Musgrave builds an offense, just needs the players

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 9, 2011 - 5:21 PM

For the time being, the Vikings' new coordinator can only envision what his scheme will eventually look like.

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Former Falcons assistant head coach Bill Musgrave, now the Vikings' offensive coordinator, helped groom Matt Ryan, left, into a Pro Bowl quarterback.

Photo: Don Wright, Associated Press

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Bill Musgrave, five months after being hired as Vikings offensive coordinator, has yet to set foot on a field with any of the players he will coach.

But the NFL lockout hasn't impeded Musgrave's ability to put together the system he plans to install.

"We've had a number of meetings this offseason as a staff, devoting ways to get the ball into Percy [Harvin's] hands, ways to get the ball into Shank's [Visanthe Shiancoe's] hands, ways to get the ball into Adrian [Peterson's] hands -- whether it be conventional or unconventional ways," Musgrave said.

Musgrave and coach Leslie Frazier clearly want an unpredictable offense. A final playbook is complete, and although Musgrave mentions West Coast language when discussing the system, there will be significant differences from the very generic version that former coach Brad Childress ran.

Quarterback Joe Webb likes that Musgrave has taken out some of the lengthy verbiage associated with the system. Musgrave points to the offenses run by Atlanta, Arizona, New England, Pittsburgh and the Giants as examples of what he wants to do.

Musgrave, 43, came to Minnesota from Atlanta, where he spent five seasons as quarterbacks coach and helped develop quarterback Matt Ryan after he was drafted third overall in 2008.

He now will be working with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who was selected 12th overall. Webb also could compete for playing time, and the Vikings probably will sign or trade for a veteran quarterback.

"We'll major in giving the ball to Adrian, and we'll need a quarterback that can keep defenses honest and can have a little bit of movement to himself," said Musgrave, who was a backup quarterback with Dallas, San Francisco and Denver. "Not just be a statue back there because with the pieces that are in place we won't be just a drop-back, stay-in-the-pocket type team. We're going to really attack the defense on the edges both with Adrian and also our quarterback."

As for whether Ponder will be able to step in immediately and play, Musgrave admitted "it's hard to speculate at this stage. We just don't know. There are so many contingency plans because there are so many unknowns.

"I do know this," Musgrave said. "I know that Christian has a broad-based background on offensive football from Florida State, and he'll be able to jump in there and keep his head above water. We'll hope to do a good job and enable him to maintain his confidence and develop and get comfortable at the same time."

Ponder and Musgrave discussed football during the few hours the lockout was lifted in late April. That was during the NFL draft and enabled Ponder to leave Winter Park with a portion of the playbook.

He shared this information with a few players who spent time last week at a passing camp he arranged in Bradenton, Fla. That list included wide receivers Greg Camarillo and Emmanuel Arceneaux and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

"We decided to give those guys during that little window of opportunity -- the guys that were around or the guys we had access to -- we tried to provide them with just the meat and potatoes [of the offense]," Musgrave said. "Just the initial language and formations so they could start to visualize the concepts and the themes. Didn't necessarily give them all the bells and whistles and all the audibles and the checks and things like that."

The system was worked on by an offensive staff that also includes three newcomers -- Jeff Davidson (offensive line), Craig Johnson (quarterbacks) and James Saxon (running backs) -- and five holdovers. Musgrave worked with wide receivers coach George Stewart for one season in Atlanta and also was familiar with tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson.

"We watched anything and everything back two, three, four years worth," Musgrave said when asked how much film he and the others studied. "Just so we can have a good feel for their strength, their limitations and also what we believe in philosophically so we can match those two factors up.

"... It was definitely a process because each of the coaches on the staff had input. We worked with the staff, whether it be with the playbook or in-game planning. We spend hours and hours together bouncing ideas off one another and making sure that we leave no stone unturned collectively."

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