Norv Turner might be what Panthers QB Cam Newton needs to grow

How will Turner's hire affect Cam? (0:48)

Damien Woody wonders if Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner can make Cam Newton more of a pocket passer. (0:48)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Norv Turner, set to become the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, made a comment during an NFL coaching clinic in June that speaks volumes to why he might be the right choice to further the growth of quarterback Cam Newton.

"My big priority is decision-making," Turner said at the time on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Quarterbacks have to make great decisions over and over and over again. They have to understand the offense, process a whole lot of information and handle the changes and adjustments on a week-to-week basis.

"As I told the guys, I think arm strength is way, way, way overrated. Accuracy and understanding how, when and where to throw the ball, those are big priorities."

Newton's biggest flaw since arriving in the NFL as the top pick of the 2011 draft has been decision-making. He often throws into coverage when he shouldn't and takes sacks when he should get rid of the ball.

Evidence? He has 30 interceptions and 41 touchdown passes the past two seasons. He has been sacked 71 times in that span, 24 more than New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who ended Carolina's season in Sunday's NFC wild-card game.

Turner could help that. The 65-year-old played a role in the early development of Troy Aikman, Philip Rivers and even Brees, though he was with Brees only one season in San Diego.

Making smart decisions is a common denominator among the three. Aikman had 20 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions in his first two seasons before Turner arrived in Dallas in 1991. Over the next three seasons under Turner, he had 49 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. The Cowboys, relying on the running of Emmitt Smith, went to the playoffs all three seasons and won two Super Bowls. Aikman was the Super Bowl MVP in 1992.

Rivers had 62 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in Turner's second and third seasons (2008-09) as head coach at San Diego. He had 43 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in the previous two seasons.

"He's a genius when it comes to being an offensive coordinator and getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers," said Brian Mitchell, a running back/return ace when Turner was head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1994-2000. "One thing I like about Norv is you hear so many coaches talk about the terminology of their offense and how difficult it is to learn.

"His is not that difficult to learn, but it's a complicated offense. He runs the route formations and combinations to where it confuses defenses, but the offenses seem to catch on to it quickly."

Mitchell, who hosts a show on a radio station owned by the Redskins' Daniel Snyder, can't wait to see what Turner does for Newton.

"He can enhance what Cam does," Mitchell said. "When you look at Cam, his deep passing game is unbelievable. He starts to struggle some with the midrange and short passes because of the touch he puts on the ball. Norv is good about getting quarterbacks to do those different things.

"Cam is a guy that can get the ball into a lot of tight spots, but a quarterback is much better when his receivers get separation. Norv, his game plan, seems to do that. Cam will have receivers that will get more open instead of having those tight windows to throw it in."

Mitchell also is excited to see what Turner can do for running back/receiver Christian McCaffrey, who caught 80 passes and rushed for 435 yards after being selected with the eighth pick of the 2017 draft. McCaffrey is a lot like the multifaceted Darren Sproles, who played under Turner in San Diego.

"One thing about his offense, he believes in having matchup advantages where he's going to put guys in position where they have a strength," Mitchell said of Turner. "Christian better get ready because he's going to use him a lot."

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that his next coordinator would be somebody who builds an offense around a ball-control running game but also uses the backs as receivers in the passing game. That and a willingness to take deep shots describes Turner to a T.

Turner said last year after he stepped down as Vikings offensive coordinator following a 5-2 start that he wanted to return to football and go somewhere he had a chance to mold a young quarterback. Newton will be entering his eighth season, but he's still relatively young at 28. What's more, as Rivera said Tuesday when he discussed the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, Newton has room to grow.

As such, pairing Newton with Turner seems like a natural fit. It's also a good fit in that Rivera spent four seasons (2007-2010) under Turner at San Diego, the final three as his defensive coordinator.

Add that Turner's brother, Ron, already is an offensive consultant for the Panthers and his nephew, Cameron, is the assistant quarterbacks coach. Norv Turner's son Scott, a quality-control coach at Carolina during Rivera’s first two seasons (2011-12), is also headed to Charlotte. Scott Turner was the quarterbacks coach under his dad at Minnesota in 2014-16 before going to the University of Michigan this past season.

Rivera has nothing but respect for Norv Turner.

"He was terrific to work for," Rivera said near the end of the 2016 season when Turner was available. "He had a great, tremendous sense of family as well. He came to me one day and said, 'Look, I know [Rivera's daughter] Courtney plays softball. She's pitching a lot. Just get in there early and get your work done' -- this is in the offseason -- 'and get out.'

"It kind of helped me keep things in perspective as a head coach. Football is very important, as is family, and we've got to make sure we keep those priorities correct."

Rivera said he learned a lot listening from to Turner that made him better as a defensive coach.

"He's such a brilliant offensive mind," Rivera said. "In talking with him, just listening to him, you can learn things."

The person who could benefit the most, and the main reason Rivera moved on from Shula, is Newton. He felt a change was needed to push the 2015 NFL MVP's game to the next level.

"What happens sometimes when you're making those bad decisions is when you have a coordinator thinking about too much," said Mitchell, who was a high school quarterback. "I felt when Norv was working with young [quarterbacks], he made it where you had to worry about one or two things. Then you make a play.

"That can only make Cam better."