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Zimmer nears deals with coordinators

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By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Mike Zimmer is wasting no time putting together his staff.

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On his first full day on the job, the Vikings coach homed in Thursday on filling his two top jobs. Zimmer looks to be close to naming longtime NFL assistant and head coach Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and George Edwards as defensive coordinator.

“I think there’s a good chance it’s going to happen,” Turner, Cleveland’s offensive coordinator, told the Pioneer Press about joining the Vikings. “We’re kind of waiting right now. … Mike just got the job. He just finalized the contract. So I think it will be resolved in the next day or two.”

Zimmer was named Vikings coach Wednesday, replacing the fired Leslie Frazier. He will hold his introductory news conference today.

Fox Sports reported Thursday that Edwards, a Miami linebackers coach, will be hired. Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten said he spoke Wednesday night with Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis and Lewis believed Edwards would take the Minnesota job.

Wooten said Lewis was considering hiring Edwards to replace Zimmer, who had been the Bengals’ defensive coordinator. Lewis ended up promoting linebackers coach Paul Guenther.

“He would complement Mike well,” Fox analyst Daryl Johnston said of Edwards. “Mike is very emotional, but George is more easygoing and fun-natured. He’s much calmer than Mike.”

Edwards, 47, has 16 years of NFL coaching experience, including having been a defensive coordinator for Washington in 2003 and Buffalo in 2010 and 2011. Turner, 61, has 29 years of NFL coaching experience, including 15 as a head coach for Washington, Oakland and San Diego.

Turner was the offensive coordinator when Dallas won Super Bowls after the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Johnston was the fullback on those teams.

“He’d be really good,” Johnston said of Turner in Minnesota. “I think there are a lot of good pieces in place for his offense.”

One of those top pieces might not be at quarterback, where the Vikings went through three starters in 2013 in Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. Johnston believes Turner’s system would help Minnesota’s quarterback situation.

Zimmer and Turner never have been on the same staff. Zimmer started a 13-year tenure as a Cowboys assistant in 1994, the year after Turner left. But they’ve known each other in the NFL over the past two decades.

“We’ve had great conversations,” Turner said. “I think a lot of Mike, so, yeah, we’re working towards (reaching an agreement). There’s a process to go through, so we’re just going through it.”

Zimmer also soon must decide which members, if any, from Frazier’s staff he will retain. Defensive backs coach Joe Woods, a Vikings assistant since 2006, expects to meet today with Zimmer, but he’s not optimistic.

“I’ve been here so long, but you’ve got to produce and do your job and we did not play well this past season, so I’m not anticipating staying,” said Woods, whose Vikings were 31st in the NFL in 2013 in passing yards allowed.

Zimmer’s expected coordinator moves also would appear to signal the end in Minnesota for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and defensive coordinator Alan Willams. Mike Singletary, linebackers coach under Frazier, told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday he already had decided to leave the team when his contract expires at the end of the month.

Singletary, a hall of fame linebacker with Chicago who was San Francisco’s head coach from 2008-10, said he wants to be a head coach or a coordinator rather than position coach. He said he realizes he might have to sit out the 2014 season if he’s not able to land such a job.

Wooten, who spoke to Singletary at length Wednesday, said it wouldn’t be a good move for Singletary to miss the 2014 season. He said Singletary, who was an assistant for five years before becoming 49ers head coach, still has a lot to learn.

“He’s making a horrible mistake” if he sits out 2014, Wooten said. “You’re not going to learn what to do sitting at home. He needs to be on the battlefield learning. ... I think Mike would be making a horrendous mistake not taking a job as a linebackers coach or whatever. Mike has never been a high school or a college (head) coach. He got into this thing very rapidly. He hasn’t been through the pipeline, and consequently he makes a lot of mistakes.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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