The shock waves that were felt this morning when people starting hearing the word the offensive coordinator Norv Turner abruptly announced his resignation as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator.
As stunned as outsiders were at the decision, coming in the middle of the season and essentially requiring that the team keep the same terminology for plays – you don’t teach players a completely new system midstream of a season – the feeling around Winter Park was one of shock.
Running back Matt Asiata learned of Turner’s retirement when the horde of media surrounded him and asked him for a response to it.
He seemed genuinely surprised by the move and was saddened to hear the news of the coordinator who helped him elevate his game.
“Norv’s a great guy,” Asiata said. “He’s a great guy for our team and I’m just sick to hear this situation happened.”
When asked to react to Turner “walking away” from the Vikings, running back Jerick McKinnon came to Turner’s defense, denying that he is simply throwing up his hands and walking away.
“I wouldn’t say anything like that,” McKinnon said. “Coach Turner is not that kind of person. That’s obviously something that was between him, Coach Zim and the rest of the people up there (in the front office). All we can do right now is focus on the Detroit game.
“I don’t think anyone expected this,” McKinnon added. “The past two weeks have been rough, unfortunately, but we can’t let this distract us. We have to get back on track.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph believes the players may hold some level of responsibility for the decision, having put together their two worst offensive performances in the last two weeks. But he also pointed out that the 2016 Vikings season is far from lost.
At the current time, the Vikings are still atop the NFC North with a win in hand, would have a first-round playoff bye based on their 5-2 record and still have full control of their own playoff destiny – wherever that ends up leading them.
With tight ends coach Pat Shurmur taking over the offensive coordinator duties, Rudolph said there isn’t time for lamenting the loss of Turner from the organization. It’s time to let a new pair of eyes evaluate the offensive talent and call plays accordingly.
“As someone on the offense, the first thing you think about is what you could have done differently – what we could have done as an offense to prevent this from happening,” Rudolph said. “With that being said, I mentioned after the game on Monday night, the bottom of line is that in the last two weeks with all that has happened, we still sit where we are in first place with all of our goals in front of us. We’ll rally behind Pat.”
Turner’s impact on the organization wasn’t limited to just the offensive players. Kicker Blair Walsh built a bond with Turner that he will carry with him forever, a sentiment shared by many players when they got the news.
“I love Norv and I think a lot of the players all feel the same way,” Walsh said. “It’s tough see a guy like that leave, but he obviously has his reasons. I wish him nothing but the best. He’s been fantastic since he’s been here.”
Even defensive players had a healthy respect for the Turner legacy, which evolved with the evolution of the NFL from a run-heavy league to a pass-oriented approach. Turner thrived with strong running backs – from Emmitt Smith to LaDainian Tomlinson to Adrian Peterson – and was able to mix the run and the pass in such a way that it kept defenses guessing and he had a long track record of success.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn had experience going against Turner offenses before both came to Minnesota and he came away impressed with the innovation that he brought to the offensive side of the table to exploit defensive weaknesses.
“I’m a Norv Turner fan,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve always been – even when I played against him. I just liked his concept of offense, the things that he did and the person he was off the field. I’ve got to know him the last three years and he’s a great guy. He truly will be missed in this locker room. I know the coaching staff will miss him and I know guys who were around him every single day on offense will miss him.”
For the Vikings players, there was a sense of loss in the locker room Wednesday, but, at the same time, the world of the NFL moves inexorably forward regardless of setbacks for a given organization. The Vikings will have to line up against the Detroit Lions at noon Sunday regardless, and the players have to prepare for what the Lions will throw at them – just with Shurmur in charge of the offense instead of Turner.
“I don’t know what drove him to resign or anything about it,” offensive tackle Jake Long said. “But I know that everything we want is still ahead of us. We’ve got a great team, a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. We’ve just got to keep correcting (mistakes), keep getting better and get back on the winning track.”