Turner returns as offensive coordinator

By Lisa Koulias

Former Illinois head coach Ron Turner didn’t have to travel far to find his next home.

When Illinois announced that it would not retain him after his eight years as head coach, Turner’s search for a new home began. And all he had to do was drive north on Interstate 57 to Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

When Turner was offered the position as offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, he immediately knew it was the perfect match.

“It was easy to tell right away that it was a good fit,” said Turner after he was announced as the Bears’ new offensive coordinator Jan. 11. “I’m excited to be here; I really am. Chicago is a special city and has been a part of my life and my family’s life for the last 12 years. It’s great to have an opportunity to come back and be back with the Bears.”

Before his stint at Illinois, Turner was the Bears’ offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. During his tenure with the team, he coordinated an offense that continued to improve every season, breaking the club record for passing yards with 233 a game in 1995 and producing a 1,000-yard receiver and rusher in the same season.

“As we started the process, I talked about the things I was looking for in an offensive coordinator,” said Bears head coach Lovie Smith in a press conference last week. “Ron was the first guy, and really the only guy that I talked to, and I feel real good about what he will be able to bring to us.

“Today we are taking the another step in the right direction to achieve goals we set for the following year.”

Joining Turner is Harry Hiestand as offensive line coach. Hiestand was Turner’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach for eight years at Illinois.

Turner replaces Terry Shea and inherits an offense that ranked at the bottom of the NFL last season in scoring, total yards, passing yards, first downs and third down efficiency. In the 2004 season, the Bears had only 19 offensive touchdowns in 16 games.

Turner said he will use the same playbook he has used at Illinois, but will go over it with the Bears organization to make the proper changes.

He did say that the key to the new Bears’ offense will be its running game.

“I think the key to making an offense work at any level is having a plan and executing it,” Turner said. “And I think it starts at the running game. If you can run the football, that opens up so many other things. I believe you have to be able to run the football to win, and the key to that is execution and putting them in the position to make the plays.

“It will be a new terminology, it will be totally new, but I think it will be one that they will be able to pick up pretty quickly.”

Turner said that the offense would be simple enough for the team to execute, but diverse enough to be effective and successful.

“I think there are some playmakers here and that will be our job, to see what they can do and give them confidence to know that they can make the plays,” Turner said. “Will we be able to make improvement? Yeah, there is no question we will.

“I think they can expect this offense to continue to grow and continue to get better. But most importantly, we need to get the players to buy into it and believe it and know that we are giving them chances to go out and make plays.”