New Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has not exactly lit the NFL world on fire with his offensive scheming. For nine of his fourteen-year coaching career, he has served as a quarterbacks coach, a position only slightly more glamorous than the tight-end coaching position so long held by former University of Minnesota head football coach Tim Brewster. For two more seasons, he served as an offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia. Other than the stint in the college ranks, Musgrave has but two years and a handful of games serving as an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, and the results have been anything but impressive.
How rough has it been for Musgrave in the NFL? Consider that his nine years coaching quarterbacks have come with five different teams, the most recent being Atlanta, and that his first four stints as quarterback coach resulted in one and dones with Musgrave leaving his position for the same position with another NFL team. Consider, as well, that, after joining Atlanta as the quarterbacks coach in 2006, Musgrave remained entrenched in a position regarded as a stepping stone position until his departure for Minnesota in 2011.
If the anecdotal does not suffice to chill the cockels of Vikings' fans, consider the performances of Musgraves' offenses.
Musgrave began his coaching career in 1997 as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders. That season, under the quarterbacking guidance of Jeff George, led to a seventeenth-place offensive finish for the Raiders. The Raiders finished 4-12.
One year later, relieved of his duties in Oakland, Musgrave moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles to serve as quarterbacks coach. With Bobby Hoying, Koy Detmer, and Rodney Peete sharing quarterbacking duties, the Eagles finished 3-13 and 30th in the league in offense.
One year later, relieved of his duties in Philadelphia, Musgrave accepted the quarterbacks coaching position with the Carolina Panthers. Led by Steve Beuerlein, the Panthers finished fourth in the NFL in offense with an 8-8 record. Musgrave's performance, and head coach George Seifert's growing unease with offensive coordinator Gil Haskell's seemingly uneven performances, led Seifert to sack Haskell and promote Musgrave to offensive coordinator in 2000.
Musgrave's promotion in Carolina was short lived, however, as Seifert sacked him a mere four games into the 2000 season. That dismissal came only after Seifert called Musgrave to the floor and chastised his play-calling in front of the team.
After his dismissal from Carolina, Musgrave moved on to the University of Virginia where he served as Al Groh's offensive coordinator for two seasons, with mixed results, despite having Matt Schaub as his starting quarterback.
Subsequent coaching positions in Jacksonville, Washington, and Atlanta, led to similar results, with his final season in Atlanta proving his most resume-worthy, mentoring quarterback Matt Ryan to continued improvement.
In all, Musgrave left only one position on his own accord--that of five-year quarterbacks coach in Atlanta. In that final position, he had one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and was able to bring that player along. With lesser talent, Musgrave clearly has struggled in a role far subordinate to the position he now holds in Minnesota. All of which might explain why his exits from every stop prior to Atlanta were met with relief by the relevant fan bases.
For Vikings' fans searching for hope in Musgrave's hiring and promotion to offensive coordinator, there are at least two indications of promise. The first is that Musgrave has had some success working with veteran quarterbacks. McNabb certainly fits that bill. Although Musgrave did take a good Carolina offense with a veteran quarterback and make it awful under the same quarterback, as quarterbacks coach, he did what he was to have done. If he can get that to translate to similar results as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, the Vikings have reason for optimism.
A second reason for optimism, however muted, is that Musgrave has committed to using the running back in more than the staid, Childress formations, promising to use Adrian Peterson in the slot and get the ball in Peterson's hands through the air--two things that Childress stubbornly refused to do. That still does not address how Musgrave sees the field on a play-by-play basis, but it does offer hope that the imagination to see the field differently than Childress exists within his soul.
On the whole, however, while it is difficult to fathom a less creative offense than that offered by Childress and Darrell Bevell, it is equally difficult to imagine that Musgrave suddenly has become a savant at offensive coordinator. Rather, what Musgrave's track record suggests is that his greatest level of competence is that of quarterbacks coach and that he might not even be much above average in that role. Perhaps having Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Donovan McNabb will help paper over some of Musgrave's heretofore shortcomings. Perhaps not.
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