The Vikings’ offseason program won’t begin until April 6, but talking to new special teams coordinator Brian Murphy tonight it sounds like he’s ready to go. The Vikings are set with punter Chris Kluwe and kicker Ryan Longwell but there is no doubt the kickoff and punt coverage and return units need to show improvement in 2009. (The Vikings gave up an NFL record seven returns for touchdowns this season.) Murphy, who had been the special teams assistant to Paul Ferraro for three seasons, made it clear in his interview with coach Brad Childress that there is no time to waste.
“My point to Brad is a lot of things need to get done when the players return for offseason training,” Murphy said. “We can’t wait until OTAs and minicamps to start. There are some things that we can get a jump on and we have to put it on tape with our players doing our stuff as soon as possible. You could list an endless amount of things that need to be tweaked and corrected in all phases. I don’t want to stand pat anywhere. If we had success in an area I want to build off of it. The issues that came up in the coverage game we have to get those corrected.
“The old adage is that the details are the things that matter and we came up short in the details. That will be addressed. And there are some things we can build off of. Just like in baseball where you say, ‘If you have great starting pitching you have a chance to win games.’ We have a pretty good group of specialists with Chris and Ryan and [long snapper] Cullen [Loeffler]. Bernard Berrian was a very good shot in the arm for the punt return game. We saw some young players throughout the year that really were productive with Husain Abdullah and the emergence of Tyrell Johnson near the end of the season. People tend to forget that Eric Frampton was only a second-year player. So certainly there are things we can build off of.”
While Ferraro was very vocal in running the special teams, Murphy had a more behind-the-scenes role. That will change as Murphy is now in charge. Asked what he will bring to the job, Murphy said: “In order to do the job justice, you have to add your own personality to it. I love special teams and have great enthusiasm for them. I truly believe it has to be a phase where you win games with this phase. I think there are things I will do just in terms of creating an identity. But there is no magic beam I’m going to throw on the ground.”
Murphy, 40, was the special teams coordinator at the University of Wisconsin from 2002-05 and said he learned plenty. One reason was because of his friendship with former Eagles special teams coordinator and current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh, of course, coached with Childress on the Eagles staff. Murphy also got to know Bears special teams coach Dave Toub and then Packers special teams coordinator John Bonamego, who now works for the Miami Dolphins.
“That’s a pretty tight knit group of special teams coaches,” Murphy said. “There were a number of those guys that I had a great relationship with and I was fortunate enough that John [Harbaugh] introduced me into that group. They were very forthcoming with information and wanted to help. When I was at Wisconsin, I would go and visit them, especially with Dave in Chicago and John [Bonamego] in Green Bay. I always had guys within a drive away from me, so if I was on the road recruiting I may stop in and visit. Being around that I knew that this is what I wanted to do and I wanted to be in the NFL and a special teams coordinator at some point.”