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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Musgrave had a better QB but Raiders become latest team to bounce Bill

By Judd Zulgad

Bill Musgrave was in the second season of his three-year stint as Vikings’ offensive coordinator when a fan decided to let him have it during a game in the Metrodome.

The inebriated fellow stopped in front of the press box, looked up toward the booth where the coaches were sitting and attempted to harass Musgrave by continually yelling his name. While Musgrave was on the field and thus didn’t hear the catcalls, the assumption was the fan went home feeling better after voicing the frustration that so many felt when it came to good old Muskie’s play calling.

His play chart was too small, his game plans not creative enough, his quarterbacks not productive enough, and, heck, anyone could have coached Adrian Peterson.

As has been the case with so many offensive coordinators, we considered Musgrave to be a dummy. No one was surprised or sorry when Musgrave departed Minnesota after Leslie Frazier was fired as coach and Mike Zimmer took over in 2014.

Musgrave, though, seemed to get the last laugh.

After spending a season as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, Musgrave joined Jack Del Rio as his offensive coordinator in Oakland. Instead of attempting to get the most out of Chrisitan Ponder, he was now calling plays for standout quarterback Derek Carr and began to look a lot smarter.

The Raiders finished this season ranked sixth in total offense in the NFL and had the seventh-most points in the league. Carr played at such a high level that his name popped up in MVP conversations – he suffered a broken fibula in Week 16 – and the Raiders went 12-4 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The Raiders lost to the Houston Texans in a wild card game last Saturday, but that was with third-string quarterback Connor Cook getting the start because of injuries to Carr and backup Matt McGloin.

So it was a no-brainer the Raiders would give Musgrave a new contract, right? Nope. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Del Rio had decided not to renew Musgrave’s contract. This is the second time Del Rio has fired Musgrave. The first time came in 2004 after Musgrave spent two seasons as Del Rio’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.

What’s interesting is that Del Rio fired a former Vikings coordinator in order to keep a former Vikings intern.

Todd Downing, 36, a former Eden Prairie High School quarterback who began as an operations intern for the Vikings, is expected to be promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator by the Raiders.

ESPN reported that at least two head-coaching candidates were interested in Downing for their offensive coordinator vacancies, and the reported Oakland had blocked Downing from interviewing for other offensive coordinator jobs.

In an interview with Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune in November 2015, Downing called it “an absolute blessing to get my foot in the door,” with the Vikings and credited former Vikings coach Mike Tice with giving him his big break.

“I built some relationships,” Downing told the paper of his start with the Vikings. “I helped out Bob Hagan as a PR intern for a year, which worked out fantastically. I was going to school at the University of Minnesota, doing night classes. It was a grind, but it was well worth it. I loved it. It was my hometown team. …

“There was a transition between Coach [Dennis] Green and Mike [Tice]. When Mike took over (in 2002), if you remember, that was the start of all the stadium meetings. We were having all the legislative meetings at the Capitol so I would drive Mike to and from those meetings. We would talk ball the whole way. He’d want to get some phone calls and be able to just relax while somebody else drove and I was happy to drive. So in between the phone calls we got to talk a little football. …

“He found my passion for the game and offered me an opportunity to come to training camp. I’ll never forget, he told me, ‘You make it through training camp, I’ll give you a coaching contract.’ He told me, ‘I’m going to make it hard on you. You’re going to work late, late hours. Wake up early. You’ve got to finish up school whenever you can.’ I made it through training camp and he gave me my first coaching contract at 21 years old. So I’ve been very blessed and fortunate.”

What’s interesting is that Tice now will be working under Downing. Tice has been the Raiders’ offensive line coach for the past two years. This will be Downing’s first chance as a coordinator, but he has been a quarterbacks coach in the NFL since 2011, including stops with the Lions (2011-13) and Bills (2014).

As for Musgrave, he never could escape the criticism, even if he found more success in Oakland than he did in Minnesota.

Del Rio, a former Vikings linebacker, took issue with the offensive plan, and the run game in particular, after a Week 14 defeat at Kansas City, saying he wished he had seen more “big-boy ball.” Del Rio also was not happy that running back Latavius Murray got only five carries in a Week 17 loss at Denver that cost the Raiders’ the AFC West Crown and the second seed in the conference.

Then there was the criticism of Musgrave for being too conservative when the Raiders were ahead in games.

In that sense, it’s good to know that some things never changed when it came to how the masses felt about Muskie.

The post Zulgad: Musgrave had a better QB but Raiders become latest team to bounce Bill appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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