MOBILE, Ala. — Vikings coaches and the personnel department are at the Reese's Senior Bowl to evaluate prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft.
In addition to looking for players that might be added, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has tried to add a few different ideas by hiring two assistants with experience as former head coaches.
The Vikings have hired Tony Sparano as offensive line coach and Pat Shurmur as tight ends coach this offseason. Kevin Stefanski will move from coaching tight ends, the post he's held for two of his 10 seasons in Minnesota, to coaching running backs. Stefanski is replacing Kirby Wilson, who was hired as Cleveland's running game coordinator.
In addition to Zimmer, Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has 15 seasons as an NFL head coach, Sparano had four with the Dolphins (2008-11) and Shurmur had two with the Browns (2011-12). Sparano (Oakland) and Shurmur (Philadelphia) also later served as interim head coaches.
"I think the number one thing is they're all good coaches. They've all got great reputations," Zimmer said. "Two, is when you're a head coach, you're never afraid to speak your mind, so the possibility of all of them sitting in there and the personalities of the guys like Tony and Pat, they're not afraid to speak their mind and ideas. I just think the more good coaches you can get, the better it is and the more they'll communicate with it."
Zimmer explained the coaching changes during an interview with ESPN's Ben Goessling and Vikings.com during a break between the North and South team practices at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
"You're always looking for different ideas, different ways to do things," Zimmer said. "I love hearing guys say, 'When we were in St. Louis we did it this way, when we were in Philly we did it this way,' or Tony, when he was in Miami. Sometimes you get in one system and you get pigeonholed. I'm not saying offensively. I'm just saying for me. There's a lot of things that you can do that can help improve your football team."
Part of Zimmer's time as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator overlapped with Shurmur's time in Cleveland as divisional opponents. Turner and Shurmur's uncle, Fritz Shurmur, worked together for the L.A. Rams years ago.
"I think he felt comfortable. He was excited when I first called him," Zimmer said. "I think he had some other opportunities … I think he thought this is possibly an up-and-coming team with a young quarterback, a good tight end (Kyle Rudolph) to work with."
Zimmer said Shurmur's experience coaching tight ends for his alma mater, Michigan State, and Philadelphia, likely will ease the transition.
"Plus, it gets him a little more involved in the passing game where we've got to get a lot better," Zimmer said.
As for Stefanski's switch, he's navigated that in the past. Hired originally as an assistant to the head coach in 2006, Stefanski served as assistant QBs coach from 2009-13 before sliding to tight ends when Zimmer was hired.
"We've all done that at times. I've coached linebackers and the secondary," Zimmer said. "I think it's good for guys to be able to move around and expand their knowledge of the game, learn different techniques, and he'll have some work to do this offseason, but luckily, we've got three former head coaches to help."
Stefanski also will have the opportunity to coach seven-time Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson.
Zimmer said Jeff Hurd is interim strength and conditioning coach, although options to replace Evan Marcus are still being evaluated. Zimmer said he isn't switching from emphasizing the use of free weights.
"I look for somebody that has the philosophy that I have, so that's what it is," Zimmer said.