Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
New Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is hoping the team can get a dynamic young quarterback, but still pictures running back Adrian Peterson as the key to the Vikings offense.
“We want to make big plays, we want to be an explosive offense, and we want to run the ball,” Turner said today at Winter Park.
The new Vikings coaching staff was officially named today by new coach Mike Zimmer. Turner and defensive coordinator George Edwards fielded questions from the media.
Turner, a head coach for 15 NFL seasons, with three different teams, was Cleveland offensive coordinator last season.
When Turner was approached about taking the job by Zimmer, Turner said his decision was made when, “I looked at the roster, I looked at the offensive side of the ball. I think this is a group that can be real good, and I think we can be good real fast.”
Turner said the Vikings’ quarterback situation is “a process we got through, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Matt Cassel is opting out of his contract with the Vikings, which would leave Christian Ponder as the only QB on the roster as free agency begins March 8. Turner, however, said the door isn't closed on Cassel, and he also had nice things to say about Ponder.
Turner pointed to the success Seattle had after taking QB Russell Wilson in the third round.
“When you have the No. 1 defense in the league, it’s easier to play quarterback,” Turner said. “Everyone is in agreement to adding a young quarterback to the organization, so it’s just a matter of going out and getting him.”
Turner, who was coaching San Diego when Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record of 296 yards as a rookie, said he has talked to Peterson.
“He understands the biggest thing to me is we are trying to win,” Turner said. “And he’s at the point in his career where he wants to make the playoffs and have some success in the playoffs and whatever it takes for us is what he wants to do.”
Edwards, who has been offensive coordinator for Washington and Buffalo, was linebackers coach in Miami last season.
“We have some good young talent that we can come in and develop,” said Edwards. “We don’t think we’re that far off.”
The Vikings gave up the most points of any NFL team last season, and are expected to undergo a lot of defensive changes.
“We can’t change everything schematically, but we want to put people in the right positions,” Edwards said.
He said he hadn’t done much evaluating of players, adding “we’re really just getting started here.”
The Vikings have officially announced head coach Mike Zimmer’s staff, and it includes special teams coach Mike Priefer, who is at the center of an independent review involving allegations made by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Kluwe, who has been a public advocate for LGBT social movements, claimed Priefer made anti-gay remarks while at Minnesota and was part of the reason why Kluwe was cut in early 2013. The Vikings launched an investigation into Kluwe’s claims, which Priefer denied, in early January. The investigation, headed by former Minnesota chief justice Eric Magnuson and former U.S. department of justice attorney Chris Madel, is expected to wrap up next month.
"It appears from our point of view that this whole investigation may have been one big charade,” said Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, “because it appears that the Vikings are interested in doing business as usual. They are just going to protect Priefer as if nothing happened and simply pretend that this outrageous conduct didn’t occur, when the evidence is quite the contrary."
Vikings safety Mistral Raymond (@Mistral_Raymond) tweeted his support for Priefer:
Fortunate to have the opportunity to work w/ Coach Priefer for another year. One of the most stand up men I know in this business. #SKOL— Valencia's son... (@Mistral_Raymond) February 6, 2014
The Vikings officially introduced offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator George Edwards at press conferences this afternoon.
Among those also retained with Priefer include offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, whom the Vikings denied the Falcons permission to interview after the season, and wide receivers coach George Stewart, who for eight seasons has been one of the team's most popular coaches. Andre Patterson, who was defensive line coach for the Vikings in the late 1990s, returns.
“I am very excited about the coaching staff that we put together,” Mike Zimmer said in statement. “[General manager] Rick Spielman and I spent a lot of time talking to numerous candidates to ensure that we found the right coaches for this organization. Building a team that consistently wins all starts with coaching. We have an experienced and diverse staff that will work tirelessly to get the most out of our players. This offseason will be a great chance for us to work together and prepare for the upcoming season.”
Here are bios on the new (and in some cases old) coaching staff:
Norv Turner, offensive coordinator: In his 30th season as an NFL coach. Head coach for 15 seasons with Washington (1994-2000), Oakland (2004-05) and San Diego (2007-12). Offensive coordinator when Dallas won two Super Bowls (1992-93). Has eight seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator.
Jeff Davidson, offensive line coach: Returns for his fourth season with the Vikings and 19th season of coaching. Played four seasons in the NFL before career cut short by injury. Started on offensive line for Denver in 1991-92.
George Stewart, wide receivers coach: In his 32nd season as a coach and eighth with the Vikings. Stewart coached under Lou Holtz with the Gophers in 1984-85. Standout guard as a collegian at Arkansas (1977-80).
Scott Turner, quarterbacks coach: Son of OC Norv Turner. Coached wide receivers at Cleveland last season. Was Carolina offensive quality control coach in 2011-12. College quarterback at UNLV.
Kevin Stefanski, tight ends coach: Was assistant QB coach for Vikings the past five seasons. After spending three years as special assistant to the head coach. Former defensive back at Penn.
Kirby Wilson, running backs coach: Steelers running backs coach the past seven seasons. Has coached 27 years, and has Super Bowl rings with Tampa Bay (2002) and Pittsburgh (2008).
Klint Kubiak, assistant wide receivers coach: Son of former Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who is now Ravens offensive coordinator. Was with Vikings last season. Played defensive back at Colorado State.
Drew Petzing, coaching assistant: Worked in football operations with Cleveland last season.
George Edwards, defensive coordinator: Also defensive coordinator in Washington (2003) and Buffalo (2010-11). Coached linebackers in Miami last season. Worked under Zimmer as linebackers coach in Dallas when Zimmer was defensive coordinator for Cowboys.
Jerry Gray, defensive backs coach: Defensive coordinator with Buffalo (2001-05) and Tennessee (2011-13). Gray was a four-time Pro Bowl player as a defensive back during his nine-year NFL career (L.A. Rams, Houston, Tampa Bay) and was Pro Bowl MVP in 1990.
Andre Patterson, defensive line coach: In his 30th year of coaching. Also coached defensive line for the Vikings in 1998-99. Was assistant head coach/defensive line at Florida International last season. Has also worked in the NFL for Denver, Cleveland, Dallas and New England. Head coach at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo from 1994-96.
Adam Zimmer, linebackers coach: Son of head coach Mike Zimmer. Was assistant defensive backs coach under his dad in Cincinnati last season. Defensive assistant in Kansas City (2010-12) and New Orleans (2006-09). Won Super Bowl ring with Saints.
Jonathan Gannon, assistant defensive backs coach: Spent the past two seasons as defensive assistant/quality control under new secondary coach Jerry Gray in Tennessee. Also worked under Zimmer in Atlanta in 2007.
Jeff Howard, defensive assistant: Was assistant to ex-head coach Leslie Frazier last season. Was defensive quality control coach (2011) and safeties coach (2012) at Texas Tech. Played linebacker at Eastern New Mexico.
Robb Akey, assistant defensive line coach: First year in NFL after 24 seasons as a college coach. Head coach at Idaho (2007-12). As a player at Weber State, was coached by Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator. In 1988, he got his first coaching job under Zimmer.
Mike Priefer, special teams coordinator: Will be in his fourth season with the Vikings. Also special teams coordinator in Denver and Kansas City. Was 2012 NFL special teams coordinator of the year. Naval officer and helicopter pilot for six years (1989-94).
Ryan Ficken, special teams assistant: In his eighth season with the Vikings. Played wideout at Arizona State (1998-99).
NEW YORK -- Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman cast a wide net when he went in search of a head coach the day after Leslie Frazier was fired. At least three of the four coordinators in Super Bowl XLVIII were entangled in that net to some degree before the Vikings picked former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
We caught up with two of those coordinators -- Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio -- on Tuesday. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, like Bevell, interviewed with Spielman. Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase made it clear early on to all teams with coaching vacancies that he wouldn't be interviewing for or even discussing new jobs until after the Broncos' season was over.
Bevell and Del Rio have ties to the Vikings. Bevell was the team's offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010. Del Rio was a linebacker for the Vikings from 1992 to 1995.
Yes, both of them would have loved to get the Vikings' head coaching job. But neither one of them would exchange this week for that opportunity, so they're not too concerned about whether their teams' extended postseason success hurt their chances of getting a head coaching job. And, yes, assistants on Super Bowl teams are at a distinct disadvantage because not even the dysfunctional Browns were willing to wait to hire a head coach until after the Super Bowl.
"I wouldn't change this opportunity for anything," Bevell said. "This is a great opportunity for us. There is nothing to look back to. Just moving forward.
"Obviously, I know the place in Minnesota. I know the people who are there. I was excited about talking to them. But, beyond that, I don't know what else to say."
It was Bevell's fourth interview with a team. He's never been a head coach.
"You try to understand all the different interviews that you've done," he said. "The four interviews that I've done, they were all four different types of interviews. So you're able to learn and get better. I like to get some feedback as well. I haven't been able to do that this year because of what we've been doing.
"In Chicago [last year], they told me the biggest thing came down to having head coaching experience. That's something that I don't have. Sometimes, the timing isn't right. There wasn't anything I could do about not having been a head coach."
Del Rio didn't interview with the Vikings, but was on their radar. He has head coaching experience -- he went 69-73, including 1-2 in the postseason, as Jaguars coach for nine seasons -- and has now been an assistant on two Super Bowl teams, including the Ravens team that won a championship during the 2000 season. Del Rio also stepped in temporarily for Broncos head coach John Fox when he had his heart surgery this season.
"I don't worry too much about [not getting the Vikings job]," Del Rio said. "Would it have been a good opportunity? I don't want to sit here and get into hypotheticals. Obviously, I had a great time playing up there. It's a great organization. But, for me, I'm enjoying what I'm doing now. We're at the Super Bowl, which is what we're all after.
"Here it is at the end of the season and we're one of the last two teams with a chance to win a championship. I'm fired up for that. Down the road and in the future, who knows where it goes and what opportunities are out there. Would I love the opportunity again? Yes. Do I think it will come? Yes, I do. But right now, I am very excited to be here leading this defense, looking forward to all that I can do and we can do collectively to win a championship."
Del Rio was asked how serious the interest was from the Vikings, but that was a pitch he wasn't going to take a cut at.
"I'm not going to sit here and get into who reached out and didn't reach out and all those types of things," he said. "I would just say I'm here and fired up to be here."
NEW YORK -- Michael Irvin admits he’s biased when it comes to Norv Turner because Turner did, after all, help him win two of the three Super Bowl rings he collected during a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think the world of Norv,” Irvin, the former receiver turned NFL Network analyst, said of his former offensive coordinator with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.
And now Irvin thinks the world of the Vikings’ decision to hire Turner as new head coach Mike Zimmer’s offensive coordinator. As for the Cleveland Browns, who allowed Turner to walk when head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired after just one season, Irvin is anything but impressed.
“I’m absolutely blown away with Cleveland allowing what they’ve allowed to transpire with Norv,:” Irvin said today during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. “They had a guy like [receiver] Josh Gordon in Norv’s system, and I think he had the best year by a wide receiver after missing two games and playing with four different quarterbacks this season. To say, `OK, we’re changing up everything.’ That blows my mind.”
Gordon led the league in receiving and was an instrumental part of the Browns’ upset of the Vikings at the Metrodome in Week 3.
“Norv, with a guy like Adrian Peterson, will help the Vikings,” Irvin said. “A guy like Norv knows how to orchestrate an up-the-field passing game. The Vikings are usually playing defenses that stack the line of scrimmage because of the fear of Adrian Peterson. Norv is going to put defenses in some real binds. He’s going to develop an up-the-field passing game along with Adrian Peterson. To develop that down-the-field attack and then hand the ball off? It will be a dangerous combination.”
And, yes, Irvin believes Turner can do all of this with Matt Cassel or whichever quarterback the Vikings end up setting on in 2014.
“I watched Norv do it with four different quarterbacks with Josh Gordon last season, sSo he’ll find his quarterback,” Irvin said. “I don’t know if Cassel is his guy. But he’ll find his quarterback and he’ll find his passing system. I promise you that.”
The New York Giants announced they have hired Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson as their new running backs coach, but the Vikings apparently gained a defensive backs coach as well.
The Vikings haven't made any official announcements about their staff under new coach Mike Zimmer, but it is known that Norv Turner will be the offensive coordinator, and Turner's son Scott will be the new quarterbacks coach.
Johnson was the quarterbacks coach for the Vikings for three seasons under Leslie Frazier, and also held that position with the Tennessee Titans for eight years.
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray will be the Vikings defensive backs coach. Gray spent three seasons with the Titans as DC under the recently fired Mike Munchak, who was replaced by Ken Whisenhunt. He was defensive coordinator for the Bills from 2001-05.
Gray, 51, was a four-time Pro Bowl defensive back while playing for the Rams. He also had stints with the Oilers and Bucs before retiring in 1994.
Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator of the Bengals, is believed to be forming his staff this week at the Senior Bowl, where Vikings coaches have declined comment.
The Vikings made one roster move today, adding defensive tackle Kheeston Randall as a reserve/future free agent.
Randall was drafted by Miami in the seventh round in 2012 out of Texas. He played 12 games as a rookie but was cut before the 2013 season. He's 6-5 and 309 pounds. He was signed by Cincinnati in November and, obviously, Zimmer liked him, because he's with the Vikings now.
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