Longtime Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, head coach Jerry Burns dies at 94

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Head coach Jerry Burns of the Minnesota Vikings in 1989
Longtime Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and head coach Jerry Burns, seen here in 1989, died on Wednesday at 94. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Longtime Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and head coach Jerry Burns died Wednesday, the team announced.

He was 94.

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Burns spent more than two decades with the organization and spent six seasons as the head coach before he retired in 1991. In a statement, the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, said

“Jerry Burns was one of the most important people we met when he came to Minnesota and he was a foundation of this franchise. His leadership as a coordinator and head coach for over two decades shaped some of the most successful teams in Vikings history. His love of life, quick smile and sense of humor were what we will remember most and join Vikings fans worldwide in sending our prayers to his family.”

Burns led Vikings for nearly 25 years

Burns made the jump to the NFL in 1966 following a five-year stint as the head coach at Iowa, where he had worked his way up to the top job after serving as an assistant at various positions for seven years.

He started as the defensive backs coach with Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers before taking the Vikings offensive coordinator job in 1968. He then held that position until 1986, when he took over for Bud Grant as the team’s head coach.

“I met Burnsie at Iowa when he picked me up from the airport when I was visiting down there, and from that point on we started talking football and never stopped,” Grant said in a statement. “We were on the same page a lot … Our friendship grew over the years and we became very close friends and so did our families.

“When I first got the job in Minnesota I talked to him about coming here but he had a contract with Green Bay. The first year I was with the Vikings I coached one guy short. I was holding the job for Burnsie until he could come the next year. He was a very astute football mind. He could see things on the field immediately. He was as important to my career as anyone I’ve been involved with.”

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Burns finished with a 52-43 overall record in his six seasons as Minnesota's head coach and reached the playoffs three times. His 1987 team nearly earned a spot in the Super Bowl, too, but fell to Washington 17-10 in the NFC championship game.

“From the day I started with the Vikings, Jerry Burns was a great friend and someone I loved spending time with,” head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement. "He had a unique outlook on the game and I learned something every time we talked. The football world lost a good one today.”

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