The well-traveled Norv Turner is officially the new Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator. Unless Turner decides to show a new wrinkle at age 61, it’s safe to say the Vikings will employ a vertical passing attack mixed with a power running game long known as the Air Coryell offensive system.
Turner takes over a Vikings’ offense that was ranked 23rd in passing in 2013, yet he has plenty of talent at the skill positions to work with moving forward. Norv Turner must be sleeping easy at night thinking about the damage Adrian Peterson could do running out of a spread formation. And the thought of a big TE like Kyle Rudolph with great hands and enough speed to stretch the field vertical, certainly has him dreaming of sugar-plums and candy canes. But possibly the sweetest vision dancing in Turner’s head might be his plan to develop Cordarrelle Patterson as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Before all the dreaming can become a reality though, Turner must find the long term answer at the quarterback position. The Vikings have the eighth pick in this year’s draft, so you can bet landing a franchise quarterback is high on Turners wish list.
What does a typical Air Coryell quarterback look like? What quarterbacks in the 2014 draft fit the Norv Turner mold?
Don Coryell preferred having a big, strong-armed guy that could get the ball down field accurately and on time. Mobility is not a premium as much as standing tall in the pocket and getting the ball out quickly. Reading deep to short is the typical progression and guys like Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, Kurt Warner, Phillip Rivers, and Joe Flacco have had great success in Air Coryell systems.
The 2014 draft is deep with quarterbacks and Turner will be shopping for a pocket passer with a big arm who also has some size and moxie to take a hit. With a handful of quarterback-starved teams positioned ahead of the Vikings, Turner and the Vikings might be forced to find a quality signal caller outside of the first round.
In a perfect world Blake Bortles would be available with the #8 overall pick, but because the quarterback position is the most essential piece in today’s pass happy NFL offenses, don’t hold your breath that he will be available. Teddy Bridgewater will probably also be off the board when the Vikings are on the clock. The ever popular and polarizing Johnny Manziel might be available, but I question whether or not he is a true fit in the Norv Turner QB mold. That leaves Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, or Jimmy Garoppolo, as potential first or second rounders that Turner could target. In the later rounds, the Vikings could take a long look at Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron, Logan Thomas, and Jeff Mathews.
As the draft gets closer I might change my mind, but right now, I think Zach Mettenberger might represent the best fit for the Vikings. At 6-5 235lb and boasting one of the strongest arms in the class, Mettenberger is exactly what Don Coryell would have been looking for in a quarterback. It is no surprise Mettenberger had a big senior year under Air Coryell offensive guru Cam Cameron at LSU this season. Mettenberger lead the SEC and was 3rd nationally in passer efficiency with a 171.4 rate. He also lead the conference in yards per completion at 16.1. Mettenberger completed 64.9 % of his attempts and threw for 3082 yards.
His late season torn ACL has hurt his draft stock a bit and could scare off a few teams, but the Vikings have taken chances on guys with injury concerns in the past.
If there is a run on quarterback in the first 7 selections, the Vikings will be in great position to land a stud defensive standout with the 8th pick, and then select Mettenberger in the second round with the 40th overall selection.
However, before Turner gets too excited about the draft… he will need to address the plan involving the three quarterbacks currently on the Vikings’ roster. Turner prefers a traditional dropback quarterback, so the writing might be on the wall for the West Coast run quick style of Christian Ponder. Ponder’s 1.8 million salary could be on the trading block this off-season. Josh Freeman is a free agent, but he has the big arm and the 6-6 frame that Turner covets. The future of Matt Cassel, who finished the season as the starter, remains unclear as well. Cassel is a 6-4 230lbs veteran pocket passer with just enough arm strength to possibly be a good short term option for Turner and the Vikings heading into 2014.
Hopefully the next big news coming out of Winter Park will include Turner and Zimmer’s plan with Cassel, Freeman and Ponder.