Part of their criterion for a new leader included things like showing more emotion on the sideline and hiring coordinators that possess playbooks larger than a Post-it note. A winning record on the football field wouldn't have been a bad thing either.
As the fantasy role has been filled with Mike Zimmer, there are several things that he brings to the table. By being the complete opposite of Leslie Frazier's staff, Minnesota will have a different look and the impact will be felt in multiple ways.
Harrison Smith Will Become An Even Bigger Stud
Many had Smith on the verge of a Pro Bowl appearance prior to the 2013 season, but he suffered a turf toe injury that required surgery and forced him to miss eight games. Still, the optimism was warranted as he racked up a pair of interceptions and 47 tackles which put him on pace to set new benchmarks.
The change from Frazier's conservative Cover 2 approach to Zimmer's aggressive scheme will turn Smith from a good player to an elite one. An example of what Smith could become on the field is Darren Sharper.
The former Viking safety had nine interceptions in 2005 before Brad Childress came in and changed the defense. In the next three years, Sharper had just eight picks before leaving after the 2008 season. Once freed from the scheme, he bounced back to form with 9 INTs in his first season with the New Orleans Saints.
With Zimmer's arrival, the best is yet to come from Smith.
Less Will Mean More for Adrian Peterson
Another welcome sight for the Vikings will be the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner's name may cause a cringe in some circles, but he's a better coordinator than a head coach. With this move, Minnesota will have a functional offense that relies on downfield passing and the power running game.
While this is great news for an offense that has relied on the three yard pass for years, it also means that Peterson might not have the same role Viking fans have grown accustomed to. Turner loves throwing the football and in the NFL's pass-happy state, the running game is used as more of a compliment than a foundation.
That doesn't mean Peterson won't have an impact (Turner has coached five NFL rushing champions in his career), but he's not going to get the football as much. Of course, if that means getting the extra man out of the box, that will be music to everyone's ears as his carries and age head toward numbers where running backs usually break down.
Blitzing Will Improve the Defense
In recent seasons, the Vikings have relied on getting pressure on the quarterback through their defensive line. In 2013, that theory took a step back.
With Jared Allen's play declining and several other pieces out of sync, the Vikings dropped to 15th in sacks after ranking sixth a season ago. Although it was a difference of three sacks (44 in 2012, 41 in 2013), it shows that other teams are becoming more aggressive about going after the quarterback.
By throwing more linebackers and safeties into the backfield, the Vikings can not only make their sack total rise, but get pressure on the other quarterbacks in the division. Such a move could have prevented the five losses the team suffered in the final minute a season ago and turn a 5-10-1 disaster into a 10-6 NFC North championship.
Kyle Rudolph Will Fulfill His Potential
In 2012, Vikings fans caught a glimpse of what Rudolph could become. His 493 receiving yards weren't spectacular, but he became a security blanket for Christian Ponder in the end zone. With nine touchdowns, he was second in the league among tight ends and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Tony Gonzalez.
Armed with actual quarterbacks giving him the ball (and a non-existent defense), Rudolph exploded in the exhibition with five catches, 122 yards and a touchdown. While the legitimacy of the game is in question, his MVP award shows that the potential is there.
As his new offensive coordinator, Turner loves using the tight end in his offenses. This helped Antonio Gates become a household name when he was with the San Diego Chargers and helped Jordan Cameron enjoy a breakout season in 2013 despite catching passes from Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell.
Even if Matt Cassel is filling in as a stop gap for a rookie signal caller, Rudolph is going to get the ball a lot. Such a commitment could make the fourth-year player one of the best receiving tight ends in football.
Cordarrelle Patterson Will Be 2014's Josh Gordon
As if there weren't enough reasons to be excited about Turner taking over the offense, the emergence of Patterson late in the 2013 season means that a true breakout could be coming. A best case scenario looks similar to the show Gordon put on in Cleveland last fall.
Despite being suspended for the first two games of the season, Gordon built off a strong rookie season to lead the league with 1,646 receiving yards and score nine touchdowns for the Browns. With six touchdowns in the final seven games, Patterson has the potential to have a similar effect on the offense.
It may not seem like it, but the Vikings have enough weapons that the offense can go from a weakness under Bill Musgrave to a strength under Turner. If all the parts reach their potential, the Vikings can become an elite offense in the run and the pass with Patterson's game-breaking ability as their crown jewel.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Vikings follower that has seen triumph and heartbreak for the franchise over 27 seasons. His work has also been published on Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
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- Harrison Smith
- Norv Turner
- Leslie Frazier
- Mike Zimmer
- Adrian Peterson