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Former Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns dies at 94

Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a Minnesota Vikings helmet during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Burns, who coached the Minnesota Vikings to three straight playoff appearances in the late 1980s after 18 years as the team’s offensive coordinator, including four Super Bowl appearances, died Wednesday. He was 94.

The team announced Burns’ death, with a spokesman citing word from the family. The Minneapolis Star Tribune said Burns had been in a long battle with failing health.

Longtime Vikings coach Bud Grant recalled wanted Burns to join his staff so badly that he went without an offensive coordinator in his first season, 1967, until Burns’ contract with the Green Bay Packers ended. He became Minnesota’s offensive coordinator the next season.

“He was a very astute football mind. He could see things on the field immediately. He was as important to my career as anyone I’ve been involved with. His coaching help, friendship, loyalty, family — he brought everything to the Vikings he had,” Grant said in a statement.

With Burns guiding the offense, Minnesota went to the Super Bowl in 1970, 1974, 1975 and 1977, although they failed to win any of them.

Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who led those latter three drives to the Super Bowl, called Burns “a brilliant, brilliant coach. He enabled me to be better than I was. … Without him, I would never have done what I did. He was critical to the success of the Vikings of that era. He was so important to our success.”

While at Green Bay in the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Burns was the defensive backs coach, with the Packers winning the NFL championship in the first of those seasons and the inaugural Super Bowl in the latter.

From 1986 to 1991, Burns’ Vikings teams went 52-43 in the regular season, and went 3-3 in the postseason. In 1987, Minnesota finished the regular season 8-7, and as a wild card, defeated New Orleans and then San Francisco before falling to Washington in the NFC Championship Game.

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Before moving to the NFL, Burns spent 12 seasons at Iowa, the last five as head coach from 1961 to 1965. His teams went 16-27-2.

The Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, in a statement called Burns “a foundation of this franchise. His leadership as a coordinator and head coach for over two decades shaped some of the most successful teams in Vikings history. His love of life, quick smile and sense of humor were what we will remember most. We join Vikings fans worldwide in sending our prayers to his family.”

–Field Level Media