Musgrave mixing concepts into Vikings offense

New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will be drawing from a variety of coaching influences as he takes control of the Vikings offense. Some of it will be West Coast-based, but not all of it.

Bill Musgrave takes over as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, but the offense won't be completely overhauled.

Musgrave's experience with the West Coast offense under Mike Shanahan in Denver will be part of what he brings to the Vikings' job, but that's far his only influence. He has been mentored by Mike Holmgren, another coach with success in the West Coast scheme, but also Joe Gibbs, who emphasized a power running attack.

"When we sat and talked, and we talked for a number of years about the potential of our being able to work together, the fact that he wasn't just tied to one system, but he could see globally, that was important to me," Frazier said. "We have a multitude of weapons on offense. Sometimes you can get so tied up in a system that you don't see the forest through the trees. It was important to me that he understood the importance of utilizing the strengths of our players on offense. He was able to exemplify that in our conversation.

"I've seen them do that in Atlanta with Mike Mularkey, so I knew that he had an idea of how it could happen. Once we sat down and talked about it, I was convinced that he was the right man for the job."

Musgrave said his system won't be just the West Coast offense, although players will likely recognize some of the plays called and concepts from their offense in Minnesota under former head coach Brad Childress and former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

"It will definitely be the Minnesota Vikings system," Musgrave said. "It will have its roots in language, I'm sure, from my history with Coach Shanahan and most recently from my experience with Mike Mullarkey. There will be some language that our guys will recognize off the bat because it will have some West Coast roots, and it will have some formations and protections that are more along the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, which we ran down here in Atlanta with Coach Mullarkey."

The West Coast offense is known for using the short passing game as an extension of the running game, but it's not short on verbiage. Musgrave said he believes in "minimal verbiage."

"We'll make it very streamlined. We'll make the formations easy to learn for the guys, because I believe in players playing fast," he said. "We don't want them out there thinking what word was used for this or that. I know with the group of coaches that Les has put together we'll put together a system that is easy for those guys to digest, and they'll go out and cut it loose."

A simplified approach might be necessary. Besides a new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, quarterbacks coach and running backs coach with the Vikings, the league is also facing a potential work stoppage. The collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4 and players won't be reporting for offseason practices until a new labor agreement is reached. That could mean the elimination of the minicamps and organized team activities that usually dominate May and June and help expedite the implementation of schemes.

While the defense is expected to remain largely the same with Fred Pagac taking over coordinator duties from Frazier, a job Pagac performed the last six weeks of the season when Frazier was given the job of interim head coach, Musgrave will have the challenge of implementing a somewhat new system with a new coaching staff and probably a new starting quarterback.

Frazier's defensive background is why hiring an experienced offensive coordinator was important to him.

Musgrave spent five years with the Atlanta Falcons as their quarterbacks coach and had assistant head coach added to his title in 2010. Prior to joining the Falcons, Musgrave was an assistant with the 2005 Washington Redskins. He was also the offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-04), Virginia Cavaliers (2001-02), Carolina Panthers (2000) and Philadelphia Eagles (1998). He was the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders in 1997.

Frazier made it clear that the Vikings offense will be under Musgrave's control.

"It's Bill's baby. It's his offense," Frazier said.


Frazier also announced the hiring of Craig Johnson as his quarterbacks coach and Jeff Davidson as the offensive line coach.

Despite Johnson's most recent coaching experience being with the running backs, he has extensive experience working with quarterbacks, and that's where the Vikings slotted him. He tutored quarterbacks in Tennessee for nine seasons, including Steve McNair's co-MVP season in 2003 and Vince Young's rookie year in 2006.

"(He has) done a very good job developing quarterbacks with the Tennessee Titans," Frazier said. "He's done a good job over the course of his career. Having him will be a great addition to our staff."

Davidson is expected to keep mostly a zone blocking scheme intact under new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Davidson was the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers for the last three years.

"They did a terrific job in the run game, which has been his forte going back to his time as a player, as an offensive lineman in our league and then coaching with New England and then Cleveland before he got to Carolina," Frazier said. "One of the things that I really like about Jeff was the fact that they were able to find a way with DeAngelo Williams along with Jonathan Stewart to have two 1,000-yard rushers in the same backfield.

"As you know, we have two outstanding backs in our minds with Adrian (Peterson) being the premier back in the National Football League and then with Toby Gerhart, who is a guy we have high hopes for. Just to be able to find a guy who understands and knows how to incorporate two very good backs in the run game was something that really kind of got my interest, and I think it's going to be a plus for us, the success they had running the football down in Carolina."

Frazier also confirmed that Ryan Silverfield will move from assistant defensive line coach to assisting Davidson on the offensive line, while the other position coaches on defense will be retained.

The only coaching opening left to fill is at running back, and Frazier expected an announcement there soon.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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