Murphy: Were there too many cooks in the kitchen for Norv Turner?

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Panic for Detroit. David Bowie likely never heard of the Minnesota Vikings, but the English glam rocker sure loved apocalyptic stagecraft like the melodrama oozing out of Winter Park as the Purple prepare to play host to th...

Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Panic for Detroit.

David Bowie likely never heard of the Minnesota Vikings, but the English glam rocker sure loved apocalyptic stagecraft like the melodrama oozing out of Winter Park as the Purple prepare to play host to the Lions.

The casualty list and intensifying crises over the past nine weeks are staggering even by jaded Vikings standards.

Head coach Mike Zimmer is half-blind and grinding through post-retinal surgery as if paid by the scar while the sudden resignation of his offensive coordinator opened a credibility gap at the worst possible time.

Zimmer owns his broken offense now that the play-caller and de-facto head coach of that unit has departed under conflicting accounts of how it all fell apart.


Norv Turner, one of the most accomplished offensive coaches of his generation, apparently saw the writing on the wall Wednesday and abandoned this Viking ship.

His stale scheme has run aground. Philosophical differences Turner and Zimmer were unable or unwilling to resolve hastened his exit after over two unfulfilled seasons in Minnesota.

So Pat Shurmur was promoted to triage a unit that ranks 31st in the NFL at 293.3 yards per game, with an offensive line in shambles, a running game in traction and quarterback Sam Bradford regressing.

Meanwhile, Turner's son, Scott, remains quarterbacks coach. No awkwardness there.

Two proud, hard-headed football lifers like Zimmer and Turner were destined for divorce - or an inevitable ham-fisted transition - the moment Zimmer hired Shurmur and Tony Sparano, both former NFL head coaches with play-calling backgrounds, to coach tight ends and the offensive line, respectively.

Zimmer fired inherited O-line coach Jeff Davidson the day after the Seattle playoff loss because pass protection was a mess.

Perhaps it was a no-brainer to rent the best and the brightest available to fortify pass protection, develop franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and coax more out of an underperforming offense.

Then Bridgewater shredded his knee, the offensive line devolved into an injury-ravaged sieve and Bradford reunited with Shurmur, his coordinator in St. Louis and Philadelphia. They introduced more shotgun, quick-release, West Coast offensive ingredients into Turner's power-running, tight-end heavy, traditional kitchen.


Perchance the team of rivals proved incapable of playing nice together.

Most likely Zimmer was hedging his bets in case Turner could not squeeze lemonade out of lemons and they ultimately were unable to co-exist.

Zimmer said he was "very, very surprised" by Turner's decision but sidestepped a question about whether he tried talking him out of it.

"I would say that since Norv has been here, I've given him almost 100 percent total free will in everything that they've done offensively," Zimmer said. "Obviously, I'll come in and make suggestions, but there really has never been a time I have demanded anything from there."

It might take a syringe of truth serum, a case of Coors Light and a summer night on Zimmer's Kentucky ranch for either man to cough up the whole story. But there was no politicking the respect Zimmer had for his 64-year-old former right-hand man, choking back tears as he described Turner as "a great coach, great teacher, great person."

Eleven days ago, the Vikings were 5-0 coming out of their bye. Confidence was soaring. Fans were pricing airfare, hotels and Super Bowl tickets in Houston for early February.

Two insipid losses later, the Vikings are still ahead of Green Bay (4-3) and Detroit (4-4) in the NFC North, but the foundation is cracking.

Turner gave it a swift kick on his way out the door, telling ESPN's Ed Werder, "I think it's just we have different views on where the offense was going."


Unimaginative play-calling and the Vikings' startling lack of production in road losses to Philadelphia and Chicago brought simmering tensions to a boil.

Adrian Peterson's absence betrayed a dysfunctional rushing attack without a featured back that has failed to keep defenses honest. Blitzes and simple four-man rushes have overwhelmed Minnesota's inept offensive line.

The Vikings have scored a meager 20 points the past two games. The league smells blood in the water.

Zimmer and his team face a defining moment. The Lions at home usually is just what the doctor ordered to break a fever. But Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at a Pro Bowl level and the Vikings' defense looked vulnerable against woeful Chicago.

"All the adversity we went through in August and September, if you said we could be 5-2, in first place at the start of November, I'm sure everybody would have taken it," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "You can't lose sight of our goals moving forward. We've just got to get back to work and right the ship."

And keep everyone on it.

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