Norv Turner strolled through the Vikings locker room Tuesday, cursed amiably and smiled.
Well, “strolled” isn’t exactly the right word. He half-limped, half-creaked — crimped? — across the room, looking exactly like what he is — a lifelong football coach.
There is nothing glamorous about Turner, the Vikings offensive coordinator. He’s made millions in the NFL, has stood on many podiums, won many titles and coached many superstars, but if the NFL were a Batman movie, he’d be Alfred the butler — instructive and wry and comfortable behind the scenes whatever his true ambitions may be.
Well, he’d be Alfred as played by Louis C.K. Turner was blue long before he wore purple.
In the daily cuss-off between Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer, Turner has been the surprise winner. Zimmer is highly qualified in the art of language-seasoning, but he has nothing on Turner in terms of volume, frequency and creativity.
“Norv cusses a lot,” receiver Charles Johnson said.
Does the defense try to get Turner to swear in practice?
“It’s definitely a goal,” safety Harrison Smith said.
Last year, Turner had the right to swear out of frustration. This year he may get to swear in affirmation.
In 2014, Turner’s first season as the Vikings offensive coordinator, he coached with one back tied behind his back, not to mention a tight end.
Before Week 2, All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson began what would in effect become a 15-game suspension. In Week 3, starting quarterback Matt Cassel was lost for the season. All season, tight end Kyle Rudolph — who might have been the primary benefactor of Turner’s system — caught passes in only seven games.
When the coaching staff decided to treat Cordarrelle Patterson as a true pass-catching receiver instead of a wide-ranging running back, the Vikings were left with a rookie quarterback surrounded with inexperienced or unproven skill-position players.
“It was a year ago in Week 1 we had all those guys, and we opened with a pretty good win,” Turner said Tuesday. “It was that next week that things changed.”
In Turner’s first game running the Vikings offense, the Vikings won at St. Louis, 34-6. Cassel was efficient. Peterson ran effectively if not spectacularly. Turner even used Patterson creatively, and he rushed three times for 102 yards and a touchdown, as well as catching three passes for 26 yards.
That day looked the start of something big. After a year’s hiatus, it might have been.
“We have a full offense, man,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “A great offense. We have Adrian back. Teddy had a great season last year. Mike Wallace can blow the top off of the defense with his speed. We’ve got CJ [Charles Johnson], who is quick out of his routes and runs great routes. We have Cordarrelle, who is very explosive.
“You want me to keep going?”
He could have. He didn’t mention Rudolph, who should be ideal running deep routes in Turner’s offense, and slot Jarius Wright, statistically one of the best and least-appreciated catch-and-run receivers in the league.
Turner earned national fame as the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. He became a three-time head coach, becoming the first modern coach to be fired during a season with a winning record while with Washington, dipping a toe into the Raiders’ cesspool and going to the playoffs three straight seasons with the Chargers.
Turner was asked which job attracts more heat these days, head coach or offensive coordinator?
“When you’re going good and you’re winning, both of them are easy, and when you’re struggling and things aren’t going the way you’d like, there is some stuff that goes with the job,” he said.
“I always tell people this. For me, and I know for Coach Zimmer, it was a dream of mine to be part of this league in any manner.”
At 63, he’s a coordinator again, and if his tight end and quarterback don’t get hurt and his star running back doesn’t get suspended, he’s got a chance to feel like his job is easy again.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On