COMMENTARY | Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Bill Musgrave enjoyed a fine playing career at the University of Oregon and was able to parlay that into a short NFL career, playing for both the 49ers and the Denver Broncos. Musgrave's legacy in the NFL game will consist of his coaching career, not the 12 games he got into as a player.
By all accounts, Musgrave is an excellent quarterbacks coach and can count players such as Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub, while he was at the University of Virginia, among his pupils. But just as many assistant coaches make poor head coaches, Musgrave makes a poor offensive coordinator.
He is now in his third year as the Vikings offensive coordinator, making this his longest stop in that position. He lasted only four games as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers (2000) before resigning and managed to hang onto his offensive coordinator position with the Jacksonville Jaguars for two years (2003-04) before being fired. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Musgrave doesn't appear to have learned anything from his previous two jobs and is making the same mistakes that he did with his first two teams.
Musgrave is too conservative for today's NFL and it's hurting his team, most notably Adrian Peterson, who sees consistent 7- and 8-man fronts, as teams have little to fear with the Vikings' long passing game. The Vikings ranked 31st in yards per pass attempt last season and weren't much better in Musgrave's first season, ranking 28th.
After Sunday's 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings rank 21st in yards per pass attempt. If not for Matt Cassel's 70-yard throw-and-run touchdown to Greg Jennings against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Vikings would be in their customary spot tied for 28th.
Making things worse for the Vikings is Musgrave's tendency to call for five-yard routes on 3rd-and-8. The Vikings have picked up 52 first downs through the air this season, second-worse in the league, ahead of only the Buffalo Bills, who have 51.
The Vikings' quarterback controversy will garner the bulk of the attention, but as long as Bill Musgrave is calling the plays it doesn't make a huge difference who lines up behind center for Minnesota. If Musgrave refuses to open up the Vikings offense, the remainder of the 2013 season will be as bleak as the first five games.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the 1970s.
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