Chargers hire Turner as new head coach

Hoping the third time will be a winner for Norv Turner, the San Diego Chargers on Monday hired the San Francisco offensive coordinator to succeed Marty Schottenheimer as head coach.

Longtime league assistant coach Ted Cottrell, whose experience with the 3-4 defense is extensive, has been hired as defensive coordinator for the Chargers.

Turner, 54, compiled a 58-82-1 record as head coach of the Washington Redskins (1994-2000) and the Oakland Raiders (2004-05). He served as the San Francisco offensive coordinator last season and was credited with the dramatic progress achieved by 49ers' second-year quarterback Alex Smith.

Turner was signed to a four-year contract. Cottrell was given a two-year contract.

One of six known candidates interviewed by San Diego officials after Schottenheimer was dismissed, Turner was the lone man with primary expertise on the offensive side. Originally, it was believed the Chargers preferred that their new head coach have a background on the defensive side of the ball.

"You can say whatever you want to say [about hiring Turner]," team president Dean Spanos said. "If we
hadn't made a change and we lost, we made the wrong decision. If we
do make the change and we lose, we made the wrong decision. So the
net result of all this is, there's only one thing we have to do
this year, and that's get back in the playoffs. Just get to the
postseason and win the first game, is our goal. And then I think
we're off to a good start."

Turner interviewed earlier this month for the head coach vacancy in Dallas, where he played a big role as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator during the team's dominance in the 1990s, but did not land that job.

In San Diego, he will inherit a high-octane Chargers offense featuring star tailback and 2006 most valuable player LaDainian Tomlinson. But Turner will also be responsible for the continued development of quarterback Philip Rivers, who was in his first year as the starter in 2006.

"Norv is a perfect fit for our team," said Tomlinson. "He will know
exactly what to do with our team."

"This isn't a team where you're rebuilding," Turner said. "We
should start fast. We should be good early and we should be good
late. Not having to go through the normal things you have to go
through when you make a coaching change is going to help the
players more than anyone."

Beyond Turner, the other known San Diego head coach candidates -- Gary Gibbs (New Orleans), Mike Zimmer (Atlanta), Mike Singletary (San Francisco), Ron Rivera (Chicago) and Rex Ryan (Baltimore) -- are all coaches whose expertise is on the defensive side. All but Singletary are current coordinators.

Cottrell has interviewed in the past for head coach positions, and came very close to landing the top job in San Francisco four years ago.

San Diego officials prefer to retain a 3-4 defense, the scheme for which the personnel is best suited, and hiring Cottrell allows that. Cottrell was actually recommended to Schottenheimer by Smith when then-Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as their new head coach.

Schottenheimer instead leaned toward hiring his younger brother, Kurt Schottenheimer, as the replacement for Phillips. In addition to Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers, who posted an NFL-best 14-2 record in 2006 but were ousted in the divisional round of the playoffs, have lost five assistant coaches since the end of the season. That includes both coordinators.

Cottrell, 59, possesses 22 seasons of NFL experience as an assistant coach, including three stints as a defensive coordinator. He most recently worked as coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings (2004-05). Cottrell lost his job when the Vikings fired coach Mike Tice after the 2005 season, and he worked in the NFL office in 2006.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.