The circle of familiarity is strong with some of the top coaches on the Minnesota Vikings' new coaching staff.
They come from different teams, yet know each other well. There is Mike Zimmer, a head coach for the first time after 20 years as a defensive coach, including 14 as a coordinator, most recently with the Cincinnati Bengals. There is his new defensive coordinator, George Edwards, who has been a coordinator with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. And, finally, Norv Turner, who 39 years ago started his coaching career as a graduate assistant, worked his way into the NFL and eventually became a head coach himself.
Turner's experience at the top of the coaching food chain with the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins is expected to be especially valuable for Zimmer as he gets his first shot at it.
"I think it's nice to have someone there to run things by. I know what my job is. My job is to coordinate the offense," Turner said. "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 No. 1 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 and Zimmer have already discussed scheduling, but Turner was clear that it's Zimmer show to run, and with 20 years of experience in the NFL, Zimmer has seen a variety of ways to handle it all.
Edwards and Zimmer spent four years together with the Dallas Cowboys. What started out with Zimmer as the secondary coach and Edwards as the linebackers coach changed to Zimmer being the defensive coordinator for the final two years of their time together.
"Zim's always been a stickler with preparation. He's always got guys in position to make plays, and you just know we're going to do things the right way," Edwards said. "We're going to pay attention to the fundamentals and our techniques that we need to play, and that's what he's always done. You look at him as a position coach, you look at him as a defensive coordinator, you can see that year in and year out with the teams that he's been a part of."
Edwards also worked together with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman with the Miami Dolphins, but when it comes to the defense, Edwards knows that Zimmer will be heavily involved in the aspect of the game that propelled him to a head coach. He agreed with the assessment that the defense could be a partnership of Zimmer and Edwards.
"No doubt about it. He's been successful. You can look at the teams in Cincinnati and the success that they had, pressuring quarterbacks and getting the ball out and getting turnovers and those kind of things, so no doubt about it," Edwards said.
"We're on the same page exactly (how) 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."
Turner, on the other hand, is expected to have more autonomy over the offense. He hasn't worked with Zimmer before, but he has coached against him several times.
"We had great matchups in games when he was in Dallas and I was in Washington and that carried over through my time in San Diego. We had some great games with Cincinnati and obviously this last year played against each other, coached against each other," Turner said. "I've got great respect for what he's about, what he does, how he goes about doing his job, his business. I've had a couple friends that were in Dallas that always said you and Zimmer, if you paired up, it would be good. So, we're going to find out."
One of those friends is former quarterback Troy Aikman. Turner was the offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s when Aikman was leading an offense to two Super Bowl titles under Turner that featured Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek, among others.
Zimmer later coached in Dallas under Bill Parcells.
"(Aikman) really thinks a lot of Coach Zimmer. I got a chance to coach Troy for three years, which was amazing and awfully great," Turner said. "People never mention that I had to coach against him, you know, about 10 times. So, he thinks a lot of coach (Zimmer) and we've always stayed close and he's always mentioned that."
Zimmer has also faced Edwards' teams, although they were both operating the defensive aspects of opposing teams.
"I think he'll do a great job," Edwards said of Zimmer in his initial foray into the head coaching arena. "He's going to pay attention to the details. We're going to be competitive each week. I think guys have really enjoyed being around him, because he's very straightforward. He's very honest with his evaluation, and it's fair. I just think it's going to be a good situation. I think he'll have no problem having success."
Turner said Zimmer's defenses have been "sound," "aggressive" and "create a lot of problems" on third downs.
Turner also seconded Edwards' assessment that Zimmer gets the most out of his players.
As for Turner, Edwards has an appreciation of what the 39-year veteran of the profession can do with an offense.
"One thing you can count on is, (Turner's) offenses have always put up good stats," Edwards said. "They're going to throw the ball down the field. They've always been good at play-action pass, and always been good running the football. He's always caused a lot of headaches on our side of the ball."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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