The colorful character of former Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns flickered out this past week.
Burns helped the team to four Super Bowls as an offensive coordinator from 1968-1985 before becoming head coach and steering the team to three postseason appearances. A member of the Vikings Ring of Honor, Burns passed away last Wednesday at the age of 94.
Coach Mike Zimmer made a formal statement on Burns earlier in the week and took the opportunity to share a playful anecdote regarding Burns.
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Mike Zimmer Likens Himself to Burns, Shows Team Iconic Press Conference
Zimmer spoke to local press on Saturday and shared the many gleaming reviews of Burns’ passion for the game. Burns was a common visitor in Zimmer’s office throughout Zimmer’s time in Minnesota.
“We’d sit down to talk about: the good times, the old times, football, how things have changed. It’s always been great having him in my office — messing with him,” Zimmer said in a virtual press conference on Saturday. ” [We] lost a good friend and a really good coach.”
The two coaches shared a gritty style of leadership not reflective of today’s NFL. Zimmer likened his demeanor to Burns, showing a past Vikings team a video of Burns’ iconic meltdown press conference after Minnesota’s win against the Los Angeles Rams in 1989.
“[Burn’s] just a great guy to talk to. He might be the only guy that has worse language than me. I actually showed his press conference to the team one year,” Zimmer said. ” ‘You guys think I’m bad. Watch this.’ ”
DISCLAIMER: Uncensored video below
Burns’ fiery comments were in response to fans booing his offensive coordinator, Bob Schnelker, during the game despite the team picking up a victory. Burns’ adamant defense of Schnelker was just one instance of his relentless devotion to the team.
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Former Vikings Reminisce of Burns
Burns is often known for his character, but his mind for the game was equally uncanny.
Chuck Foreman, who played in three of Minnesota’s Super Bowl performances, credited Burns as the godfather of the West Coast offense that Bill Walsh innovated with the San Francisco 49ers, winning three Super Bowls during the 90s building off the framework of the scheme.
“Bill Walsh got credit for Jerry Burns’ offense,” Foreman said, per Tomasson. “That was our offense. That wasn’t their offense. We incorporated that to take advantage of my abilities as a receiver, so we were throwing that way before the West Coast offense.”
Former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer recalled a game against the rival Green Bay Packers where Burns pulled him in the third quarter after his sixth touchdown pass.
“After I threw my sixth touchdown pass in the third quarter, I told Burnsie, ‘I think I can throw 10 or 12 touchdown passes,’ ” Kramer said, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson. “He said, ‘The only thing you’re going to do is throw your butt on the bench.’ He kept us laughing all the time.”
“I’m very sad to hear it, but he had a good long life,” Kramer added, via Tomasson. “And he was the funniest person that I’ve ever met. I’ll tell you that.”