Matt Engstrom Vikings Illustrations Bears Eating Hope
Illustration by Matt Engstrom

Your Norv Turner Criticism Is Legitimate And He’s Earned It.

Somewhere in Winter Park an alarm clock has been going off at weekly intervals, but the Vikings organization continues to hit the “snooze” button.

After last night’s debacle against the Chicago Bears, however, it is time for somebody to wake up.

With Vikings Territory’s unexpected popularity boom over the last few years (due 100% to me surrounding myself with far superior talents) comes a greater sense of responsibility when writing things like this, and calling for another man to be fired is not something I engage in willy-nilly. There are ramifications – team ramifications, family ramifications, long and short term ramifications all around.

Norv Turner is a respected man in the NFL, a well-respected coach whose list of accomplishments would make most others pale in comparison.

If things that were once effective always remained effective, however, I’d have my DVR set to record the newest episode of Friends tonight and would be searching TicketMaster for Nickelback tickets during the commercials.

In the case of Norv Turner, I’ve now arrived at a tipping point and am fully convinced that this offense has been reduced to little more than a greatest hits album, and an antiquated approach that makes for better history segments than live football.

Injuries have decimated Turner’s offense this year; the starting quarterback; the hall of fame running back; both starting tackles. There are certainly excuses hanging low on the fruit tree. They aren’t hard to grasp, but where other teams have adapted to account for player absences, Turner has concocted a retractable bag of flaming dog poo that is constantly springing from our TV sets directly at the eyeballs of Vikings fans everywhere.

Take our own opponents. They are perfectly aware that our defense can overwhelm their offensive line. Their response is to scheme quick-hitting throws that are high-percentage in nature. It limits their offense’s upside, but it still puts the ball in the hands of their playmakers while preventing their quarterback from finishing the game looking like a shark attack victim.

It hasn’t been a secret that Minnesota’s offensive line is not good. It wasn’t a secret when the season started, and it certainly hasn’t gotten better with the rash of injuries taking players that can sometimes at least flash talent off the field. So, does Turner adapt and game plan for Bradford to get the ball out in under two seconds and let Stefon Diggs or Cordarrelle Patterson do their thing?

Absolutely not.

The Vikings may not have a lot of offensive depth right now, but what they do have is an abundance of yards-after-catch (YAC) magicians capable of catching footballs and taking some pressure off of the blocking unit. Not utilizing these talents, not getting the ball out of Sam Bradford’s hands and into theirs, is an absolute travesty.

How about a jet sweep to the guy nicknamed “Flash” instead of putting him in as a lead blocker? How about a slant route to Stefon Diggs versus a depleted secondary? A bubble screen to Adam Thielen who runs with as much determination as anyone on this team? Any of those things would be better than trotting out Matt Asiata for his 3.0-yard average on 14 carries and the five times he was targeted in the passing game.

Imagine if Norv Turner and Alanis Morissette had swapped careers long, long ago. You just know Turner’s version of Ironic would have the line “It’s like ten thousand spooooooons when all you need is a spoon.” Meanwhile, Alanis would have figured out that Sam Bradford should be throwing quick outs five weeks ago.

To be bluntly pissy about the whole thing: It isn’t fair to the offensive line, to Sam Bradford, to the defense, nor to the fans. They all deserve better than what we saw last night. This team is better than what we saw last night, even with excuses growing on trees.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole thing is that we know Turner is capable of getting it right. Perhaps the playbook he used on October 9th against the Texans was too large to fit in the overhead bin of the team plane these last two weeks, but we need to see now more of what we saw then.

The Vikings likely won’t part ways with anyone on a coaching staff that’s amassed a 5-2 record and a real shot at the division crown, but that alarm clock is surely going off this morning in Eden Prarie. Everyone in that building can surely hear it loud and clear.

With the comforts of home awaiting them next weekend, someone is sure to once again hit “snooze” and hope for a better outing against the Lions and regain some of this team’s lost ground.

Here is hoping that the alarm has finally annoyed the hell out of Mike Zimmer enough for him to go and sternly tell Norv Turner to get better or get out.

At this point, that is exactly what is needed. For him to get better.

Or get out.