ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer worked with Captain Munnerlyn (24) during practice on Wednesday.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Souhan: Mondays might not be as fun for critical Vikings fans

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • September 5, 2014 - 11:58 AM

The NFL season began on Thursday night, so we know how most sports fans will spend Sundays for the next five months.

The question for Vikings fans this year is, how will you spend Mondays?

Who will be your Bob Schnelker this year? Your Bill Musgrave, your Brad Childress, your Alan Williams?

There are traditions that define Vikingdom: wearing Helga Horns, hating Green Bay, and second-guessing coordinators on Monday morning.

You really want to try that this year?

You can’t run into a Vikings employee these days without them turning the conversation to coaching.

“This is the best game plan I’ve ever been given,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “Ever.”

On the record, off the record, on the radio, in front of minicams, whispered and virtually shouted, everyone at Winter Park finds a way to mention how much the expertise of Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner has altered the form and potential of Vikings players.

This isn’t a shock. Before taking the Vikings’ head coaching job, Zimmer was one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the NFL.

When he arrived at Winter park, one of his first moves Zimmer made was hiring Turner as his offensive coordinator. Turner ranks as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL over the past 25 years.

Their presence might improve the Vikings and alter Monday morning football conversations from the Iron Range to the Iowa border.

The rise in the popularity of the NFL has paralleled the public’s willingness to blame assistant coaches for everything.

The blame-the-coordinator movement in Minnesota migrated from water coolers — yes, people used to talk around water coolers instead of texting, Facebooking and tweeting each other — to stadium seats in 1989.

During a victory over the Rams at the Metrodome in 1989, fans jeered Vikings offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker.

After that game, Vikings coach Jerry Burns, who earned his bones as Bud Grant’s offensive coordinator and an uncredited innovator of what is now termed the West Coast offense, cursed the idea of blaming Schnelker, and the people who had done so.

“He was emotionally distraught,” Burns said. “The way he was treated today was ridiculous. We don’t mind criticism. We don’t claim to have the corner on brains in this business. But when it gets personally demeaning, it’s gone too far. You can only take so much. …

“The second-guessers are never wrong. If you run and don’t make it, you should have passed. If you pass, you should’ve run.”

Burnsie is a perceptive guy.

Blaming coordinators as a default position is mindless.

Blaming coordinators when they mismanage personnel is reasonable.

Second-guessing Bill Musgrave last year when he couldn’t figure out how to get Cordarrelle Patterson on the field was on-point.

Brad Childress became the Vikings’ coach in 2006. Vikings fans celebrated his arrival, and kept celebrating until they realized they could predict what play he would call.

Childress became a punch line. Fans began dressing like him in the Metrodome, imitating him by holding a laminated play chart in front of their lips as they yelled, “Chester Taylor left!”

Know what? Childress wound up running very good offenses in Minnesota. He ran the ball when a powerful running back and offensive line were his strengths. He was able to get big plays out of Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte. His offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, coaxed a career year out of Brett Favre at the age of 38.

Childress eventually got fired because he lost support throughout the building, not because of play-calling.

Blaming coordinators and play-calling is usually silly. Coaches spend dozens of hours breaking down films and charting opponents’ tendencies while formulating a game plan. Just because a play doesn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea.

Last year, Musgrave failed because he refused to put his best players in position to succeed, and Williams simply was overmatched.

This year, if the Vikings fail, it won’t be because of play-calling or preparation. It will be because they weren’t good enough.

That won’t be nearly as much fun to talk about on Monday mornings.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. @SouhanStribjsouhan@startribune.com

© 2014 Star Tribune