Craig: Vikings offense should be in expert hands with Turner

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2014 - 11:20 AM

Norv Turner, expected to be named Vikings offensive coordinator under new head coach Mike Zimmer, is an innovative thinker.

In Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman would be turning over the team’s on-field decision-making to a pair of coaches who played key roles in bringing the Leslie Frazier era to its ugly end.

Zimmer, who was named Frazier’s successor as Vikings coach Wednesday, was the Bengals defensive coordinator when he essentially landed the Frazier Era kill shot with a 42-14, Week 16 mauling that came a week after the improving Vikings had blown out the playoff-bound Eagles.

Thirteen weeks earlier, Turner — who is expected to become Zimmer’s offensive coordinator but wouldn’t comment on that possibility when reached Thursday — arrived at the Metrodome as Browns offensive coordinator Sept. 22.

Yeah, it was Week 3 and the Vikings were 0-2 and coming off a last-minute loss at Chicago. But they were virtually assured of a victory in their home opener against the lowly Browns.

Cleveland was 0-2 and General Manager Mike Lombardi had spent the week before the Vikings game trading starting running back Trent Richardson and forcing the promotion of Brian Hoyer from No. 3 quarterback to starter.

The league was laughing at the Browns until Turner and Hoyer called and executed a clutch drive to beat the Vikings 31-27 in the final minute. With his running game working for the Colts, Turner called 11 consecutive passing plays as Hoyer, in only his second NFL start, completed six of them for 55 yards and a 7-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.

“Look at that game and all that Norv was going through that week,” said former Vikings quarterback and current Sirius XM NFL analyst Rich Gannon, who also played under Turner in Oakland in 2004. “People say Richardson didn’t do anything once he was traded to Indianapolis. But he was still Cleveland’s best offensive player and pretty good the year before. Hoyer comes in and he’s never really played. But look at the season [receiver] Josh Gordon had playing with three quarterbacks.”

Turner and Hoyer would lead Cleveland on a three-game winning streak before a knee injury knocked Hoyer out for the rest of the season. The Browns collapsed and coach Rob Chudzinski was fired after only one season, putting Turner on the open market for the second time in two years.

With a defensive-minded head coach and instability at quarterback, the Vikings’ choice for offensive coordinator is on par with its choice for head coach. The 61-year-old Turner will come with 29 years of NFL coaching experience, including 15 as a head coach and eight as an offensive coordinator.

As a head coach, Turner’s teams in Washington, Oakland and San Diego were considered soft in part because Turner didn’t make his mark as a motivator. Those 15 teams combined for a 114-122-1 record and only four playoff appearances.

But as an offensive mind, Turner is one of the more well-respected coaches in the league. Turner has had 11 top-10 passing offenses, but Gannon says don’t overlook Norv’s ground game.

“I think Norv being hired in Minnesota is a very good thing for Adrian Peterson,” Gannon said. “I think people have this misconception that he’s had all this success with great quarterbacks like Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers. If you really study Norv, he’s had some of the best rushing offenses in the league.”

Turner has coached five rushing champions. Emmitt Smith won three in a row with the Cowboys, including the Super Bowl-winning seasons of 1992 and ’93 seasons, when Turner was offensive coordinator. Ricky Williams won it in 2002, when Turner was offensive coordinator in Miami. And LaDainian Tomlinson won it in 2007, when Turner was head coach in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Turner also has had two receivers lead the league: Michael Irvin in 1991 and Gordon, a second-year player who excelled under Turner this season.

“Norv’s an innovative guy who knows how to get the ball into the right hands,” Gannon said. “He runs the ball, but his system features the vertical passing game. He’s going to attack safeties and throw the ball down the field.”

Gannon said he believes the Vikings job is an attractive one for Turner, with one significant caveat, of course.

“They got a great running back and a pretty solid offensive line that maybe underperformed a little bit this year,” Gannon said. “You have a couple decent receivers. This [Cordarrelle] Patterson kid looks like he’s going to be a player.

“If you’re Norv, you say to yourself, ‘If we get the quarterback situation addressed, this thing could work here. You could get this thing turned around pretty quick.’ ”

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Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
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St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
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Cleveland 94
Washington 95 4th Qtr 1:47
Miami 95
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 80 4th Qtr 8:26
Memphis 72
Portland 69 4th Qtr
San Antonio 74
LA Clippers 29 2nd Qtr 5:58
Denver 44
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 3rd Prd 7:08
Ottawa 5
NY Islanders 2 3rd Prd 4:07
Detroit 1
Boston 1 3rd Prd
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 0 2nd Prd
Calgary 0
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
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Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
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Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 54 2nd Half 3:00
Middle Tennessee 63
Seattle 46 2nd Half 7:50
Minnesota 79
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 46 2nd Half 0:35
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 51 2nd Half 1:58
Southern Ill 50
TX-Pan American 27 2nd Half
Creighton 39
Colorado State 34 2nd Half
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Marquette 40
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Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
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Houston 56
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Fla Gulf Coast 69
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Texas Tech 76
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(13) Duke 95
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Virginia 62
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Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
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Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Miami-Florida 46 2nd Half 9:50
Tulane 50
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Illinois State 52
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Missouri State 62
ULM 42 2nd Half 0:58
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




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