More than anything else, the Minnesota Vikings need offensive competence, especially at the quarterback position.
Sure, hiring defensive specialist Mike Zimmer to be the head coach seems like an intelligent decision after Leslie Frazier's team finished 27th in yards allowed per drive and surrendered 30 points per game in 2013—the most in the NFL.
But remember, just a little more than a year ago, the Vikings ended the regular season a respectable 17th in yards allowed per drive and 14th in points allowed per game—21.8—en route to a postseason berth.
What they've been lacking since the 2009 Brett Favre-led campaign is steady and solid play from their quarterback position.
The offense has been all Adrian Peterson, and that needs to change. After all, the legendary running back will be 29 in March and has already logged over 2,200 touches in his professional career.
On Thursday, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted some positive news regarding who may very well become Zimmer's offensive coordinator:
Vikings and Norv Turner are close to a deal and league sources believe he will be Mike Zimmer's offensive coordinator in Minnesota.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 16, 2014
Turner has nearly 30 years of NFL coaching experience, and he most recently wrapped up a season as the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator.
No, the quarterbacks in Cleveland didn't exactly thrive in the system installed by Turner and then head coach Rob Chudzinski. But working with the frequently flustered Brandon Weeden and journeyman Jason Campbell likely made it nearly impossible for the Browns offense to operate properly.
Prior to the 2013 campaign, Turner was fired after a six-year stint as the San Diego Chargers head coach.
Despite his failure, the Chargers were annually one of the most prolific passing offenses in football, and quarterback Philip Rivers bordered on elite status running Turner's attack.
Here's a look at how San Diego's offenses fared from 2007 to 2012:
|San Diego Chargers Offenses Under Norv Turner (Rank)|
|Points Per Drive||Points Per Game||Philip Rivers' QB Rating|
|2007||1.96 (9)||25.8 (5)||82.4|
|2008||2.52 (2)||27.4 (2)||105.5|
|2009||2.60 (1)||28.4 (4)||104.4|
|2010||2.36 (2)||27.6 (2)||101.1|
|2011||2.32 (4)||25.4 (5)||88.7|
|2012||1.67 (21)||21.9 (20)||88.6|
|Football Outsiders and ESPN|
Quite clearly, we're talking about a brilliant offensive mind in Turner, a coach whose established system is predicated on downfield passing.
He inherited Rivers, but by now, he likely knows the type of quarterback he'd want on his team.
The Christian Ponder experiment is over, and the Vikings likely don't want to move ahead with Matt Cassel as the franchise signal-caller, so the attention will probably be turned to the draft. Minnesota holds the No. 8 overall selection, and there's a decent chance some of the better quarterback prospects will be available.
Fresno State's Derek Carr, who's not the most sound pocket mover but possesses a rocket arm, might suit Turner.
Texas A&M lightning rod Johnny Manziel could be on the board at No. 8, and although he doesn't boast a huge arm, he made plenty of accurate downfield throws during his Aggie career.
A little later, San Jose State's David Fales and LSU's Zach Mettenberger are two prospects with live arms who, in theory, would be fits for Turner's offense from a physical standpoint.
Many believed Weeden would make a stride with the Browns under Turner in 2013 because of his big arm, but, similar to his rookie season, he demonstrated tendencies of locking onto his first read, struggling with his ball placement, and failing to move through his progressions if his initial option was covered.
Playing in spread systems in college, Carr and Manziel would need some schooling on running Turner's more traditional pro-style offense that does include its fair share of plays from under center.
Fales and Mettenberger played in diverse pre-snap offenses and have relatively sound footwork.
After Turner's work with Rivers and his vast NFL coaching experience, whichever young quarterback the Vikings decide to draft will find himself in an environment that should foster development.
A solid offensive line, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Cordarrelle Patterson and Peterson will help, too.
Minnesota should be in good hands on defense with the fiery Mike Zimmer at the helm, but in today's NFL, it's extremely difficult to win on a consistent basis without sound quarterback play.
If the Vikings do indeed hire Norv Turner, it could ultimately become the best move of this offseason.
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