Norv Turner is 64 years old and has spent the past 42 falls coaching football. But he’s a malleable old dog who thinks a new trick can be kind of cool.
So we asked the Vikings offensive coordinator for his thoughts on the NFL’s ongoing preseason experiment with permitting coaches and players to view video replays during the game on Microsoft Surface tablets on the sideline and in the coaches box. This is the second consecutive preseason the league has tried it. The competition committee could vote as early as 2017 to begin doing it in the regular season.
“I like it,” Turner said. “I think it’s been good. The coaches can use it and then you can talk to the players and see what they’re seeing. Putting those two things together, you can help the players.”
Not all coaches share Turner’s opinion. Carolina coach Ron Rivera, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, has been one of the most vocal opponents.
“As coaches, we work Monday through Saturday preparing for Sunday’s game,” Rivera told reporters recently. “I work. I game plan. I put all of my thoughts together. I’m attacking you, I’m beating you. And then, all of a sudden, they give you a tablet where you get to watch the play, rewind the play and see what happens on the play where you can say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what they’re doing to us?’ Now you can make an adjustment and change what you’re doing and have success. I don’t think that’s right.”
Turner doesn’t see it that way at all.
“I know guys who think they have an advantage because they make better adjustments without video feel it’s unfair to help someone else with a video,” Turner said. “But as long as everyone has it, no one is getting an unfair advantage with it.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is one of the more energetic and doggedly innovative 60-year-olds you’ll meet. But his old-school bones gave a thumbs down to allowing video replays during the regular season.
“I was not for it,” Zimmer said. “A long time ago they outlawed having replays, video replay, up in the coaches box. Basically, that’s what this is.
“You can watch every single play and watch who was wrong, who was right, the different blitz they put in that week. It’s the same on both sides. I guess maybe I’m older so I’m used to the pictures.”
The NFL has allowed still photos “forever,” according to Turner, who has been part of the NFL for going on 32 of its 97 seasons.
“We’ve always had the Polaroids,” Turner said. “We’ve had sometimes three and four pictures per play. So you got a lot of information there. I don’t think video would change things that much. This is just clearer and better information.”
Like most young people, players like watching the videos.
“We saw them the last game,” Vikings receiver Charles Johnson said. “It was pretty cool.”
Johnson and some of his teammates weren’t even aware of the preseason experiment when they grabbed one of the tablets on the sideline in Seattle on Thursday.
“We didn’t know that until we ended up hitting ‘play’ or something and saw that the film started rolling,” Johnson said. “I think it would help [the game]. Instead of getting like four pictures, you get to see how everything actually unfolds. Like what the roll in coverage is as opposed to trying to [guess] on every picture.”
Johnson was reminded that defenders will be able to do the same thing.
“Yeah, they can also see our concepts, but concepts are concepts,” he said. “This is the National Football League. They call it a copycat league. Everybody runs the same concepts to an extent. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve probably seen it a million times.”
Based on some feedback from around the league, one gets the idea that offensive coaches and players like the idea, while their counterparts on defense don’t. Of course, you can’t fault the defensive guys for being a bit wary. After all, it seems everything that’s done with hopes of enhancing the NFL goes against the defensive guys.
“It won’t have any big impact or change the game or anything like that,” Turner said. “I like looking at it in the box. The players like it. It’s just better information. And, like I said, if everybody has it, it’s not unfair.”
Mark Craig covers the Vikings and the NFL for the Star Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org