Scott Turner remembers it all. He remembers, at 14, watching the last game at RFK Stadium in December 1996, when Terry Allen ran for three touchdowns in Washington’s win over the Dallas Cowboys. He remembers sitting at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium the next year to watch Gus Frerotte launch a 40-yard game-winning touchdown to Michael Westbrook in overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. He remembers a couple of years later, throwing with Brad Johnson on the sidelines in between series to keep the quarterback loose.

He remembers every Washington home game from 1994 to 2000, when his father, Norv Turner, was the team’s coach. In the summers, Scott attended training camp, where he got a close-up of Norv’s coaching style — “I was like, ‘This is a different person out here,’” he joked — and fell victim to players’ pranks. One time, he was taped to a bench. Another time, he was stuffed in an ice bucket.

“It was fun just being around all these guys,” he said. “When you’re a kid, you look up to these guys as professional athletes, and I was playing football at the time and I thought maybe someday, but I wasn’t quite good enough to get there. That’s why I got into coaching.”

Turner’s memories of those six years in Washington and the 21 since are a collection of rare football experiences that, he says, remain a part of him. And they’re a part of what helped him form his own style as a coach.

“He’s been around players for so long. He’s seen football for so long,” said Rob Chudzinski, the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator who worked with both Turners in Cleveland. “That’s kind of the interesting thing about Scott, just, for how young he is, how much football he has in his head.”

Turner’s first season as the Washington Football Team’s offensive coordinator was filled with challenges — limited practice time because of the pandemic, four starting quarterbacks and a young and often depleted roster.

But Washington beefed up its offense this offseason, adding a new starter in Ryan Fitzpatrick and several new playmakers. Turner, whose second regular season with Washington begins next Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, has what Coach Ron Rivera describes as “a little more swagger in his walk” this year — plus a few new wrinkles in his playbook.

With a lifetime of football experience to draw from, Turner has blended the familiar with a bit of new to add his own stamp on Washington’s offense.

“He’s more confident. A lot more sure. He’s a lot more in control,” Rivera said. “We all know his dad, who is one of the best play-callers I’ve ever been around. Scott doesn’t try to be his dad. He tries to do it his own way, and I really appreciate that.”

Learning on the job

There’s little Turner hasn’t seen. His exposure to the sport at an early age put him years ahead of his peers in understanding defenses and the nuances of the game. He watched how players interacted in the locker room, the way they practiced. He was the coach’s son but also a student, listening and often questioning every call along the way.

“It’s helped Scott in being able to evaluate players and find out the guys that you can count on, the guys that maybe are a little fair-weather guys, guys that are a little bit full of it,” Norv Turner said.

When Turner was an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh (2008-10), he would often visit his father in San Diego, where he was coaching the Chargers at the time. Chudzinski was the Chargers’ tight ends coach for two years, and he and Turner would talk ball, sharing ideas that Turner would bring to Pittsburgh.

When Rivera was hired in Carolina in 2011, he tabbed Chudzinski as his offensive coordinator and Turner as an offensive quality coach, typically the lowest rung on the coaching ladder in the NFL.

“His title was quality control, but he was a lot more than that,” Chudzinski said.

The job was a two-year tutorial that Turner would use for years to come. Working with Chudzinski, he says, influenced his perspective on the game.

“He’s a very aggressive play-caller, not afraid to think outside the box, doesn’t really put limitations on it, doesn’t think, ‘It was always done this way, so this is how we’ve got to do it,’” Turner said. “Just try to open your mind and think of different things … we could potentially do or a different way to attack or to do certain things and just to kind of approach it that way. That’s helped me a lot.”

During Turner’s first year in Carolina, the Panthers drafted Cam Newton with the first overall pick. Not only did the coaches have to acclimate a rookie quarterback to the pro game, but they set out to create a system that best utilized Newton’s rare size and athleticism.

“That was at a time when my background and a lot of people’s in the NFL were really more geared toward NFL offenses and pro-style attacks,” Chudzinski said. “ … We knew Cam was going to play early, so how do we blend a traditional pro-style attack and be able to use some of the unique skills that he had in doing some things that hadn’t been done in the NFL before — the [run-pass options] and the quarterback reads — and then also teach Cam to develop as a pro-style quarterback. Scott was a big part of that.”

Chudzinski, with the help of Turner and the rest of Carolina’s staff, adapted the Air Coryell offense — which features a vertical passing attack and relies heavily on presnap motion and a pass-catching tight end — to get the most out of Newton’s dual-threat abilities.

“I remember with Chud, we looked at all of Auburn’s tape to see what [Newton] did well and then just to see him fit an offense to a quarterback that really wasn’t like what the other quarterbacks in the NFL had been like before, that was huge for me in my development,” Turner said. “It’s not like, ‘This is our offense, come play in it.’ It’s: ‘This is our offense. How can we help you be as successful as possible and in turn help us?’ And then Cam friggin’ lit the world on fire.”

It opened Turner’s eyes, he says, to what an offensive coach should be. “There aren’t a set of guidelines that you have to follow,” he added. “It’s, ‘Get it done, by whatever means necessary.’”

‘Time heals all wounds’

Football has, in a sense, prepared Turner to adapt and evolve. To survive in a cutthroat game.

In 2013, when Chudzinski was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he appointed Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator and Scott Turner as his wide receivers coach, marking the first time the father and son worked together in the NFL. After a 4-12 season, all three men were fired.

The Turners continued on to Minnesota (2014-16), where Norv was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator and Scott the quarterbacks coach. But Norv abruptly resigned during the 2016 season, citing differences with Coach Mike Zimmer, and Scott left the team after the season.

Father and son reunited with Rivera back in Carolina in 2018, and the offense continued to evolve, with the addition of versatile playmakers such as running back Christian McCaffrey. But Newton suffered a shoulder injury and later a foot injury, and the losses piled up. Rivera was fired before the end of the 2019 season, and Turner was appointed interim offensive coordinator for the final four games. Even though the Panthers went 0-4, he showed enough as a first-time play-caller to land another opportunity.

“The way he handled the quarterback situation I thought was really good,” Rivera said. “When Cam got hurt in both of those seasons, he had to adjust working with the guys he did, and he worked with his dad in helping to adjust the offense accordingly. I thought that’s a great step. I just knew that, even though he was going to be a first-time guy, we were getting a guy that can go through the process and be very, very thoughtful.”

That ability to adapt was on display in his debut season in Washington. The team cycled through quarterbacks and finished the season ranked 30th in total yards and 25th in scoring, but parts of Turner’s vision came to light. He used a lot of presnap motion (Washington ran it at the sixth-highest rate, according to Football Outsiders) and showed his ability to get creative, most notably in a 41-16 Thanksgiving victory over Dallas that featured a tight end pass from former quarterback Logan Thomas and the old “Bumerooski,” a trick play Chudzinski ran once, too.

“When I call a trick play, it’s not because I think it’s cool. It’s because I think it’s going to help us score points,” Turner said. “And within the rules of football, you can do a lot of different stuff. So I just try to think about what our players can do, how the defense is going to respond and then fit that together to score as many points and get as many first downs as we can.”

Of course, Turner has known the cruel realities of the coaching profession since witnessing his father’s final days in Washington. In December 2000, owner Daniel Snyder fired Norv, who fought back tears during his final news conference while lamenting that he didn’t have the chance to finish the year with the team still in playoff contention.

“There’s a million things that were just a part of me growing up. Coaching is what it is,” Turner said. “No one was happy with the way that it ended when my dad got let go. But unfortunately, it’s part of the job, and you take it personal because it is personal because of how hard you work at it. But I think time heals all wounds. And you realize that it’s a business and you got to move on.”

During offseason workouts in the spring, Norv attended his first Washington practices since his firing two decades ago, and he met with Snyder. “Dan and I had a great conversation and a visit,” Norv said, “and I just like where they are as an organization right now.”

A mix of old and new

The job is a pressure cooker, yet Turner says the weight on his shoulders feels a bit lighter, thanks largely to Washington’s offseason.

Unlike last season, Washington had a full slate of spring workouts and a preseason to prepare. The team also upgraded the roster at several positions, including bringing in a 16-year veteran quarterback in Fitzpatrick with the belief that he can jump-start the offense.

“It was the way he played over the last two seasons, how he plays with an edge and that he plays football to score points,” Turner said. “He plays fearless. He doesn’t play to be perfect, because you’re not going to be. And I think that we needed a little bit of that. And he’s smart. There’s a difference between fearless and reckless. You got to walk that line a little bit, and all the great guys do.”

Fitzpatrick has the two traits Turner says are must-haves for quarterbacks — accuracy and good decision-making — and the team has surrounded him with playmakers. The once-depleted wide receiving corps now features Terry McLaurin, former Panthers wideout Curtis Samuel and rookie Dyami Brown. Thomas has quickly become a focal point of the offense at tight end, and running back Antonio Gibson is coming off a rookie season in which he produced 1,042 yards from scrimmage.

Over the past few months, Turner has worked closely with Fitzpatrick to acclimate him to the new system.

“The biggest thing for me and what I want to get out of this camp has been being able to anticipate what Scott’s going to call,” Fitzpatrick said. “Being able to be in a situation when he calls something, to know like, ‘Okay, this is his expectation of why he’s calling this play.’”

The goal is to create more explosive plays — Washington ranked 27th in explosive play rate last year (8 percent) — to stretch the field and open up shorter throws as well as the running game.

“Those things add up,” Turner said in the offseason. “If the defense is worried about the downfield passing, it opens up the run. It just complements each other.”

Early signs of Turner’s creativity were evident in camp, with different personnel groupings and new play designs. But the offense, he says, is constantly evolving to adapt to his players. It still will have a lot of what’s familiar, with a mix of some new.