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Lions Caldwell, Stafford Familiar with In-Season Coordinator Changes

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The surprise resignation of Norv Turner as Vikings offensive coordinator on Wednesday sent a shockwave across the NFL and surprised Head Coach Mike Zimmer and players.

Minnesota announced that tight ends coach Pat Shurmur will be interim offensive coordinator.

The Vikings (5-2) aren't the first team with a winning record to have an in-season change at offensive coordinator.

Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell knows this good and well.

Caldwell was promoted to Ravens offensive coordinator in 2012 when Baltimore fired Cam Cameron after dropping two in a row to fall to 9-4. The Ravens lost their following game, but finished the season 10-6, then averaged 410.3 yards per game in four playoff appearances that ended with winning Super Bowl XLVII.

"Everything is just a little bit different," Caldwell said Monday during a conference call with Twin Cities media. "Baltimore was a unique situation, and it was one of those things where we just started to click at the right time. The guys played well on both sides of the ball for a significant stretch. It took us a little bit to get our footing, but we ended up performing well. There was no magic to it. We just played well."

Last season, Caldwell's second at the helm of the Lions, Detroit opened 1-6, including a 28-19 home loss to the Vikings in which Minnesota sacked Matthew Stafford seven times.

Caldwell fired Joe Lombardi and promoted Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator the following day. Detroit lost the next game, but then won three in a row before a loss. The Lions closed 2015 with three straight wins, finishing the season at 7-9.

"Every team has its own unique challenges and deals with that," Caldwell said. "It's one of those things that was not a comfortable situation in either situation, but the great thing about teams in this league is they adapt quickly and the players adapt quickly."

Stafford said the Lions philosophy "changed quite a bit" over time.

"We couldn't do all of it in one week," Stafford said. "You had to do little by little changes in our circumstance just because it was going to be so different.

"I have no idea what their plans are, but obviously, any kind of change in the middle of a season is somewhat difficult, but there's ways to work through it, and who knows how they'll do," Stafford added. "I don't know what philosophical differences, if any at all, are going to be changing with their coordinator, so I don't want to speak for them. It may take no time at all. It may take weeks. Who knows?"

Several game averages posted by Stafford under the direction of Lombardi and Cooter were similar in 2015. He averaged 24-of-38 passing and 267 yards per game with Lombardi and 25-of-37 with 266 yards per game with Cooter.

Stafford's completion percentage experienced an uptick, going from 65.0 to 69.0, but the biggest difference was an improved touchdown-to-interception ratio. Stafford had 12 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in his first seven games last season. After the switch, he threw 20 touchdowns against four interceptions, raising his passer rating from 86.8 to 105.1.

What was so helpful?

"I think just a lot of hard work from our coaching staff and the guys in the locker room getting ready and adjusting to something new," Stafford said.

The 2009 No. 1 overall pick has continued that momentum in eight games this season. Stafford is 191-of-282 passing (67.7 percent) with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for a rating of 103.4 (fifth in NFL).

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick of 2010 by St. Louis, is 4-2 in his first six starts with Minnesota. Bradford has completed 135-of-203 passes (66.5 percent) for 1,442 yards and thrown eight touchdowns against one interception for a passer rating of 98.2.

Shurmur was able to provide the Vikings a considerable amount of information on Bradford after working with him in Philadelphia last season. After Bradford was acquired in a trade with the Eagles on Sept. 3, Shurmur helped Bradford transition into the new offense.

It remains to be seen what might change under Shurmur, but Caldwell said adjusting to transitions has become quite common.

"In this league, it happens a lot more often than one might think," Caldwell said. "It's not anything new. We all have gone through it on several occasions, so what we do is basically anticipate that they're still going to use some of the stuff that they've used before and what is new, you've got to rely on your concepts and teachings in order to adjust."

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