With the Minnesota Vikings’ future firmly placed on the shoulders of first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, it’s the job of first-year quarterbacks coach Scott Turner to maximize the rookie’s every second in the facility.
Each scripted repetition the 6-foot-2, 214-pound passer takes on the practice field is dissected, digested and ultimately perfected. The time in film room is well-calculated, every minute spent with a purpose. But Turner, 31, also has the challenge of balancing his time equally among veteran quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Fortunately, the three QBs are interested in the collective well-being of one another.
With the league limiting each club to just 10 organized team activities and a three-day mandatory minicamp, it’s important the players’ schedules are structured and well-thought out by the coaching staff, and that’s where offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s 15 years of head-coaching experience are invaluable to first-year head coach Mike Zimmer.
And to Norv’s son Scott.
The Turners have been father and son for a lifetime, but their coaching relationship began in 2013 when Norv coordinated the Cleveland Browns offense and Scott coached the wide receivers. The duo oversaw the rapid development of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving yards (1,646) and average yards per catch (18.9).
When Browns ownership decided to part ways with first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski after the season, the Turners took a new assignment in Minnesota. Now, attempting to exceed expectations again, it’s important as ever that the two maintain the right work/family relationship.
"He’s the offensive coordinator and he wants things done a certain way," Scott Turner told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. "It’s my job to do those things. At the same time, he’s still my dad."
In a common NFL theme as Father’s Day approaches — dads and sons work together more than you might think — there are eight such combos around the league. Even in Minnesota, linebackers coach Adam Zimmer is the son of Mike Zimmer.
Father-son coaching combos
Lovie Smith (head coach)
Mikal Smith (safety coach)
Marvin Lewis (head coach)
Marcus Lewis (defensive assistant)
Andy Reid (head coach)
Britt Reid (quality control)
Jeff Fisher (head coach)
Brandon Fisher (assistant secondary coach)
Bill Belichick (head coach)
Steve Belichick (coaching assistant)
Pete Carroll (head coach)
Nate Carroll (assistant WR coach)
Mike Zimmer (head coach)
Adam Zimmer (LB coach)
Norv Turner (offensive coordinator)
Scott Turner (QB coach)
"I’ve heard stories about other guys that are sons who have worked for their dads and called them their first name or didn’t call them dad," Scott Turner said. "I thought that was a little ridiculous because everybody knows he’s my dad. It’s not like I need to put on a façade. There’s no reason I need to act like that. I’ve been calling him dad my entire life, I’m not going to just change now."
For Turner, choosing a career path was simple. By the time he was 8, he had witnessed his father lead the Dallas Cowboys offense to two Super Bowls. When he was 11, the Turners moved to Northern Virginia as Norv accepted the Washington Redskins head-coaching job.
"I never wanted to do anything else," Turner said. "I always loved football, and I just wanted to be a part of it."
Football was also a way to connect.
Norv Turner was the Redskins’ head coach for seven years until he was fired in 2000. During that time, he struck a balance between managing his work life and family, including his three young children.
"We were always really close," Scott Turner said. "Sports was a big part of that. It was just a normal father-son relationship. People always talk about the long hours during the season, and they are, but when I was young and played on Saturdays he would be there 50 percent of the time because he’d be on the road, too."
Scott eventually parlayed his promising high school football career into an opportunity to play college football. With Norv having worked 13 seasons combined at USC and for the Los Angeles Rams under John Robinson, Scott had grown familiar with the legendary coach. Robinson, who at the time was coaching at UNLV, offered Scott an opportunity to play there.
"I always knew that I wanted to coach, so I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn from somebody," Turner said. "Coach Robinson was a big-time mentor for me. I always tell people that I went to UNLV and majored in psychology, but my real major was football."
After a few short post-UNLV coaching stints at Oregon State and Pittsburgh, Scott landed an offensive quality control job with the Carolina Panthers. It was there where he built a two-year relationship with Chudzinski, who took him to Cleveland when he was hired as the Browns’ head coach. Chudzinski, of course, hired Norv as the offensive coordinator after knowing him from his days in San Diego. When things went awry last December, the turmoil brought the Turners closer together.
"That was just an unfortunate situation and it took us by surprise," Scott said. "We didn’t expect that. We’re happy here, though, being with this great organization, but it’s obviously rough for Coach Chudzinksi because he’s a hell of a coach. I worked with him and learned so much. We’re still real close, and we talk still. I obviously really believe in him. It was just really unfortunate because he was going to turn it around and win there. And not having the opportunity to do that is rough."
In Minnesota, there are fewer people in Turner’s meeting room now that he’s shifted from coaching receivers to quarterbacks. The pressure and expectations, however, are higher than ever. Instead of leading meetings filled with talk of route concepts and site adjustments, it’s all about snap counts, protections, progressions, identifying pressure and decision-making.
"If something is wrong, (the quarterback) has to fix it because ultimately it falls back on their shoulders," Turner said. "Once they are out on the field, there are no coaches. The quarterback has to make it right."
Scott Turner coaches up the Vikings quarterbacks during OTAs.
According to Turner, the Vikings’ quarterbacks room has worked together well as a unit. Though it’s a competitive atmosphere and each player is acutely aware that the starting job is up for grabs, the players’ concerns are getting better as a position and understanding a new offense as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"You can see it on film all the time where they are supportive of each other," Turner said. "Teddy will make a nice throw, and Matt will say, ‘Good job.’ Christian will throw a great pass, and Teddy will be supportive. There is always a constant dialogue. It’s a good group of guys that want to do things the right way. They’re all smart and will work at it. I come in there and install things, and every one of them is going to ask good questions."
The three quarterbacks have been splitting first-team reps during OTAs. Once training camp begins, the coaching staff will need to make some tough decisions.
Cassel, who signed a two-year extension this offseason, is valued by Norv Turner, who recently said he targeted the veteran when the coordinator was with the Browns. Ponder, a 2011 first-round pick, was denied his fifth-year option this offseason, likely foreshadowing an uncertain future with the franchise.
Bridgewater is the future. Though he might not have to start right away, he is in town for a reason and will eventually command the starting role. Placing a priority on changing protections and the mental side of the game, Bridgewater spends time after practice in his hotel room alone, aiming to master the offense.
"Teddy has been doing a great job of coming in here and using every day as an opportunity to get better," Turner said. "I heard him say that in the press conference. I don’t think I could’ve said that any better myself. It’s pretty much what you see is what you get. He’s a great young man. We spent a lot of time with him going into this process. I’d say that I feel good about our evaluation and what type of guy he is. He’s been what we thought he is."
With aspirations of one day becoming a head coach, Turner understands his success is directly related to that of the players he coaches. His work with Bridgewater will ultimately dictate his future and how quickly he ascends the coaching ranks. Still, it’s not something he spends much time — if any at all — thinking about.
"No I don’t. I really don’t," Turner said. "I learned that from Dave Wannstedt at Pitt — who I think took it from Jimmy Johnson in Dallas — and it’s (that) everybody’s success is tied into together. That’s what being a team is about. We come out here and play and do whatever we can to win. If you win, then everything takes care of itself. I have my own individual goals, but I’m not lying to you when I tell you I don’t think about that stuff.
"I spend my time thinking about getting these three guys playing as good as they possibly can. That’s what it’s about."