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Turner comes home to Raiders

Norv Turner hoped he would get a second chance as an NFL coach. He was thrilled to get it with the players in the silver-and-black uniforms he always wanted to wear.

Turner was hired by the Oakland Raiders on Monday. The former Redskins coach takes over a team that went from the Super Bowl to a 4-12 debacle in one tumultuous year.

After firing Bill Callahan, owner Al Davis went looking for a new coach who shared his belief in the Raiders' mystique _ and someone who could resuscitate Oakland's struggling offense. Davis believes he found his man during a long weekend interview: Turner was raised in nearby Martinez, Calif., as an avid Raiders fan.

"I never played for the Raiders, but about 30 miles over there in Martinez, in the streets, I was Daryle Lamonica many times," Turner said, recalling Oakland's QB from 1967-74. "When my arm got tired, I was George Blanda. I grew up with the Raiders."

Turner, considered one of football's top offensive tacticians, was the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl winners in Dallas in the early 1990s. He was the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator the past two seasons.

"I belong here," said Turner, whose playing career peaked as a backup quarterback at Oregon. "When I got off the plane the other night, I felt like I was coming home. I feel like I'm home now."

Turner also spent nearly seven seasons with the Redskins, going 49-59-1 with one playoff berth from 1994-200 before being fired with three games left in his final season.

"I felt if I waited (to hire a coach), I couldn't do any better," Davis said. "I just thought it was the right fit. Everything that we need at this particular time, we will rely on Norv to help us with."

Turner, 51, is the 14th coach in a franchise lineage that includes John Madden, two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Flores and Davis, who coached the team from 1963-65.

But Turner inherits a messy situation in Oakland: The Raiders' defense of their AFC championship was a disappointment almost from the first preseason game, with injuries to more than a dozen key players and a near-mutiny against Callahan after the biggest collapse ever by a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Davis fired Callahan and criticized the coach's handling of discipline matters. Bruce Allen, the team's top personnel man, left to become Tampa Bay's general manager this month.

The Raiders apparently came close to hiring Dallas assistant Sean Payton last week, but he stayed with the Cowboys. Turner didn't get an interview until talks with Payton ended, and Davis hinted last week he might want to interview New England assistants Romeo Crennel or Charlie Weis.

But Davis had promised Jimmy Johnson _ Turner's former boss in Dallas _ that Turner would get an interview.

"When I sensed there might be a coaching change, I just said to Al, "Don't forget about Norv Turner because I think he's the best there is,' " Johnson said in a phone interview. "I just felt like Norv was going to be the perfect fit."

Turner impressed Davis enough on Friday to persuade the 74-year-old owner to depart from his usual preference for hiring first-time coaches. Of the Raiders' previous eight coaches dating to Madden's first season in 1969, only one _ Joe Bugel, who lasted through one 4-12 season in 1997 _ had previous head-coaching experience.

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