Coaching changes bring fresh ideas to Vikings' offensive staff

MOBILE, Ala. -- The addition of former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to the Minnesota Vikings' offensive staff won't trigger major changes to the team's hierarchy for the 2016 season. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will continue to call plays while Shurmur and offensive line coach Tony Sparano -- each former head coaches who worked as coordinators in 2015 -- will have the same responsibilities as any other position coach.

But the addition of Shurmur and Sparano should provide a boost for the league's 29th-ranked offense in the form of two longtime coaches with a breadth of experience who won't be afraid to speak up.

"The No. 1 thing is, they're all good coaches," Zimmer said at the Senior Bowl on Wednesday. "They've all got great reputations. No. 2 is, when you're a head coach, you're never afraid to speak your mind. The possibility of all of them sitting in there, and the personalities of guys like Tony and Pat, they're not afraid to speak their minds on ideas. I just think the more good coaches you can get, the better it is."

Shurmur had coached against Zimmer when both men were in the AFC North. Shurmur was the Browns' head coach in 2011 and 2012, when Zimmer was the Bengals' defensive coordinator. Pat Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, coached with Turner with the Los Angeles Rams in the 1980s. When Zimmer called Pat Shurmur about the possibility of coming to Minnesota, Shurmur was excited enough about the possibility that he passed up interest from the Rams in a passing-game coordinator job.

"I think he thought this has the possibility of an up-and-coming team, a young quarterback, a good tight end to work with," Zimmer said.

Shurmur will be tight ends coach, a position he's held before, because Zimmer thought it would make for an easier transition to the Vikings' offense. "Plus, it gets him a little bit more involved in some of the passing game, where we've got to get a lot better," Zimmer said.

That means Adrian Peterson will have a new position coach in former tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski, who will coach running backs for the first time in his 11 seasons with the team. Stefanski's role has evolved from an administrative assistant with Brad Childress to an assistant quarterbacks coach under Leslie Frazier and tight ends coach under Zimmer. Now he'll add new skills as he works with Peterson in 2016.

"We've all done that at times," Zimmer said. "I've coached linebackers and secondary. I think it's good for guys to be able to move around and expand their knowledge of the game, learn different techniques. He'll have some work to do this offseason, as far as some of that stuff. But luckily, we've got three former head coaches now to help."

They'll also have a range of influences, from Shurmur's background with West Coast offenses and Philadelphia's spread game to Sparano's experience running the Wildcat in Miami. That diversity, Zimmer said, can only help.

"Definitely," he said. "You're always looking for different ideas, different ways to do things. I love hearing guys say, 'Hey, when we were in St. Louis, we did it this way, or when we were in Philly, we did it this way.' Tony, when he was in Miami, he did it this way. Sometimes, you get in one system, you get pigeonholed -- I'm not saying offensively, I'm just saying for me. There's a lot of things you can do that can help improve your football team."