Despite what Norv Turner says about coaching against the Oakland Raiders, it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t circle the date on his calender as soon as he gets his schedule. Yet, if you ask the current San Diego Chargers coach about it, you’ll only hear about how good this Raiders team is.
Well, that’s not completely true. He’ll also go on to tell you how important winning games within the division are as well. Turner spoke with Raiders beat writers today via conference call and was asked about how important this game is to him personally, if he targets Asomugha in the game plan, and his thoughts about the 13-game win streak the Chargers have against the Raiders.
As you might imagine, Turner was his usual, non-controversial self.
(on the Chargers’ winning streak against the Raiders)
You know, I think those things — and this is true — those things are more for the fans and the people on the outside, or for people to look at when they’re done playing. When you get into game week, I don’t think there is much that matters other than looking at the people you’re getting ready to play against and what they have been doing over the last two or three weeks. The things you feel you can do best against them. I always start with the point of who are the guys that are playing at a really high level that we have to make sure we don’t let them control the game or change the game. The Raiders certainly have a number of guys that if you’re not smart and you don’t play it right, they are guys that change the game.
(on if he targets Nnamdi Asomugha in the passing game plan or just doesn’t avoid him)
Well, if you have confidence in your guys, you have to give them a chance. One of the things, obviously, the last couple of years, on certain plays we’ve always been very smart with what we do with Nnamdi. I have great respect for him as a player and a person. But, Vincent Jackson gave us a real good matchup with Nnamdi, and there were certain things that we felt that we would take a shot with. It will be interesting again, the matchups, and how they match up with our guys. We’re not getting the ball to the wide receivers, or not yet, as much as we have in the past. Obviously, Antonio Gates is off to a great start. So, it will be interesting. I’m anxious to see the different matchups and what the opportunities are for us.
(on how much he personally wants to beat the Raiders)
Uh, in your division, you could have coached somewhere, you could know the people, whatever it is, and those things always play into it, but in your division, it’s hard. It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a year, so the fact that we’ve been able to play well and win close games against the Raiders, yeah, that makes you feel good. This team, the Raiders team, has lost a couple of close games, but they’re doing a lot of good things offensively. They have the best rhythm they have had. They have always run the ball. They’re getting good play in the passing game. We know what it is. We were up there last year and had to win on the last play of the game. We know it’s going to be a heck of a challenge.
Phillip Rivers also took time from his busy schedule to talk about the Raiders-Chargers rivalry, his adjustment to playing in an offense without LT, and if he thinks this game means more to his coach than he’s letting on.
(on never losing a game to the Raiders and being aware of the streak)
Well I think it’s something we are aware of it, but being in this league long enough now, you know each game stands as its own. You know it hasn’t been easy, any of those wins. I mean, last year we’re up there, the score was, you know 17 seconds left–watching the tape from our game at home last year and it was 21-16 and it was third and 10 and we were able to convert and then get a drive going, you know, that game was down to the wire. So, I saw the tape of these guys on Monday morning, and they’re an impressive group. I mean, super fast as always and I’m speaking mostly of the defense, and there’s not like there’s a lot of people running open. So, we know it’s going to be a challenge, and we’re 0-2 on the road this year. Oakland very well could be sitting at 2-2 or 3-1. I mean, they’ve been right there in those games, so we know we gotta’ go up there and play our very best.
(on his adjustment to life after LT)
Obviously what [LT has] done on the field and meant to this team over a nine-year period. You get used to seeing guys faces in the locker room and all around it is different when a guy like LT and handful of our other veteran players are not here that we’ve had for a long time. Throughout training camp it was kind of interesting to see what the personality of this team was going to be and how it maybe had changed. A lot of the core players are still here. I like the mindset of the team. It’s been good. Obviously we’ve had two tough losses on the road but I like where we are focused and our mindset right now.
(on whether or not the team can tell if this game means more to Turner)
Well, I don’t know if it’s so much hiding it. I mean, I think just the Chargers-Raiders rivalry in general. We know it means a great deal to the fans as well. I think, obviously, you know in the NFL players come from all over the country and the Chargers-Raiders rivalry may not have meant anything to a lot of the guys until they get here. I know it didn’t me. Growing up in Alabama and going to NC State, I didn’t know anything about Chargers and Raiders, but when you get here, you learn quickly what it means to the fans and to the state, you know, and, it’s exciting every time you play them. I don’t think it’s so much the fact that Norv had been there, other than just it’s Chargers and Raiders and what it means to the organizations and teams, and then also the fans take a great deal of pride in that game.