MINNEAPOLIS -- The offensive staff that joined Mike Zimmer in Minnesota -- to help identify the Vikings' next quarterback and resuscitate the team's productivity under Norv Turner -- is now almost completely gone.
The changes started a year ago today, when offensive line coach Jeff Davidson's deal was not renewed. Running backs coach Kirby Wilson left for a running game coordinator position in Cleveland two weeks later. Turner resigned Nov. 2, and his son Scott (the Vikings' quarterbacks coach) was fired on Monday. With former tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski now coaching running backs, only wide receivers coach George Stewart remains in the same position he was in when Zimmer was hired three years ago.
For an offense that hasn't finished higher than 27th in yards since 2013, some turnover is to be expected. But as the Vikings enter Year 4 of the Zimmer regime with an almost completely different offensive staff than what they had three years ago, it's worth pausing to examine what happened.
Though Turner's resignation was abrupt, it didn't stun those who knew of the friction on the team's offensive staff. As early as the 2014 offseason, Zimmer approached Hue Jackson to pick his former Cincinnati Bengals colleague's brain in an effort to make a more complete evaluation of his offensive coaches.
The 2015 season brought shifts in the offensive philosophy, away from the traditional Turner scheme and more toward the quick passes that Teddy Bridgewater preferred, as Zimmer became more willing to speak his mind on that side of the ball. And with two position coach openings to fill in 2016, the Vikings hired two former head coaches in Tony Sparano and Pat Shurmur. Those developments, sources have said, left Turner feeling marginalized. They also effectively ended the possibility of his son succeeding him. Scott Turner had taken on a larger role in game-planning and player evaluation than many position coaches would, but once his father left in November, it seemed likely his days with the Vikings could be numbered.
Given how instrumental both Norv and Scott Turner were in the quarterback search that landed Bridgewater, it's striking to see what amounts to a near-complete reboot of the Vikings' offensive staff occurring just 365 days after they hosted a playoff game. Should Bridgewater return, it'd be to a scheme that's still friendly to him, but to a coordinator with close ties to Sam Bradford. Of the position coaches who have left, only Wilson's departure can be considered for a better position.
The Vikings now have several openings to fill, with expiring contracts leaving open the possibility of further changes. Their offensive identity in 2017 figures to be built on Shurmur and Bradford, but as they head into Zimmer's fourth season, the Vikings haven't exactly found one yet.
The full and final end of the Turners' time in Minnesota closes the book on a tandem the Vikings trusted to find their franchise quarterback and serves as another reminder of what remains true about Zimmer's teams: For all of the Vikings' defensive dynamism, their attempts to spark their offense have fizzled more than they've glowed. They'll now try to reverse that trend with an offensive staff that bears little resemblance to the one they had when Zimmer was hired.