Here’s an interesting matchup you probably haven’t thought about heading into Monday night’s regular-season opener at San Francisco:
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner versus 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini.
Yes, Mangini, after two seasons as the 49ers’ tight ends coach, is back to doing what he used to do well enough under Bill Belichick in New England to get a couple of head coaching jobs with the Jets (2006-08) and Browns (2009-10).
The last time Mangini was a defensive coordinator was 2005. The last time he and Turner locked up with Mangini running a defense and Turner in charge of an offense was the 2005 regular-season opener between the Raiders and Patriots at New England.
Turner’s Raiders scored a touchdown on the opening drive and later took a 14-10 lead on a 73-yard touchdown pass to a fella named Randy Moss, who was making his Raiders debut. The Patriots, however, rallied for a 30-20 win while the Raiders went on to finish 4-12 en route to firing Turner.
Turner was asked this week if the Vikings are catching the 49ers at an opportune time considering the franchise is in serious transition with several key players and one very successful head coach (Jim Harbaugh) now gone. Turner, as coaches tend to do, offered the counterpoint to that argument.
“The first game of the season is always a challenge because they have a new defensive coordinator I’m looking at from our standpoint,” Turner said. “He obviously has a track record in the NFL in [Eric] Mangini. I thought they played very well in the preseason. I thought they were very sound, did not give up a lot of big plays, so we have to prepare for what we’re looking at on tape.
“I know people are talking about the players they’ve lost, but in terms of looking at them they still have a group of guys that play at a high level and play extremely hard and as I said, they don’t give up a lot of big plays. So you have to be able to put together a 10, 12, 14-play drive and you have to be sharp and sometimes in the first ballgame that is harder to do than when you get into a rhythm. So I think they’re a pretty good defense.”