Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Norv Turner

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Bucky Hodges on the Rise

Historically, the Minnesota Vikings have lacked a one-two punch at tight end. The last time the Vikings had two tight ends catch more than 30 passes in a season was in 2013, when Kyle Rudolph missed eight games due to injury. That season, Rudolph had 30 catches and John Carlson had 32. Before that, the last occurrence was in 2002, when Jimmy Kleinsasser had 37 receptions and Byron Chamberlain had 34.

Fast forward to 2016. Starting tight end Rudolph enjoyed a breakout season, catching 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. But Rhett Ellison, the team’s number two tight end, caught only nine passes.

This offseason, after Ellison signed with the New York Giants, the Vikings attempted to add another weapon to their tight end arsenal. Free agent Jared Cook, known for his downfield pass-catching skills, came to Minnesota for a visit, but he ultimately joined the Oakland Raiders.

Enter rookie Bucky Hodges. The raw-but-talented receiver that plays tight end may be just the player the Vikings have been searching for. Realistically, it’s too early to predict a 30-plus catch season for Hodges in 2017, but if he can make strides developing his technique, the sky is the limit for the 22 year-old.

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Where Do the Vikings Head From Here
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[In part one of this three-part series, Austin Belisle and Brett Anderson team up to put together an in-depth offseason plan for the Minnesota Vikings.]

Football, more than any other sport, is an unpredictable game. A loose ball, a tipped pass, a broken tackle; the slightest shift in momentum or circumstance can flip competition on its head. Franchises prepare for the random nature of the game, but often fall victim to factors they can’t control.

Such was the case for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016. From Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury to the merry-go-round at offensive line, the team struggled to bounce back in the face of adversity. Players on the defensive side of the ball underperformed, turmoil forced a turnover on the coaching staff, and Mike Zimmer’s eye blurred Minnesota’s season outlook.

Combined, the weekly distractions and diversions were too much for the Vikings to overcome. They stalled to an 8-8 finish after starting the season 5-0; missing the playoffs just one year removed from winning the NFC North. Like any team in the NFL, the Vikings had one end-goal in mind: the Super Bowl. But dreaming of a Lombardi Trophy and winning the actual game are two different things.

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Back around the time that the season began, we were happily helping Star Tribune mainstay Mark Craig promote his book 100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die (which is fantastic, by the way) and our “Three Questions” series seemed like the perfect opportunity to invite him back and see if anything from 2016 would’ve changed his Top 100 list had he waited just one more season.

We’ll see how he responds below, but first I invite you to catch up on our growing list of guest appearances from those kind enough to take part in the “Three Questions” series:

Lindsey Young On Her Favorite Articles, 2010 Versus 2016, & U.S. Bank Stadium
Christopher Gates On London, Those Calling For Zimmer’s Job, & Minnesota’s Most Exciting Player
Matt Falk On The 2017 NFL Draft, Adam Thielen, & Fixing The O-Line
Joe Johnson On Nick Swardson, The Defense, & Roster Upgrades
Nik Edlund On Kalil’s Injury Impact, A Possible Vikings Draft Target, & The Play Of The Year
Matthew Coller On Norv Turner, Cordarrelle Patterson, And Vikings Craziness

Okay, here’s where we find out what Mark Craig has to say…

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Vikings Make Pat Shurmur Permanent Offensive Coordinator
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The Minnesota Vikings removed Pat Shurmur’s interim tag, making him the team’s permanent offensive coordinator, as first reported by ESPN’s Ben Goessling.  Shurmur assumed interim duties following Norv Turner’s sudden resignation on November 2 and held the position for Minnesota’s final nine games.

During his annual season-ending press conference, head coach Mike Zimmer would not reveal Shurmur’s future with the team, but did praise his work under such unfortunate circumstances.

“I do think that Pat did a very, very good job, especially under the circumstances that he was put in. I think, offensively, we improved a lot in the passing game. You can look at the statistics from when he started going and things that we’ve done after that. I think he had a great relationship with Sam [Bradford]. I think the offensive players respect him and we’ll just figure all those things out.”

Cordarrelle Patterson
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Welcome to our first installment of “Three Questions.” This is a fairly simple series we plan to run throughout January where we are going to be soliciting answers to our questions from a wide-ranging group of Vikings personalities with hopes of passing along some fun speculation, opinions, and stories to you all.

First up is Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN fame.

1. Can you connect some dots for us and theorize what the actual reason was for Norv Turner’s abrupt departure this season?
 

Sure. It seems to stem back to last offseason in which Mike Zimmer sought advice of other coaches about his offense, then hired Pat Shurmur as his tight ends coach. Shurmur has a long and impressive history working with the West Coast offense, dating back to his days under Andy Reid. When Sam Bradford was acquired by the Vikings, they were forced to stick with a lot of those concepts considering Shurmur and Bradford had just worked together in Philly and before in St. Louis. After the bye week, the Vikings went back to Norv’s old school seven-step drops and intermediate routes. The results were disastrous because of the Vikings’ sad offensive line. My best guess would be that Zimmer chose Shurmur’s ideals over Turner’s, which caused Norv to walk away.  

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