A veteran of 22 seasons as an NFL coach, Cottrell is a proven teacher and leader of winning defenses. His background includes a strong foundation in the 3-4 attacking-style defense that helped the Chargers lead the NFL in sacks in 2006. Since becoming a coordinator in 1998, Cottrell has had seven players record seasons of at least 10 sacks.
"I'm looking forward to working with such a young and talented group of athletes," said Cottrell. "I enjoy coaching the 3-4, particularly if you have athletes like those here in San Diego. I look forward to helping these players be the best they can be."
Cottrell is a proven winner who has shown a keen ability to get the most out of his players. In eight seasons as a defensive coordinator, the Chester, Pennsylvania native has been a part of five playoff teams. He's also coached 10 different players to a total of 16 Pro Bowls.
The 59-year-old Cottrell's best seasons came during a six-year run with the Buffalo Bills from 1995-2000 that saw the franchise reach the playoffs in four out of his six seasons with the club. The Bills posted a 55-41 record during his tenure and won three AFC East titles. Marv Levy hired Cottrell to coach Buffalo's linebackers, and in Cottrell's first season with the Bills, linebacker Bryce Paup led the league with 17.5 sacks and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
In 1998, Cottrell was promoted to defensive coordinator, and in his first season as an NFL play caller, the Bills finished sixth in the NFL in total defense and fifth against the run. Buffalo posted a 10-6 record and advanced to the postseason.
A year later, Cottrell's unit was the best in the NFL. They led the league in total defense, allowing just 252.8 yards per game. Although Buffalo did not send any defensive players to the Pro Bowl, they finished first against the pass and third against the run. The Bills held their opponents to 21 points or less in 14 of their 16 regular-season contests.
Buffalo followed up with another solid season in 2000, finishing third in total defense, sixth against the run and fourth against the pass. Both nose tackle Ted Washington and linebacker Sam Cowart earned trips to the Pro Bowl at the conclusion of the season.
In 2001, Herman Edwards hired Cottrell as the New York Jets assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Although the Jets operated out of the "Tampa 2", 4-3 scheme favored by Edwards, New York finished second in the NFL with 39 takeaways and earned a Wild Card playoff berth. That season, the Jets held opponents to 18 points or less in seven-consecutive games.
After starting the season 1-4, the Jets' opportunistic defense sparked a turnaround that saw New York return to the playoffs in 2002. Perhaps the best single-game performance of Cottrell's career came during the Wild Card round of the playoffs that season. Cottrell's defense intercepted Peyton Manning twice en route to a 41-0 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Cottrell most recently served as the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings from 2004-05. During his first season on Mike Tice's staff, Cottrell helped guide second-year standout Kevin Williams to an All-Pro season, finishing the year as the NFL's leader in sacks among defensive tackles. Minnesota earned a postseason berth and defeated the Green Bay Packers in a Wild Card contest. In 2005, the Vikings finished fifth in the NFL in takeaways with 35.
Prior to joining the Bills in 1995, Cottrell spent five seasons coaching the defensive line and linebackers with the Arizona Cardinals. From 1986-89, he coached the Bills defensive line and oversaw the emergence of defensive end Bruce Smith as one of the NFL's premiere defensive players. He also coached the defensive line for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (1984-85) and served two stints as the defensive coordinator at Rutgers University (1980 and 1983). His first NFL job came under Levy as the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach from 1981-82.
Cottrell enjoyed a four-year professional playing career. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1969 and spent two seasons playing linebacker in Atlanta. He concluded his playing career with a two-year stint with the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Earlier in the day, the Chargers named Norv Turner as the 14th head coach in team history.
A two-time Super Bowl Champion as an offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys, Turner's most recent assignment was in San Francisco where he was credited with helping the development of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Last season, Smith passed for 2,890 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 58 percent of his pass attempts. As a rookie in 2005 prior to Turner's arrival, Smith passed for just 875 yards, throwing only one touchdown pass and 11 interceptions.
Turner also breathed life into the 49ers running game as second-year back Frank Gore had a breakout season in 2006. Gore was selected to play in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFC and ranking third in the NFL with 1,695 yards. He scored eight touchdowns and averaged 5.4 yards per carry, highest among the league's top 20 rushers.
A Bay Area native from Martinez, California, this is Turner's second stint with the Chargers. He spent the 2001 season as the Bolts' offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Riley and improved the Bolts offensive ranking from 28th to 11th.
It was LaDainian Tomlinson's rookie season and he finished the year as the runner-up for the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after leading all NFL rookies with 1,236 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns and 59 catches. With Turner calling the offensive plays, the Chargers finished the '01 season with a 3,000-yard passer (Doug Flutie), a 1,000-yard rusher (Tomlinson) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Curtis Conway) for only the second time in team history.
The Chargers still run the same offense that Turner implemented in 2001.
Turner's 22 years of coaching experience include nine as a head coach, seven for the Washington Redskins (1994-2000) and two with the Oakland Raiders (2004-05). He spent 13 seasons as an NFL assistant coach, including seven as an offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys (1991-93), Chargers (2001), Miami Dolphins (2002-03) and 49ers (2006). He began his NFL coaching career as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. He coached wide receivers from 1985-86 before adding the responsibility of the team's tight ends from 1987-1990.
Turner made his coaching mark during his three seasons in Dallas. Serving under head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls (XXVII and XXVIII) following the 1992 and '93 seasons.
Turner worked with three Hall of Famers in Dallas, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. When Aikman was enshrined in the Hall in 2006, he asked Turner to be his presenter.
With Turner as his offensive coordinator, Smith led the NFL in rushing all three years. Twice, Aikman and Irvin finished in the top three in the NFL in passing and receiving, respectively and tight end Jay Novacek led all NFL tight ends in receiving two years under Turner.
In 1991, Turner's first year with the Cowboys, Smith (1,563) and Irvin (1,523) became the NFL's first running back-receiver duo to eclipse 1,500 yards in the same season.
Catapulting off his success in Dallas, Turner was named the head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1994. It was his first-ever head coaching assignment. He spent seven seasons in Washington, leading the Redskins to four winning seasons, including a 10-6 mark that landed the Skins an NFC East title in 1999. It was their first division title since 1991. Turner's '99 squad beat Detroit in an NFC Wild Card Playoff game before falling to Tampa Bay in the divisional playoff round. Turner went 49-59-1 in Washington. He was let go by the Skins with three games to go and a 7-6 mark in 2000.
Turner was a mentor to two Pro Bowl quarterbacks during his tenure in Washington. In 1996, Gus Frerotte became an all-star after passing for 3,453 yards and 12 touchdowns while leading the Skins to a 9-7 season. In 1999, Brad Johnson also garnered all-star recognition after passing for only the second 4,000-yard season in club history. Johnson threw for an NFC-leading 4,005 yards and 24 TDs, while guiding Washington to the NFC East title.
After spending the 2001 season with the Chargers, Turner spent two seasons (2002-03) as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator on Dave Wannstedt's staff in Miami. The Dolphins went 9-7 in 2002 and 10-6 in 2003 with Turner calling the plays. Ricky Williams rushed for a combined 3,225 yards and 25 touchdowns in those two seasons for the Dolphins. He posted the two highest single-season rushing totals in team history, racking up 1,853 yards in '02 and 1,372 yards in '03.
Turner brought plenty of offensive firepower to the Bay Area during his two years (2004-05) as the head coach of the Chargers' biggest rival, the Raiders. In 2004, Kerry Collins passed for 3,495 yards and 21 touchdowns, while leading receiver Jerry Porter just missed out on a 1,000-yard season as he caught 64 balls for 998 yards and nine scores. In 2005 though, Collins was part of a unique trio as he Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan accounted for 3,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing. Collins passed for 3,759 yards and 20 TDs, while Moss led the team with 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, and Jordan rushed for a team-high 1,025 yards and nine scores. Porter just missed out again on a 1,000-yard season, as he accumulated 942 yards and five scores while leading the team with 76 catches.
Turner was a three-year letterman (1972-74) as a quarterback at the University of Oregon, spending two seasons behind former Charger and NFL Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts. He graduated from Oregon in 1975 and spent that season as a graduate assistant with the Ducks.
In 1976, Turner moved on to the University of Southern California where he spent the next nine seasons as the Trojans' wide receivers coach (1976-79), defensive backs coach (1980), quarterbacks coach (1981-83) and offensive coordinator (1984). In 1980, Turner tutored what is regarded by many as one of the finest defensive backfields in college football history. It included safeties Ronnie Lott and Dennis Smith, both of whom went on to become NFL first-round draft choices in 1981. Also playing in that backfield was Tennessee Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher, who was selected in the seventh round of the '81 draft. During Turner's nine-year tenure at USC, the Trojans played in four Rose Bowls, winning all four. One of those was a win over Michigan after the 1978 season that capped a 12-1 season and gave SC the National Championship.
Turner and his wife, Nancy, have three children, Scott, Stephanie and Drew.