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Turner could bring deep pass to Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- If there's one thing for which Norv Turner has been known in his exemplary career as an offensive mind, it's a deep passing game that has consistently snubbed the West Coast offense principals that had taken over the league.

Turner learned the Air Coryell offense from Ernie Zampese in the 1980s, and brought it to Dallas during the Cowboys' Super Bowl years, where Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper made the "Bang 8" route -- or the skinny post -- one of the most effective passing plays in the league. The San Diego Chargers used it to great effect when Turner was the head coach there from 2007-12, and even with abysmal quarterback play, the Cleveland Browns threw deep as much as almost any team in the league while Turner was the offensive coordinator there last year.

The Browns attempted 80 passes of 20 yards or more, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That ranked fourth in the league, just three behind the top team in the league. Who was that team? You guessed it -- the Cincinnati Bengals, who threw downfield 83 times while new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was busy readying the Bengals' defense for its next series. Having been around that philosophy, it's no surprise Zimmer wanted to bring it to Minnesota; Turner is close to becoming the Vikings' new offensive coordinator, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. And if he does get the job, Turner could find the pieces in the Vikings' offense already fit his scheme quite nicely.

The Vikings had the ninth-most deep attempts in the league at 73, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder threw deep 35 and 31 times, respectively, and each did it rather well; Ponder had a 98.8 Total QBR on deep attempts, while Cassel's was 97.7. Considering how many favorable matchups the Vikings get with Adrian Peterson, the deep pass should have been part of the Vikings' repertoire much more than it was, and it seemed like offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was heading in that direction last year. If Turner gets the job, you can expect that will continue.

And the Vikings' receivers already match up with Turner's philosophy. Cordarrelle Patterson's potential as a deep threat is obvious, but while he had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Greg Jennings was a formidable deep threat (remember his Monday night walk-off touchdown from Favre against the Broncos in 2007?). He caught 49 passes of more than 20 yards during his time with the Packers, averaging 42.2 yards a catch -- the best mark in the league during that time.

Obviously, the Vikings' success on deep balls will depend on whom they have playing quarterback, and they could get their chance to take one high in the draft this spring. Cassel, who was the fourth-most accurate deep passer in the league last season, could also provide a serviceable stopgap until or unless the Vikings get a franchise quarterback. But it seems clear that if Turner is indeed the offensive coordinator, the deep pass will be a regular part of the Vikings' offense -- especially with the pieces they already have in place to execute it.