The Vikings’ offensive coaching staff has changed so much that less than half of the assistants remain from the 2015 squad that won the NFC North.
A roller-coaster, follow-up season included the midseason resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the official promotion this month of Pat Shumur to that role. The Vikings also this month parted ways with Scott Turner, Norv’s son and former quarterbacks coach, and hired two assistants in Clancy Barone (TEs) and Kennedy Polamalu (RBs) with long-time assistant Kevin Stefanski moving back to quarterbacks, where he was assistant position coach for five years.
Speaking to the team’s website from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Zimmer discussed his thinking behind the changes to an offense that has ranked 27th, 29th and 28th in yardage during his three seasons as head coach.
“I think Pat did a great job coming in under difficult circumstances,” Zimmer said. “Pat and I have a good relationship; we’re able to communicate very easily. Pat is very open to suggestions to ideas, you know, he’s not one of those guys who kind of knows everything. It’s been good and obviously the relationship with Sam [Bradford] and Pat has been good as well.”
Despite the offense’s issues as a whole, Zimmer continually praised Bradford’s play through 15 starts since the September trade that shipped him from Philadelphia and reunited him with Shurmur, who was the Rams offensive coordinator when St. Louis drafted Bradford with 2010′s first-overall pick.
The Vikings offense will undergo another makeover during Shurmur’s first offseason at the helm along with another influx of ideas Zimmer sought through experienced assistants in Barone, a former offensive line coach, and Polamalu.
Zimmer called the changes “kind of refreshing.”
“We’ve been doing a lot of things with the offense, sitting and going through the cutups in the mornings and I sit and go through the cutups with the defense in the afternoons,” Zimmer said. “And so we’re just starting at the beginning process, but you know it’s kind of refreshing to be with almost a new system now.”
On the hiring of Barone, the 14th-year NFL assistant who most recently coached the Broncos offensive line, Zimmer said: “He’s won the Super Bowl, been with a lot of good coaches. He’s a very energetic guy, very smart. I think he’ll fit in really good with the staff, giving them some new ideas.”
Regarding Polamalu, the former UCLA assistant: “Same thing with Kennedy. He was in Jacksonville and they had a really good running game when he was there and he’s been at USC and UCLA. I think that can always help when you have college coaches come in that have seen a lot of these guys that are out here; they’re guys they’ve played against. So when you get in the draft process, you have an idea.”
Zimmer also said a scheduled procedure on his right eye will be done in April, which is needed to remove the oil bubble holding his retina in place. Zimmer underwent four operations in just over a month last fall to address a torn, and then detached, retina in his right eye.
“It’s doing better. I still can’t see out of it,” Zimmer said. “I’ll have another surgery probably end of April and hopefully it’ll be all good then.”