Souhan: Zimmer, Turner make a formidable Vikings coaching tandem

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2014 - 1:38 PM

Norv Turner, who spent 2013 as the Browns offensive coordinator, is a believer in a power running game, something the Vikings excel at.

Photo: Mark Duncan • Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The most startling news of the week was not that the Vikings hired a veteran defensive coordinator as their next coach. It was that they were willing and able to hire a renowned offensive coordinator. At Winter Park, the hiring of a star coordinator occurs about as often as a dome deflation.

Leslie Frazier had to make due with Bill Musgrave, widely considered a good quarterbacks coach and mediocre offensive coordinator, and two shot-in-the-dark defensive coordinators — Fred Pagac, who received a field promotion when Frazier was promoted, and Alan Williams, perhaps the Vikings’ third or fourth choice for the job after Pagac was later demoted.

Brad Childress brought in one of his cronies, Darrell Bevell, to run the offense. He hired a promising young position coach, Mike Tomlin, to run the defense, then replaced him with Frazier, who once lost his coordinator’s job in Cincinnati.

Mike Tice, working under budget constraints that would have kept Houdini shackled for life, hired a promising young coach named Scott Linehan to run the offense, and tried a succession of defensive coordinators.

Even Denny Green, who built one of the deepest staffs in league history upon his arrival in Minnesota, didn’t hire big-name coordinators. His first offensive coordinator was Jack Burns, who was plucked off Joe Gibbs’ Washington staff to translate Gibbs’ ideas. Green fired Burns and replaced him with Brian Billick, then an unknown assistant.

Tony Dungy would become a great NFL head coach, but when Green hired him, he was coming off a firing as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator and a stint coaching Kansas City’s defensive backs when Green made Dungy his defensive coordinator.

When Dungy left to become head coach of the Buccaneers, Green replaced him with Foge Fazio, a respected NFL veteran near the end of his career.

Saturday, the Vikings reportedly landed Norv Turner, giving them a chance to build one of their strongest staffs in decades.

Turner is most easily identified as a head coach who always seemed close to losing his job. He became a head coach only after becoming one of the best offensive coordinators in recent NFL history.

Turner learned his craft from Ernie Zampese, one of the brains behind the Air Coryell Chargers. Turner is not a West Coast guru. He believes in power running and deep passing.

This makes him an ideal fit for the Vikings. In 1998, Terrell Davis won the NFL rushing title, then a Super Bowl. Only twice before or since has a running back led the NFL in rushing and won a Super Bowl: When Emmitt Smith did it in 1992 and ’93. His offensive coordinator? Norv Turner.

With Zimmer running the Vikings defense and Turner the offense, the Vikings will be better prepared to win games with gameplanning and gameday coaching than they have since … when?

By the time Billick had revved the Vikings offense, Dungy was gone. Bevell and Frazier did good work, but Bevell worked under Childress’ thumb and Frazier is not known as an innovator. Jerry Burns was a talented offensive coach and Floyd Peters an accomplished defensive coordinator, but Burns’ offense was channeled through Bob Schnelker, whose name, screamed in anger by thousands, was still bouncing off the Metrodome roof as recently as last week.

Zimmer will have to splint a broken defense. He has shown a healing touch before.

Turner will have copious talent with which to work at every position other than quarterback, and he will be working under a general manager who knows that finding a quarterback will be the only way to prolong his employment.

Baseball teams yearn to be strong up the middle of the diamond. NFL teams must be strong up the middle of the organizational hierarchy, from quarterback to coordinators to head coach and general manager.

Zimmer and Turner give the Vikings a coaching advantage on most gamedays this fall. Vikings fans might find that concept strange, and welcome.


Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. • His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Atlanta 24 FINAL
Jacksonville 14
Detroit 23 FINAL
Buffalo 0
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 35
Kansas City 14 FINAL
Green Bay 34
Philadelphia 37
St. Louis 13 FINAL
Miami 14
Carolina 10 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
New England 13 FINAL
NY Giants 16
Washington 24 FINAL
Tampa Bay 10
Baltimore 22 FINAL
New Orleans 13
Chicago 13 FINAL
Cleveland 33
Denver 27 FINAL
Dallas 3
Minnesota 19 FINAL
Tennessee 3
San Francisco 40 FINAL
Houston 13
Arizona 9 FINAL
San Diego 12
Seattle 31 FINAL
Oakland 41
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Colorado State 8:00 PM
UNLV 9:30 PM
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



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 Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question