The Minnesota Vikings began the 2014 NFL offseason by assembling an almost entirely new coaching staff. New head coach Mike Zimmer elected not to retain incumbent offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, permitting him to become the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach.
While Musgrave had fallen out of favor in Minnesota, his departure still created a vacancy at an important coaching position. The Vikings capitalized on an opportunity to hire a difference-maker, naming Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator and offensive play caller.
Turner, who was the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, has coached in the NFL since 1985 for 10 different NFL franchises. Turner has had plenty of success throughout his long NFL coaching career. He is most commonly recognized for his success as head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
From 2007 to 2009, Turner led the Chargers to playoffs three consecutive times, winning 32 regular season games in the process. Much of this success can be attributed to Turner’s high-scoring and well-balanced vertical offense.
Last season, the Vikings’ offense was painfully one-dimensional. On the shoulders of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings finished the season ranked third in the NFL in total rushing. However, as a result of quarterback inconsistency, the Vikings finished the season ranked 25th overall in yards passing. The Vikings’ expected starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, played well enough to win in limited playing time last season.
Turner should have little issue getting the most out of Cassel, given his intelligence and a Vikings roster loaded with dynamic offensive weapons.
Turner has a long, successful history with quarterback development. While with the Dallas Cowboys, Turner had the opportunity to coach Troy Aikman. Aikman had three of his best statistical seasons while playing in Turner’s offensive system. In San Diego, Turner developed Philip Rivers into an elite passer. In six seasons under Turner, Rivers passed for over 4,000 yards four times, including a NFL best 4,710 yards in 2010.
Even Brad Johnson passed for over 4,000 yards under Turner in 1999. With the Vikings likely to spend an early-round draft selection on a quarterback, Turner’s successful history of developing quarterbacks was likely one of his greatest selling points.
Turner has also had a lot of success coaching wide receivers and tight ends throughout his career. In 2013 with the Browns, Turner was instrumental in the development of wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon finished the season with an NFL-leading 1,646 receiving yards while also totaling nine touchdowns, despite only playing in 14 games.
Browns tight end Jordan Cameron also had a breakout season in 2013, totaling over 900 yards receiving and seven touchdown receptions. In San Diego, Turner molded tight end Antonio Gates into arguably the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL for a number of years and also played a critical role in the development of wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
Upon his hiring by the Vikings, Turner immediately added 10 offensive plays designed specifically for electric wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson’s speed and elusiveness should fit perfectly into Turner’s vertical offensive attack. Turner will also have the added benefits of pass-catching tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Greg Jennings, in addition to Patterson and Peterson.
Turner’s past success developing quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends is a perfect match for the Vikings, who already have potential on their roster at wide receiver and tight end. The 2009 Chargers offense, which ranked fourth in the NFL in points scored, was fueled by former superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Gates and Jackson.
In terms of body type and athletic ability, the Vikings’ combination of Peterson, Rudolph and Patterson shares a striking resemblance to this Chargers offensive trio, leaving the door wide open for Turner to revolutionize the Vikings’ offense.