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Turner's struggles vs. Phillips' success -- debate over retread coaches digs deep

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Posted Oct. 03, 2007 @ midnight
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

We're four weeks into the NFL season, less than a quarter of the way through and way too early to argue anything on a grand scale. But this much we know: Wade Phillips is off to a great start in Dallas. Norv Turner is not in San Diego.

What can we glean from this?

Cowboys head coach Wade PhillipsNot much, it seems. So much was made this offseason of the disparity of the approaches taken by teams needing head coaches. The Cowboys and Chargers, two teams close to competing for titles, went the veteran route with their coaches. The Raiders, Steelers, Falcons, Dolphins and Cardinals -- teams that were believed to be at least a year away from competing for a title -- went with far less proven coaches. None of their teams' hires had been head coaches previously, though Bobby Petrino and Cam Cameron were college head coaches.

And the results, predictably, have been mixed.

Cameron has struggled to maintain an identity with his team, struggling to 0-4. The decision to go with Trent Green hasn't done a thing.

Patriono has been beset by injuries and Michael Vick's banishment, though the team has been a relatively competitive unit in slinking to 1-3.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been a nice surprise. He has energized his team and received strong performances from RB Willie Parker, QB Ben Roethlisberger and a defense some thought was on the downside. The Steelers are 3-1 and regarded as a playoff-caliber team capable of hanging with just about anyone.

The man many thought would be coaching the Steelers, Ken Whisenhunt, instead has done a very nice job remaking the Cardinals into one of the more intriguing teams out there. Check out their schedule in the next month: They could make a run out West. 

The Raiders have been intriguing, too, sitting at a respectable 2-2. In fact, they are a missed field goal from being 3-1. A team to watch under Lane Kiffin, the least experienced of all the new coaches.

So if we throw out Petrino, who gets a grade of incomplete, the inexperienced guys have outshined the old crusties, percentage-wise anyway. Kiffin, Tomlin and Whisenhunt have exceeded expectations while only Cameron has been a disappointment. Phillips' strong start is offset by Turner's nightmare.

Again, what does it mean? At this point, little. Sure, Chargers fans now can say, "Why didn't we get someone else?" or "Why did we make a change in the first place?" But can we say for sure that Phillips or anyone else for certain would have done better than Turner has to date? Try as we might, we can't.

The Chargers easily could rip off six wins in a row. The Cowboys, after beating the Bills, could drop four out of six if they're not careful.

For that matter, a prideful Green and a veteran defense could salvage things in the second half (still not seeing it, but they could), and the other new guys could fall back to earth. Anything could happen to Petrino's lightning-rod club.

Judgments are out there to be made about how teams should approach hiring coaches, but we don't have enough of a body of work to date to go on.

By midseason things will appear fairly clear, but think about this: Do we think the same of Rams head coach Scott Linehan today as we did by the end of last season? No, we do not. This is a two-year process for most, though the rumors are cooking that if Turner doesn't hurry up and win some damned games, he might be out at season's end. Perhaps they are the exception to the rule.

Either way, we'll check back in a month. 

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