Vikings’ new staff includes Priefer, sons of Zimmer, Turner
Mike Zimmer’s coaching staff with the Minnesota Vikings will include two father-and-son coach combinations and several holdovers from last year’s staff, including embattled special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
Minnesota announced its full coaching staff Thursday after weeks of reported hirings. Zimmer, hired in January to replace Leslie Frazier as head coach, added former San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator and Miami Dolphins linebackers coach George Edwards as the defensive coordinator.
"Rick Spielman and I spent a lot of time talking to numerous candidates to ensure that we found the right coaches for this organization," Zimmer said in a statement released by the team. "Building a team that consistently wins all starts with coaching. We have an experienced and diverse staff that will work tirelessly to get the most out of our players. This offseason will be a great chance for us to work together and prepare for the upcoming season."
Meanwhile, Priefer will stay for his fourth season as the Vikings’ special teams coordinator. Priefer was accused of bigotry by former punter Chris Kluwe, an accusation the team is currently investigating through an independent legal team.
Priefer has been well-respected for his work in Minnesota, even interviewing last offseason for the head coaching job in Chicago. But his status was uncertain because of Kluwe’s allegations, which included inflammatory remarks about homosexuality. Kluwe stated he hoped to bring attention to Priefer’s attitude and cost him a job in the NFL.
The coach has denied the accusations and the team has yet to announce its findings.
Turner is the high-profile hire based on his previous experience as a head coach. Turner hopes he can add insight to Zimmer, who is in his first head-coaching job.
I think it’s nice to have someone there to run things by," Turner said. "I know what my job is. My job is to coordinate the offense. I’m really pleased with the staff Mike put together offensively. We’ve got a good mix of young coaches and very experienced coaches. I think that will really help us. My number one job is to make sure we’re good on offense and if there’s something I can do to assist Mike obviously I will."
Turner said working with Zimmer was appealing and one of his former players always believed Turner and Zimmer would be a good pairing.
"Well, Troy Aikman, he really thinks a lot of coach Zimmer," Turner said. "I got a chance to coach Troy for three years, which was amazing and awfully great. People never mention that I had to coach against him, you know, about 10 times. So, he thinks a lot of Coach and we’ve always stayed close and he’s always mentioned that."
The coaching staff will also include Zimmer son’s, Adam, and Turner’s son, Scott.
Adam will follow his dad from Cincinnati and coach the team’s linebackers. Scott Turner was the Cleveland Browns’ wide receivers coach last season when Norv was Cleveland’s offensive coordinator. Scott Turner will be the quarterbacks coach in Minnesota, replacing Craig Johnson, who was hired by the New York Giants in January to be the running backs’ coach.
"It was fun being with him," Norv Turner said of coaching with his son in Cleveland. "It was fun watching him coach. One of the things I take a lot of pride in and been able to do probably since my first head coaching job is work with young coaches and help them develop. We have some real good young coaches on our staff. Being there to watch him grow and help him and obviously he had a great year with (receiver Josh Gordon), and I thought he was very instrumental in the way Josh played. That part of it is great. When you get in the meetings and going in coaching, he’s another coach. We’re working hard to do the things we need to do to have the type of team everyone wants."
The Vikings held off on announcing their coaching staff and the coaches who wouldn’t be retained even as reports flew of coaches being hired by Minnesota and former coaches finding jobs elsewhere. Former Vikings’ coaches Bill Musgrave, Alan Williams, Johnson, James Saxon, Brendan Daly, Fred Pagac and Joe Woods have already been hired by other NFL teams.
Saxon joined the Pittsburgh Steelers to be the running backs coach in essentially a swap between the two teams. Former Pittsburgh running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who interviewed with the Baltimore Ravens for an offensive coordinator job, is the new running backs coach in Minnesota.
The rest of the offensive coaching staff includes Jeff Davidson, who will enter his fourth season as the Vikings offensive line coach, and George Stewart, who has been with Minnesota for seven seasons, as the receivers coach. Minnesota reportedly blocked Davidson from interviewing elsewhere while Zimmer filled out his staff.
"I had input in the decision; coach Zimmer spent time with those guys," Turner said of Davidson and Stewart. "Some of it’s based on the recommendations that you get. But I think watching the way this offensive line played. Watching the way the receivers compete, knowing about them, I think it was a natural fit for us."
Kevin Stefanski moves from the assistant quarterbacks coach to tight ends coach. Klint Kubiak, Gary Kubiak’s son, remains with the Vikings as the assistant wide receivers coach/offensive quality control.
Ryan Ficken stayed on as the assistant special teams coach under Priefer.
Zimmer said he will have a strong say in the defensive structure, leaning on his experience after years as a defensive coordinator. Zimmer made a clean sweep of the defensive coaching staff, after Minnesota allowed a league-high in points last season and the second-most yards.
Edwards said the team is still in the evaluation phase and unable to offer many specifics on players or the preferred defensive scheme. Having worked under Zimmer in the past, he knows he shares similar philosophies to the head coach.
"No doubt about it," Edwards said. "I mean, we’re on the same page with exactly what we envision our players coming out and performing and how they’re going to perform, so we’ve got the same vision and we’re working toward the same goal."
Andre Patterson rejoins the Vikings’ coaching staff as the defensive line coach after holding the same position for the team in 1998-99. Last season, Patterson was the assistant head coach/defensive line coach at Florida International. Patterson worked under Zimmer in Dallas from 2000-02.
Jerry Gray, who was the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans the past three seasons, will be the defensive backs coach. Gray is the only main position coach that doesn’t have previous experience with Zimmer.
"Jerry’s reputation precedes him," Edwards said. "He’s been coaching and playing in this league for a long time. Just the time period we’ve been there, there’s a lot of respect for what he’s done in this league, and you can just tell why, as we’re going through some of this evaluation process right now. He brings a lot to the table for us."
Jeff Howard, who was the assistant to the head coach last season, will serve as a defensive assistant. Robb Akey and Jonathan Gannon join Minnesota as defensive position assistants and Drew Petzing will be a coaching assistant.
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter