Coaching Calculus: Norv Turner’s Undeniable RB Bias


Going back to the 2000 season1 Norv Turner has targeted RBs in the passing game more than the NFL average in all but one year that he’s been a coordinator or head coach.

The one year that Turner didn’t exceed the NFL average target percentage to RBs was 2003, when he was just barely below the average.

Here’s a table which shows Turner’s target percentages to the pass catching positions, but relative to league average.

Coaching Run/Pass and Target Allocation Percentages (Relative to League Average)

WAS 2000 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.10 -0.02 -0.08 0.00
SD 2001 Norv Turner Offensive Coordinator 0.01 -0.01 0.00 0.00
MIA 2002 Norv Turner Offensive Coordinator 0.05 0.02 -0.07 -0.08
MIA 2003 Norv Turner Offensive Coordinator -0.01 0.04 -0.03 -0.06
OAK 2004 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.05 -0.03 -0.02 0.07
OAK 2005 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.01 -0.07 0.06 0.05
SF 2006 Norv Turner Offensive Coordinator 0.06 0.03 -0.10 -0.07
SD 2007 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.06 0.09 -0.15 -0.05
SD 2008 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.09 0.04 -0.13 -0.02
SD 2009 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.05 0.04 -0.09 0.01
SD 2010 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.09 -0.01 -0.08 0.00
SD 2011 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.10 0.03 -0.12 0.01
SD 2012 Norv Turner Head Coach 0.12 0.01 -0.13 0.02
CLE 2013 Norv Turner Offensive Coordinator 0.02 0.01 -0.03 0.10
AVE 0.06 0.01 -0.07 0.00

Despite the pass happy play calling of the Browns last year, Norv is actually about league average in Pass Tendency for his career. In fact, if you take out that Browns season where they intentionally emptied their RB cupboard (remember that they had both Trent Richardson and Bobby Rainey on the team) and thus had to throw, Norv is actually slightly run heavy.

But the biggest thing that’s apparent is that across some 14 seasons Norv shows a consistent pattern of allocating passing targets to RBs at well above the league average rate. In fact those targets come at the expense of WRs. Norv has thrown to his WRs less than league average in all but two of those seasons.

Some expect big things for Kyle Rudolph this season, although I think it’s worth noting that Norv is more pragmatic in targeting of TEs. Even last year with Jordan Cameron, Norv only targeted the TE position slightly more than league average. Also, his use of TE in San Diego tracks pretty well with Antonio Gates’ aging curve. When he had a young and healthy Gates the TE position accounted for a lot of targets. When Gates got older and was more injured, Norv wasn’t as married to the TE position.

I have several takeaways from looking at this information:

  1. Norv seems really likely to route targets to the RB.
  2. Adrian Peterson probably is not the Droid he’s looking for, at least in terms of accounting for 25-30% of the team’s targets. Maybe 13% is reasonable for AP.
  3. That leaves maybe 12% of targets available for another RB.
  4. There might be another 40+ reception back on the Vikings roster.
  5. Jerick McKinnon probably has the most upside long term but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that Zach Line could be fantasy relevant at some point this year.
  6. I could also see a scenario where the Vikings just treat Cordarrelle Patterson as an Offensive Weapon instead of a WR.

I realize a good amount of that sounds insane.

  1. the first year that I have NFL target data for  (back)