After a two-game losing streak during which the Minnesota Vikings’ offense produced just 20 total points, including two garbage time touchdowns, and watched their quarterback get sacked 10 times, Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, 64, resigned his duties as the playcaller of the Minnesota offense, effective immediately.
According to head coach Mike Zimmer, who spoke Wednesday morning at Winter Park while wearing sunglasses to shield a torn retina, said Turner’s decision was personal and that the two coaches had not dealt with any clash over their visions for the offense. Turner broke the news to Zimmer at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, two days after an embarrassing loss to the one-win Chicago Bears. “Norv is a very, very good friend of mine,” said Zimmer. “He has helped me tremendously in the three years that I’ve been here. He has had an unbelievable career. He has been, really, my right hand man, really, since I’ve been here, and he decided it was in the best interest of him to do this, and I accept the reasons; and they are personal.”
For all his career accolades, Turner did not have great success as a coordinator in Minnesota. The Vikings were 27th, 29th and 31st, respectively, in total yards during his three years with the club, though he did experience some serious setbacks with the loss of Adrian Peterson due to child abuse allegations in 2014 and a torn meniscus this season. He also lost franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater prior to the final preseason game just over two months ago and dealt with multiple losses on the offensive line that made the passing game more challenging for new quarterback Sam Bradford.
Despite the challenges, however, Turner still had a tough time overcoming those constraints to develop a threatening offense that could pair with the team’s stifling defense. He struggled to integrate veteran receivers Greg Jennings in 2014 and Mike Wallace in 2015. Highly-drafted tight end Kyle Rudolph averaged just 33 yards per game in his 32 games played under Turner’s coaching. This season the team’s running game is on pace for one of the worst yards per carry averages in league history – a major red flag even when taking into account personnel changes to the offensive line and backfield.
#Vikings are averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, on pace to be NFL’s lowest rushing average since 1953 New York Giants averaged 2.6.
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) November 2, 2016
There was an apparent disagreement between Zimmer and Turner in 2015 when the head coach said he didn’t like the play call on a decisive third down late in a Week 14 game at Arizona. Late in the fourth quarter with the Vikings trailing 23-20, Bridgewater was sacked and fumbled the football while waiting for his receivers to get open downfield. But Wednesday, Zimmer reinforced that Turner had been granted plenty of freedom in his duties as coordinator and there had been no wrestling for power. “I’ve given him almost 100 percent, total free will in everything that they’ve done offensively,” Zimmer said.
Tight ends coach Pat Shurmur moves up to take the reins as offensive coordinator, a duty he’s held at two other locations. Zimmer was asked whether a fresh perspective could reignite the offense. “I don’t know. I think we’ll have to see on that. It’s really hard to say,” said Zimmer. “I know that the players really respect Norv. I know the coaches do. I know I certainly do, so we’ll just have to see how it goes. I do think that it’s hard to do a lot of things different during the season, but we’re all working collectively to try to get our players better. We’re trying to get the scheme better; trying to be more efficient offensively.”
While Turner’s decision may have been personal, it was likely related to the team’s recent lackluster showings. Bradford said he thought the offense’s two straight poor performances played a big part. “I think that no matter what the scheme is, we have to go out there and we have to execute,” said Bradford, who found out the news from his wife Wednesday morning. “We have to be better than what we have the last couple weeks.”
While Turner’s decision may have been personal, it was likely related to the team’s recent lackluster showings.
The team’s rapid descent down the offensive ranks came directly after a bye week in which the Vikings’ coaching staff gathered to do an extensive self-scout on all phases of the team. In their final two games before the bye, Minnesota had scored 24 points and 31 points in consecutive games, looking as fluid as it had all season on offense. But instead of enhancing their scheme during the bye, the Vikings devolved, showing vulnerabilities in short yardage, red zone offense and third down situations in the last two games.
Those two games were also the first for new left tackle Jake Long, brought in to dam the leaks left in the absence of Matt Kalil. Instead, his porous play at left tackle led to several hits and turnovers of Bradford, which may have played a part in Turner’s resignation. “We’ve just got to keep improving,” Long said Wednesday. “We do some good things, then we do some bad things. Just have to be more consistent.”
With replacements at many other positions on the football field, the Vikings now pass the torch to the next man up on the coaching staff as Shurmur leads the offense into a Week 9 matchup with the Detroit Lions. “We still sit in first place with all of our goals in front of us,” said Rudolph, “so we’ll rally behind Pat.”