The Daily Norseman Exclusive Interview With Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave

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Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave

Hi kids, I hope the week is going well.  If it has, this will be the cherry on the top of the sundae, but if you've had a crappy week, it improves dramatically.  Why?  Because once you finish reading this interview with Vikes OC Bill Musgrave, you'll know more about what the Vikings plan to do in 2011 than most everyone else.

We talked offensive philosophy, Christian Ponder, quarterbacks, offensive line, Percy Harvin, running backs, audibling, and why you need to draft Jim Kleinsasser for your fantasy football team.  So join us after the jump, and get an idea of what to expect from the Vikings offense in 2011.

DN:  Former coach Brad Childress was a west coast offense disciple.  You said your offense isn't a pure WCO, but a combination of several things.  What is your overall offensive philosophy?

OC Bill Musgrave:  Well, our language is based more on the Ron Erhardt system.  Of the three different systems that have withstood the test of time in the NFL, you could count Don Coryell's number system, of course Paul Brown and Bill Walsh's West Coast offense system, and Ron Erhardt's system, which has been run for years, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, now with Coach (Ken) Whisenhunt in Arizona, of course it's being run in Atlanta with Mike Mularkey, and portions of it are being implemented in New England, and with the Giants.  So our offense will be rooted in that base language. 

DN:  Speaking about the language of the offense, on draft night Christian Ponder said that the offense he ran at FSU and your offense are ‘schematically similar'.  What did he mean by that--verbiage, formations, what exactly?

Musgrave:  Well, I think that's a credit to Jimbo Fisher and the offense he ran at Florida State, because he could have said that about any team that drafted him on the first day.  They have a terriffic system there at Florida State, and he was exposed to a lot of the quarterback jobs and position requirements that he'll have to do here at the next level.  When you watch film of FSU, you saw a lot of similar concepts being executed. 

DN:  So do you feel that will make it easier for him to pick up the offense, or is he still going to have a pretty steep learning curve?

Musgrave:  Any rookie is going to have their challenges, and the quarterback is no different.  He has experience in performing play action passes, nakeds (bootlegs) and bootlegs, he's been in the shotgun and under center, so those fundamentals have been applied at his game already, so that does put him ahead of other quarterbacks that may have not been exposed to those type of requirements.

DN:  Coach Frazier has mentioned that ideally he would like to see Ponder starting week one at San Diego, but he also said there will be a QB competition in training camp.  Will Ponder be given the benefit of the doubt if he's not as far along as he might be, or you think he should be, or will it truly be the best man will win the job?

Musgrave:  We'll want to go forward in the season with the quarterback that's most ready to play at a high level.  If that's Christian, then that will be him, but we'll make that assessment once we get on the field.  We'll also see how the team fits around each respective quarterback as well.  As you can imagine, we're looking forward to that day. 

DN:  How peculiar and unusual has this off-season been in terms of what you can plan for, what you can't plan for, that kind of stuff?

Musgrave:  We've made a number of amendments and revisions in terms of what we intend to teach our players based on the timeframe that we're faced with.  We'll be ready to teach them to the best of our ability and make sure they get acclimated to the new language so they can hit the ground running when we do get on the field for our initial games. 

DN:  Speaking of teaching them the offense, do you think the off season workouts that Ponder arranged with some players helped or were possibly hurtful since there were no coaching staff to clarify things in the new playbook in the event  they were interpreting something wrong?  Was that a net positive or minus?

Musgrave:  As a staff we feel it was a net positive, definitely.  We were excited to hear that both he and Joe (Webb) were working with some of our younger guys and asserting themselves.  It's not rocket surgery, what we do.  We've got straightfoward concepts in our book and we're excited they got a little time on task before we actually get to coach them in person.  

DN:  About Joe Webb.  Assuming Ponder does win the starting job, do you envision any kind of Wildcat package, or some series of plays for him? Have you considered moving him to WR at all?

Musgrave:  We haven't considered moving him to wideout, we consider Joe strictly a quarterback.  You make a good point that if we require a little more juice to the offense, if we feel our exisiting skill position guys aren't adequate, then we'll look at all options, and one of those options will be to get Joe some touches.  That would be down the road, and right now we're really focused on developing Joe as a quarterback. 

DN:  Even though Ponder is the quarterback of the future, you have Joe Webb, but it seems like acquiring a veteran QB for at least one season is probable.  What characteristics are you looking for in a veteran QB--are you more concerned with a guy that can be a mentor, or do you want a guy that can start the entire year if need be? 

Musgrave:  We want a guy that can play in the league and can be successful, so we'll look for a guy that has adequate experience in that regard.  We want a guy that's a true pro, and there are a bunch of them out there that fit that description.  There are classy young men that are great athletes, and they'll not only enhance our young quarterbacks but they'll also put us in position to win ballgames when they're out on the field.

DN:  The Vikings pleasantly surprised some people by taking TE Kyle Rudolph in the second round.  What role do you see him playing as a rookie, and do you see him playiong a significant role in your offense?

Musgrave:  We would like for him to be, but it's tough to tell without seeing him on the field, so we'll make that assessment once we get him out there to see where he is and what his true strengths are.  We know what we see on film, we like his size, and we're excited to put him in a number of scenarios, both blocking and pass receiving.  We feel good about our tight ends already, now we're feeling like we can utilize those guys to a higher degree.

DN:  In regards to the tight ends, you have a history of using a lot of two tight end sets.  Do you see yourself splitting out Visanthe Shiancoe or Rudolph in more of a kind of hybrid WR position, or are you going to have them playing in tight more often than not for pass protection and routes over the middle?

Musgrave:  That's one of the aspects of the offense we're chomping at the bit to find out about.  We've got a number of routes that these guys have never run before.  We'll teach them these routes, get some time on task in practice, and see if they can be effective outside the numbers as you've indicated.  We want to try and find some mismatches, and it may just be a there are a couple routes that each tight end is really skilled at.  So we've got to find out what they're good at, and then tailor the offense around them, whaether it's between the hashes or outside the numbers. 

DN:  Are you going to mix Jim Kleinsasser into that as well, or are you going to use him more in his traditional role of a run blocker?  I ask that because I draft Kleinsasser every year for my fantasy team because I love the guy, so could you at least get him two or three touchdowns so I can justify drafting him again this year?

Musgrave: Well, we gotta do that, you're right.  That makes a lot of sense, we need to get Jim some touchdowns, for you specifically (laughs).  Jim's strength is blocking, but what's great about Jim is we do throw it to him he will catch it, and we're looking forward to Jim having a real vital role in our system.  What a professional he is, I'm go glad he's on our team.

DN:  You gave a copy of the playbook to Ponder when the lockout was lifted, but it was written before you knew Ponder/ Rudolph were on the team, and without knowing if Rice will be back or not--what would be a percentage of the playbook that is locked in stone regardless, compared to how much is fluid and will/can be changed depending on the personnel you have? 

Musgrave:  The concepts are very fluid, because we want to think players first, then plays.  The language--formations, motions, cadence, the way we audible and check at the line of scrimmage--those are the things we tried to provide to our players (during the brief period that the lockout was lifted during the draft).  So we're hoping they get a little familiarity with the language and we can tailor the concepts to fit the players strengths. 

DN:  So you've got a lot of 'check with me' audibles at the line for the QB?

Musgrave:  We'll have an adequate amount.  The quarterback will have to perform a bunch of duties before the ball is snapped, that's for sure.

DN:  Because the QB's are so young, are you going to put any restrictions on them for what they can or cannot audible into or out of?  Brad Childress put some restrictions on his younger QB's, so are you a believer in that philosophy or are you going to say to them 'do everything'?

Musgrave:  We'll always have parameters--certain plays will be no brainers, where they just execute the play, and other ones they'll need to make some decisions and get their teammates in position to be successful.  Whether they're young or old isn't a determining factor for us.  We want them to be sharp, and if they put in the preparation we're confident we'll give them a plate that they can handle and it won't be too much for them.

DN:  How heavily will you lean on Adrian Peterson in 2011, and do you see Toby Gerhart being a true third down back, or more someone who can be a legitimate guy to split carries with Peterson?

Musgrave:  We're looking forward to utilizing both those guys on all three downs.  Both those guys deserve their touches, and we intend to give it to them. 

DN:  Lorenzo Booker was a late season addition and became a solid contributor on special teams.  Do you see him taking over kick return duties or is that Harvin's job to lose?

Musgrave:  You'd have to ask special teams coach (Mike) Priefer that, but I do know we're glad to have him.  He did some really nice things for us last year.  He's got a familiarity with (RB coach) James Saxon, and we're looking forward to getting those two guys back together and getting some production out of Lorenzo.  

DN:  What kind of blocking scheme do you plan on using, the zone scheme or more of a hat on hat philosophy?

Musgrave:  We'll employ both.  We want to be an offense that's difficult to defend, so we don't want to paint ourselves into a corner in any way.

DN:  Are you pretty comfortable with your depth on the line, and do you forsee any training camp battles along the line for a starting job?

Musgrave:  We're looking forward to working with our o-line.  I twas a rough year last season with all the injuries, and we're glad to have those guys back.  We're looking for (Anthony) Herrera to get back at some point, as he had major surgery, so we'll get those guys back so we can have a cohesive unit once again. 

DN:  Percy Harvin has been very dynamic in the slot, but has seemed to perform just okay out wide.  Do you plan on trying to see if he can adapt out wide, or are you content to keep him in the slot?

Musgrave:  As you said, Percy has made his living up to this point in the slot, but we're going to work with him to give him a couple weapons in his arsenal outside the numbers and we'll also expand his role when he's between the tackles.

Thanks again to the Vikings and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

I don't know about you guys, but it's sure nice to talk legitimate football stuff for a change.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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