offense after finishing 21st overall in the NFL in 2001.

Jay Fiedler (7-3): 179-of-292 (61.3 percent) for 2,024 yards, 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions. Highest completion percentage of Fiedler's career in any season where he started two or more games.

Ray Lucas (2-4): 92-of-160 (57.5 percent) for 1,045 yards, four touchdowns, six interceptions.

2004 Oakland Raiders (HC): Oakland finished 17th overall in total offense after finishing 25th overall in the NFL in 2003.

Kerry Collins (3-10): 289-of-513 (56.3 percent) for 3,495 yards, 21 touchdowns, 20 interceptions.

Rich Gannon (2-1): 41-of-68 (60.3 percent) for 524 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions.

2006 San Francisco 49ers (OC): San Francisco finished 26th overall in total offense after finishing 30th overall in the NFL in 2005.

Alex Smith (7-9): 257-of-442 (58.1 percent) for 2,890 yards, 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions.

Philip Rivers and Norv Turner went to an AFC title game together in Turner's first year with the Chargers. (USATSI)
Philip Rivers and Norv Turner went to an AFC title game together in Turner's first year with the Chargers. (USATSI)

2007 San Diego Chargers (HC): San Diego finished 20th overall in total offense after finishing fourth overall in the NFL in 2006. Turner didn't improve the offense here, but he did take this team further in the playoffs than Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer's 14-2 Chargers lost in the divisional playoffs in 2006, while Turner's 11-5 Chargers made it to the AFC title game in 2007 .

Philip Rivers (11-5): 277-of-460 (60.2 percent) for 3,152 yards, 21 touchdowns, 15 interceptions.


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