ASHBURN — The idea had been brewing in Scott Turner's mind for months. After last season ended, the Washington Commanders' offensive coordinator began wondering if he should move from the coaches' box to the sideline on game days. Then the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz, and Turner became convinced.
Turner will indeed call plays from the sideline this coming season, as was the case in Saturday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Turner said he feels the change will benefit the offense as it will allow him to communicate better with the unit — and specifically the quarterback.
"I talked to coach (Ron) Rivera about it and he was all for it," Turner said.
The adjustment comes in Turner's third season with the Commanders. Before, the 40-year-old sat up high to get a full picture of the field. But there were trade-offs with that approach. If Turner wanted to talk with one of his quarterbacks, for instance, either the passer would have to put on the headset or Turner would relay the message to quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese for him to pass along.
Now, Turner can simply walk over."That really helps them both," Rivera said.
Rivera was pleased with the setup in Saturday's game. What stood out particularly, the coach said, was that the play calls were coming in on time, allowing the Commanders to avoid unnecessary delay of game penalties. Rivera said he felt Turner was able to get into a rhythm, with Wentz practically anticipating the calls.
Wentz also factored in Turner's decision to make the switch. At the quarterback's last two stops, the 29-year-old worked with head coaches who served as their team's defacto play-caller in Doug Pederson (Eagles) and Frank Reich (Indianapolis). Naturally, the head coach stands on the sideline.
But beyond Wentz's history, Turner said he noticed how he and the seven-year veteran had connected with each other in practice. There were aspects of their talks that were "really valuable" as Wentz — new to Turner's scheme — gave the coordinator direct feedback and vice versa.
Turner wanted to carry that dialogue over to game day.
"That really confirmed it," Turner said of their in-practice chats, "that, 'Hey I think this is important to have that direct line of communication.'"
To adjust for Turner moving to the sideline, the Commanders now have senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler up in the booth. The two men have worked together for four years, dating back to their previous stint in Carolina. "I know I can trust what he sees," Turner said. Hostler essentially serves as Washington's passing game coordinator, though that is not his official title.
The end goal, of course, is for the Commanders' offense to improve. Under Turner, Washington has ranked 32nd and 21st in offensive DVOA — a Football Outsiders metric that measures efficiency — over the last two seasons. The Burgundy and Gold, in general, haven't fielded an above-average offense since 2016, now-Rams coach Sean McVay's last season with the club. That year, Washington ranked fifth.
"I do expect (standing on the sideline) to continue for the season," Turner said. "Obviously you can always change your mind, but I don't anticipate that at this point."
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