There were deep thoughts taking place during the drive from Golden Valley to Eden Prairie on Wednesday morning, after the bulletin came down that Norv Turner had resigned as the Vikings offensive coordinator.
As the vehicle pulled into a parking ramp across the street from Winter Park, I had it narrowed down to two options:
• Coach Mike Zimmer had taken a hard look at his team’s offensive effort over the previous two weeks and had told Turner, much-respected in the NFL as a big brain for offense, that it was time to step aside.
• Zimmer finally had come to believe it was Norv who had slashed the throats of the toy cats that Zimmer had introduced into the locker room two weeks ago as a motivational ploy.
Soon thereafter, Zimmer came walking down the back steps at Vikings headquarters for an outdoor media session and introduced a third option:
That the Vikings’ official statement was the truth, that Turner made the decision to leave in the middle of the season, with no hard feelings, and simply in the best interests of the team and of him.
Zimmer made a compelling presentation to accept that as the reality. The coach said that Turner’s resignation early on Wednesday morning also had come as a surprise to him, and it was no way forced.
One factor that made it compelling was the sidebar to this drama: Zimmer was wearing sunglasses to cover the effects of surgery that he had to repair a torn retina Tuesday.
The other moment that left the media audience wanting to believe Zimmer was when he choked up on the second-to-last question in the Q&A, when paying tribute to Turner’s standing as an opponent — Zim’s defense vs. Norv’s offense.
“Norv always made it difficult to play against him,’’ Zimmer said. “But even more, getting to know Norv as a person these last three years …’’
And then Zimmer’s voice cracked. He might have actually cried if someone didn’t interrupt with a question about the right tackle position.
There was no mistaking the admiration as a fellow football man that Zimmer, 60 and in the third year of his first shot as a head coach, had for Turner, 64, and with three NFL shots as a head coach.
Yet, the circumstantial evidence is too strong to buy the idea that Turner wasn’t pushed into this decision.
Sam Bradford came to the outdoor podium and, asked about Turner, said:
“I’m surprised. I absolutely didn’t see this coming. I was in here talking with him yesterday, and it didn’t seem like anything was different.’’
So, there was no indication to the quarterback that Turner was contemplating this monumental decision on Tuesday.
Also, Zimmer returned to the Winter Park office after his eye surgery. He said the torn retina did not prevent him from watching a great deal of “film.’’ And, the coach, bad eye and all, slept in the office overnight.
It would seem that Zimmer had taken another long look at the disastrously failed game plan against the lowly Bears on Monday night in Soldier Field. And then the coach stayed in the office overnight, sure to be there when Turner arrived before dawn, as do assistant coaches.
Zimmer said that “Norv came in at 6:30’’ and that’s when Turner surprised him with the plan to resign.
Tuesday, nothing’s different with Norv, according to the quarterback; Wednesday, the head coach is waiting to meet at 6:30, and then Norv drops the bombshell.
OK, you can’t call a coach with a torn retina and fighting tears behind the sunglasses a non-teller of truth, and I’m not going to do that here.
I will say Zimmer bringing in Pat Shurmur, another former head coach, as a “tight ends’’ coach last Jan. 24 was a blatant hint of Zimmer’s unhappiness with the way Turner’s offense had performed in 2015.
The hiring of Tony Sparano gets thrown in the same pot as bringing in Shurmur, but it was a completely different deal. Sparano was hired to loudly encourage offensive linemen.
There was only one way to interpret Shurmur agreeing to a nothing job on Zimmer’s staff. He was the offensive coordinator in waiting.
Zimmer did his film study on that long Tuesday and into the morn, and even with one eye, he could see that the wait was over.
I only have one historical equivalent to Zimmer hiring Shurmur with Norv still on the job: That would be Kevin McHale hiring his pal Flip Saunders as the Timberwolves’ “general manager’’ in 1995, with Bill Blair still on the job as coach.
Blair, the Salty Sea Captain, lasted one-fourth of the NBA schedule, compared with Turner, the Salty Coordinator, who almost made it to the halfway point with the 2016 Vikings.