His quarterback is under fire and a notoriously impatient boss simmers in the background, making his job security an issue after eight wins in his first 25 games as coach of the Oakland Raiders.
It was supposed to be different for Norv Turner in 2005.
Owner Al Davis traded for wide receiver Randy Moss and signed running back LaMont Jordan and defensive end Derrick Burgess as free agents, hoping to lift a 5-11 team into contention in the AFC West. While all three additions have been productive, the Raiders are a 3-6 team at the bottom of the division, one not so far removed from a trip to the Super Bowl under Bill Callahan after the 2002 season. Next up for Turner, who replaced Callahan in 2004, is a return to Washington, where he coached the Redskins from 1994 to 2000, for a game against his former team at FedEx Field next Sunday.
"The year I left Washington I was in San Diego; we actually opened with them in San Diego," Turner said. "That was the emotional game, a big game and all that. It's been a long time. So much has changed. My thoughts are on our team and what we need to do."
In a season marked by Bay Area boos, much must be done. On Sunday, a rare sellout crowd in Oakland voiced its disapproval for quarterback Kerry Collins in a 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos and, by extension, Turner.
"You can't analyze that," Turner said. "There's a frustration level that comes in, whether you're a coach, a player or a fan, and you want to have success. I think that's what the reaction is."
Moss, who arrived by trade from Minnesota in the most celebrated offseason move, has evolved into an occasionally spectacular sideshow rather than an every-down force. Regaining his form after suffering rib, groin and pelvis injuries on Oct. 16 against San Diego, Moss had a season-high six receptions for 87 yards and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass against Denver, a score that got the Raiders within 23-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Moss has 32 receptions for 629 yards and five touchdowns and is averaging 19.7 yards per reception. He hasn't spoken to the media since the season opener, but by all accounts has been a good teammate and an animated, positive presence on the Raiders' sideline. He even called the team together for a pep talk as it struggled the previous week against Kansas City and could be seen plotting with Turner and Collins between series against Denver.
Impatient fans and media wonder why Moss isn't more a part of the offense. Turner cites double teams and coverages. Moss, Turner said, is working to be part of the solution.
"He has a good understanding of what people are trying to do to us," Turner said. "People assume it's always, 'You throw me this.' A lot of times he'll say, 'They're doubling me in this formation and we can get the ball to [Jerry Porter].' "
While the defense has been better than expected with 20 sacks and some stout play against the run -- the run-heavy Broncos averaged just 3.2 yards per carry -- an offense that was supposed to carry the team has instead been disjointed and error-prone. The Raiders began the season by failing to score more than 20 points in each of their first five games.
Jordan, signed to a five-year, $27.5 million free agent contract to upgrade the NFL's last-ranked running game in 2004, has improved the bottom line only marginally. The Raiders are up from 80.9 yards per game rushing to 85.3, 26th in the NFL. Collins, the beleaguered veteran that Davis signed before the 2004 season to bring the Raiders back to their roots with a vertical passing game, has thrown some of the prettiest deep passes since Daryle Lamonica.
But Collins has failed when it comes to moving the chains as steadily as predecessor Rich Gannon, and his lack of mobility makes for adventure every time he is pushed out of the pocket. A career-long problem of throwing interceptions, which Collins had seemingly conquered by throwing only three in the first eight games, came back to haunt him against Denver. He was intercepted three times by the Broncos, including one that rookie Darrent Williams returned 80 yards for a touchdown to put the game away. The Raiders seemed likely to close within 23-17 until that point and the interception only restarted the boos.
"I was playing lousy," Collins said. "I understand their frustration. They want to win. They are passionate about it. It's part of the game and part of the position."
Still, Collins's job is safe. Turner said he never considered removing Collins and there is no thought of starting backup Marques Tuiasosopo against Washington.
There have been enough questionable officials calls and bad breaks for the Raiders to lament they could be 6-3 instead of 3-6. Two losses to Kansas City swung on close calls, and the Raiders lost, 23-20, to Philadelphia when normally reliable kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goal attempts.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who has shown some of his old form this season after being lost in a 3-4 defensive alignment in 2004, said he is mystified by the team's performance.
"If I had the answer, we wouldn't be 3-6 right now," Sapp said. "It's something you just can't put your finger on. There's no quit in this ballclub, that's something we can hang our hat on. We play hard, but we've just got to play a lot better."
As is his custom, Turner will look no further than the next game -- which happens to be against the Redskins, the team that fired him one year after winning the NFC East.
"You can't get caught up in that," Turner said. "You've got to find a way to put a complete game together and play an entire game."