When it comes to how fans view the NFL, their focus is almost entirely on the players. Coaching staff turnover doesn't get nearly as much publicity. Just as continuity is important in the player ranks in building a championship team, coaching staffs that have been kept together are in short supply.
When a team fails, the coaching staff gets fired. When a team succeeds at a high level, lesser teams raid their coaching cupboards in hopes that a coordinator can replicate the success of his former team.
Mike Zimmer is the Vikings head coach because he was a very successful defensive coordinator in a division (the AFC North) where defense is king. He brings that experience to a division where offense is king and defense is largely nonexistent.
When the Leslie Frazier Era ended abruptly following the conclusion of the 2013 season, there were choices to be made. How wide a whisk was the broom going to have? When head coaches get fired, a lot of desks and lockers typically get cleared out.
It seemed clear early on that the Vikings would hire a defensive-minded coach. Given the offenses on the other teams in the division, it made sense. In that event, a lot of changes were going to be made on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, change was in place on offense as well, but it was likely more coaches would be retained there than on defense.
In more cases than not, when a head coach gets fired, they clean out the assistant coaches in a windshield wiper-style firing. The Vikings didn't do that. While the offensive and defensive coordinators had to go, the Vikings retained special teams coordinator Mike Priefer and selected position coaches survived the coup. It's a list fans will recognize – offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, wide receivers coach George Stewart and tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski.
Most of the other NFL teams that made head coaching changes gutted the staff. Bekins, Mayflower and U-Haul did good New Year's business. The Vikings did a significant house cleaning, but kept some key components of the past that will be critical in the transition that a lot of coaches have a lot at stake.
Zimmer is getting his chance to have rock sculptors do pre-sketches on the odds of him being Roosevelt, Jefferson or perhaps even Lincoln on the Vikings coaching Mount Rushmore. For the record, Les Steckel is the rock pile at the bottom of the eastern Mount Rushmore in Minnesota.
Zimmer has a clean slate. His coaching tenure will be assessed by non-football types based on wins and losses. Only head coaches and quarterbacks have their win-loss record in parentheses after their names. Zim is 0-0 and the number in front of that hyphen is important.
Norv Turner has coached Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson. 2014 will be his 30th season as an NFL head coach. While San Diego and Dallas are a far cry from what the Vikings will potentially face in terms of weather at TCF Bank Stadium, the offense is in good hands because there isn't much Turner hasn't seen in 30 seasons as a coach in the NFL.
The impression around the league is that the Vikings are re-tooling and starting over. But, when one looks at the offseason changes that have made among the coaching staff, the Vikings have set themselves up to be successful despite a lot of new faces with new ideas coming in.
A coaching change typically means a team is making a radical philosophical shift and that success is probably a year or two away at the earliest. With where the Vikings find themselves situated in the NFC North, the changes they've made to the coaching staff may play right into the hands of the strengths of their coaches and the weaknesses of their opponents, which could make the potential of going from worst to first in the NFC North a possibility. It may not be a probability, but the possibility clearly exists.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.
Coaching staff could provide quick turnaround
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