Although it’s often meant as a punch line to a joke when people say the NFL stands for “Not For Long,” there is more than a little bit of reality to that statement as the Minnesota Vikings proved Monday with the firing of quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
Turner came to Minnesota as a coaching package deal with his father, offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The thought was that the two of them would combine to bring quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to prominence and, through two seasons as a starter, it appeared all signals were go for all three of them heading into 2016.
That took a dramatic turn when Bridgewater suffered a devastating knee injury in an August practice at Winter Park. The Vikings were forced to scramble to try to save the season before it began and made a giant wave by cutting a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Sam Bradford in a blockbuster trade.
What would follow would be an in-season changing of the guard of the offensive coaching staff. Pat Shurmur was added to the staff as tight ends coach and it was believed that Shurmur would merely enhance what the Turners were putting together and, when the time came that Norv would call it a career, that Scott could be in line to take his place.
That might never have been the plan outside of the Turners, but if it was that all changed when Bridgewater went down and Bradford was acquired.
Bradford didn’t fit the typical mold of what the Turners ran for an offense. In the Turner system, the quarterback would alternate under center and the offense would focus on a star running back, often employing a fullback and multiple tight ends.
The style Bradford was used to and had enjoyed his most success with was lining him up in the shotgun and having him survey the field from a distance with his running back lined up alongside him instead of seven yards behind him.
As the Vikings offense morphed on the fly, especially after Peterson went down with a meniscus tear, it appeared quite obvious that the circle of power was transferring from Turner to Shurmur. Although details have never adequately been explained by anyone of power in the organization, there was shock when Norv Turner abruptly submitted his resignation to Mike Zimmer and the organization.
It appeared at the time that Turner’s power had been usurped by Shurmur, with the blessing of Zimmer and the front office. It was deemed that, if the Vikings offense was going to succeed, it was going to require an offense built around the controlled passing game, which was not something Turner was accustomed to and something that fit Shurmur’s scheme to a T.
The question at the time was how would Scott Turner fit in this new-look system? His job description was tied into developing a young quarterback (Bridgewater), not working with a veteran quarterback well-versed in another man’s offense.
As such, Turner’s job description changed significantly when Bridgewater went down and even more so when Bradford was acquired and it was obvious that the Shurmur scheme was now the Plan B option rolling forward.
While Bradford set the all-time completion percentage record in 2016, it didn’t translate into wins. He went 7-8 as a starter and the Vikings missed the playoffs after a 5-0 start.
With lingering questions remaining as to whether Bridgewater will be healthy enough to return in 2017, it seems clear that the offensive vision for the Vikings moving forward will be based upon the philosophy of Shurmur. Just as Norv no longer seemed like a fit in the new-look Minnesota offense, neither did Scott.
The NFL can be a tough and heartless business in which personalities can rule the day. There are those who felt Norv was somewhat hamstrung in his duties as the offensive coordinator once Bradford came on board and it seems to carry forward that Scott suffered a similar fate.
The NFL never stops moving forward and the new plan for the future involves having Shurmur calling plays and Bradford as the centerpiece of the offense. That simply meant there wasn’t a good fit for either Turner. The elder Turner opted to walk away on Nov. 1, 2016. The younger Turner followed him out the door just two months later as the Vikings continue to shape how the future of the franchise will play out – and it will happen without either of the Turners coaching up a young quarterback.