We have all heard about the Madden cover curse, the curse of the Bambino and the Sports Illustrated cover curse. But a new curse (some would call it a trend) has emerged around the presence and absence of offensive wizard Norv Turner.
Let's call it the Turner Effect.
Back in the preseason, I examined a trend surrounding running backs that experienced a statistical breakout under Turner. The simple fact is that those breakout runners also saw their stats fall across the board once Turner left their respective teams. That concerned me when it came to the value of Frank Gore, who led the NFC in rushing yards and become a fantasy football stalwart in all formats last season. I'm not that superstitious a person, though maybe I am a bit more now, so I mentioned the trend and let it slide.
|Sam Greenwood / Getty Images|
|Ricky Williams' greatest statistical seasons came under Norv Turner.|
Instead, I should have warned owners with more fervor that Gore became a far more viable bust candidate the second Turner left San Francisco to become the new head coach in San Diego. As someone who has never believed much in curses, I didn't think it held water. Truth be known, this turned out to be the second time in three seasons that Turner has burned me.
Fool me once, shame on you, Norv. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Gore rushed for an NFC-best 1,695 yards with nine total touchdowns last season, so his draft value was at an all-time high headed into 2007. The former Miami Hurricane, who missed last weekend's contest in Atlanta due to an injured ankle, has seen a ridiculous decrease in value without his former offensive coordinator. Based on his current porous totals, Gore will rush for 932 yards and six scores in his first season since Turner left the Niners.
Remember when I said that Turner has now burned me twice? Well, the first time came in 2006.
LaMont Jordan signed with Oakland in the offseason and was one of my top sleepers based on the presence of Turner, who was the new head coach in Raider Nation at the time. Jordan went on to post career bests in all statistical categories. He had 70 catches, 1,588 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns. Much like Gore in 2007, his value heading into the 2006 season soared.
The Raiders fired Turner after a 4-12 season, which should have put an enormous bullseye on Jordan's back. The veteran went on to miss seven games in 2006 due to injuries, and he finished with 10 catches, 508 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He was also one of the biggest disappointments in all of fantasy football. After a hot start to this season, Jordan aggravated his bad back and has since lost the top spot on the Oakland depth chart to Justin Fargas.
Was it coincidence, or did the loss of Turner somehow curse Jordan?
Before you dismiss that notion as ridiculous, consider the fate of Ricky Williams.
The New Orleans Saints gave up an entire draft class to land Williams, who was touted as the next great runner in the NFL. He went on to rush for 884 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, and his averages with the Saints (1,043 rushing yards, six TDs) were not that of a superstar back. Williams then found himself in Miami with Turner, who helped him realize his statistical potential.
In his first season under Turner as his offensive coordinator, Williams rushed for an NFL and career-best 1,853 yards. He also scored a career-best 17 total touchdowns and went from underachiever to fantasy stud. Williams totaled close to 1,400 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2003, but Turner left Miami in the offseason to take over as the head man in Oakland.
That was the beginning of the end of Williams' value and statistical success.
In 2004, Williams was suspended for the entire season due to off-the-field issues. He came back in 2005 and was part of a committee situation with Ronnie Brown, but the former Texas standout wasn't the same runner. He went on to be suspended a second time in 2006, and at this point it seems Williams will not be reinstated to the NFL in the near future.
Still don't believe in the Turner curse? Well, it doesn't end with Gore, Jordan and Williams. But it did start with our final victim, Stephen Davis.
Davis was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1996, but he didn't make a significant impact until 1999 when Turner made him his featured back. Davis became a viable fantasy star, as he rushed for a career-best 1,405 yards and scored a career-best 17 touchdowns. He would rush for 1,318 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2000, but Turner was fired with three games left in that season. In his 13 starts under Turner, Davis averaged 92 rushing yards per game.
In those starts under interim head coach Terry Robiskie, Davis averaged 72 rushing yards per game.
Davis did rush for 1,432 yards the season after Turner was fired, but he scored six fewer touchdowns compared to his 2000 total. He would reach the 1,000-yard mark just one more time in his career before knee problems cost him a chance at an NFL roster spot.
So with these valid little factoids on the table, do we believe in the Turner effect or is it mere coincidence? Those who aren't superstitious might ridicule the notion, but the stats don't lie. If a Turner curse does exist, is it that far-fetched to believe that the likes of Marshall Faulk, Daunte Culpepper, Eddie George, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb and Dorsey Levens were also jinxed when featured on the Madden cover?
I will make one statement: Has anyone seen Vince Young's numbers this season? Oh, and he did miss his first start ever with an injured quadriceps? Curse or no curse?
Waiver wire focus
Kellen Clemens, QB, N.Y. Jets: Clemens looked good in his first start as the Jets' top quarterback with 226 yards and one touchdown, so he now has fantasy relevance in larger formats. He's a free agent in 80 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Ron Dayne, RB, Houston: It's obvious that Ahman Green's knee will be a problem all season, so now is the time to add Dayne. He rushed for 122 yards and one score in Oakland, and he's available in over 70 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Detroit defense: The Lions led all defensive units in fantasy points in Week 9, and they're now in the top three among defenses for the season. Believe it or not, Detroit has close to 30 more points than the Bears after nine weeks.
Justin Fargas, RB, Oakland: Fargas has emerged as the new starter for head coach Lane Kiffin, and embraced the role with 104 yards and one touchdown in Week 9. Fargas is a free agent in more than 40 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Atlanta: Dunn is past his prime, but he did rush for 100 yards and one score against San Francisco. He is available in 41 percent of NFL.com leagues and could see more work with Jerious Norwood hurt.
Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City: Reports indicate Larry Johnson could miss at least one start with an injured ankle, so Holmes has fantasy relevance once again. He is owned in a mere 23 percent of NFL.com leagues.
J.P. Losman, QB, Buffalo: Losman threw for 295 yards and one touchdown in a win over Cincinnati, and this week's matchup against the winless Miami Dolphins, makes him a viable fantasy starter in leagues with 12-plus teams.
David Patten, WR, New Orleans: Patten had 81 yards and one touchdown in a win over Jacksonville and has averaged 83 yards in his past four games. The Saints are on fire once again, so Patten has newfound fantasy value.
Michael Pittman, RB, Tampa Bay: Pittman has missed several weeks with an injured leg, but he's expected to return in Week 11 after Tampa's bye. Fantasy owners who need a runner should take a chance on Pittman now.
Who should I start in Week 10: Philip Rivers or Vince Young? -- R. Hill, Phoenix, Ariz.
M.F.: Young has a more favorable matchup, but I don't trust either of these quarterbacks as far as I can throw them. At 5-foot-8, I couldn't throw either of them very far, that's for sure. I'd prefer to take a chance on a quarterback with a better matchup, like Losman or Kurt Warner, that might be on the waiver wire.
M.F.: Westbrook is a must-start back regardless of the opponent, so the decision boils down to Bush and Lynch. Both have tremendous matchups, so I'd side with Bush in a PPR league and Lynch in a standard format.