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Turner's luck continues by landing Chargers gig

If Norv Turner fell off a cliff, he'd be rescued by Superman.

If Turner lost his wallet, he would have it found and returned — by Kim Basinger.

If he drew 2-7 off-suit and went "all in," Texas Dolly would tip his hat and say, "You win," and throw in his cards.

Turner, the new head coach of the San Diego Chargers, is a lucky man. He must own the patent rights to luck. He is to luck what Sylvester Stallone is to movie sequels. He's the guy who always draws "Get Out Of Jail Free" in Monopoly.

The man has turned losing into an NFL career. The more he loses, the bigger the check. In a league that buries losers, he's told, "No problem. Want a mulligan?"

The Chargers must have napped while checking Turner's résumé. They couldn't have inspected his tenure as a head coach. By now, Turner knows he's bulletproof. He must think, "Fooled 'em again."

Granted, Turner is a man of substance and a proven good coach. Few people in the league, if any, dislike him. It's when you connect the "head" to "coach" that starts the problems.

Turner bombed during his seven-year term with the Washington Redskins (1994-2000), one of the NFL's four-star franchises. The Redskins struggled to 49-59-1 and qualified for one playoff game, which they lost.

That earned him a two-year run with the Oakland Raiders (2004-05), where he lost the locker room a few months after "hello." The Raiders were 9-23 and won exactly one game in the AFC West, so the Chargers promptly fell in love with him.

See what I mean? He is Never Nervous Norv, the man who collects good fortune like Donald Trump collects hotels.

The Chargers hired him because they clearly have cornered the market on dysfunction. This is the team that saw black clouds in a 14-2 record. They fired their previous coach, Marty Schottenheimer, because of his petty feud with General Manager A.J. Smith. Funny, but the Chargers seemed OK on the field, where the touchdowns and tackles happen.

Their team is stocked with the NFL's premier running back in LaDainian Tomlinson, a young and nasty defense, a promising quarterback in Philip Rivers and talent everywhere. Even on their below-average day, they fell one fumble shy of eliminating the haughty New England Patriots. The Chargers assessed their situation and summarized, "Can the coach."

One word: Clueless.

Turner was handed the keys to a Lamborghini after he drove a Yugo into the Chargers' parking lot. Their front-office squabble became the San Francisco 49ers' nightmare.

The 49ers dearly wished to keep Turner, the assistant coach who provided career traction for quarterback Alex Smith. They dodged overtures to Turner three weeks ago by the Dallas Cowboys, only to be T-boned this week by the Chargers.

The 49ers will move quickly, possibly by promoting the experienced receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, but this clearly was a setback. Smith, who sometimes mangled the snap from center as a rookie, improved under Turner.

Look at it this way: Watching Turner walk out the door makes the 49ers worse today than they were yesterday. Worse, Smith will break in his third offensive coordinator in three seasons. Anyone who believes this is a harbinger of greatness must check in his TV remote before Draft Day.

Smith could have used one more year of fatherly guidance from Turner, who eventually coaxed Hall of Fame numbers from Troy Aikman. The 49ers' pricey investment needs a quiet film room, not a revolving door. Victory in the NFL requires stability in the offensive line and in the coaching staff. Every time Smith looks up, he sees a new coach blowing his whistle.

The timing is hideous for the 49ers, who showed signs last season of returning from years in the NFL wilderness. Granted, Smith still owns an important safety valve in Frank Gore, the 49ers' 1,600-yard running back. The team insists it still will run Turner's plays.

Trouble is, they won't be called by Turner. Smith and the 49ers again must switch on the run, while the Raiders stare across the field at one of their many failed coaches.

And there's Turner, who has tumbled into another blue-ribbon job with a team programmed to win. Coaches slave for years groveling for a chance while Turner picks and chooses like sumo wrestlers at the buffet table.

If I'm him, I'm buying lottery tickets. Now.

To comment, click on the link with this story at Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302 or