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Norv Turner might be what Panthers QB Cam Newton needs to grow

From ESPN - January 11, 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Norv Turner, set to become the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, made a comment during an NFL coaching clinic in June that speaks volumes to why he might be the right choice to further the growth of quarterback Cam Newton.

"My big priority is decision-making," Turner said at the time on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Quarterbacks have to make great decisions over and over and over again. They have to understand the offense, process a whole lot of information and handle the changes and adjustments on a week-to-week basis.

"As I told the guys, I think arm strength is way, way, way overrated. Accuracy and understanding how, when and where to throw the ball, those are big priorities."

Newton's biggest flaw since arriving in the NFL as the top pick of the 2011 draft has been decision-making. He often throws into coverage when he should not and takes sacks when he should get rid of the ball.

Evidence? He has 30 interceptions and 41 touchdown passes the past two seasons. He has been sacked 71 times in that span, 24 more than New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who ended Carolina's season in Sunday's NFC wild-card game.

Turner could help that. The 65-year-old played a role in the early development of Troy Aikman, Philip Rivers and even Brees, though he was with Brees only one season in San Diego.

Making smart decisions is a common denominator among the three. Aikman had 20 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions in his first two seasons before Turner arrived in Dallas in 1991. Over the next three seasons under Turner, he had 49 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. The Cowboys, relying on the running of Emmitt Smith, went to the playoffs all three seasons and won two Super Bowls. Aikman was the Super Bowl MVP in 1992.

Rivers had 62 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in Turner's second and third seasons (2008-09) as head coach at San Diego. He had 43 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in the previous two seasons.

"He's a genius when it comes to being an offensive coordinator and getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers," said Brian Mitchell, a running back/return ace when Turner was head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1994-2000. "One thing I like about Norv is you hear so many coaches talk about the terminology of their offense and how difficult it is to learn.

"His is not that difficult to learn, but it's a complicated offense. He runs the route formations and combinations to where it confuses defenses, but the offenses seem to catch on to it quickly."

Mitchell, who hosts a show on a radio station owned by the Redskins' Daniel Snyder, ca not wait to see what Turner does for Newton.

"He can enhance what Cam does," Mitchell said. "When you look at Cam, his deep passing game is unbelievable. He starts to struggle some with the midrange and short passes because of the touch he puts on the ball. Norv is good about getting quarterbacks to do those different things.

"Cam is a guy that can get the ball into a lot of tight spots, but a quarterback is much better when his receivers get separation. Norv, his game plan, seems to do that. Cam will have receivers that will get more open instead of having those tight windows to throw it in."

Mitchell also is excited to see what Turner can do for running back/receiver Christian McCaffrey, who caught 80 passes and rushed for 435 yards after being selected with the eighth pick of the 2017 draft. McCaffrey is a lot like the multifaceted Darren Sproles, who played under Turner in San Diego.

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