Tag Archives: west coast offense progenitor

Burns, Jerry

Cards: ProSet 1989, ProSet 1990, ProSet 1991
Acquired: TTM 2019, C/o Home
Sent: 11/21 Received: 12/23 (32 days)

Jerry Burns played quarterback at Michigan from 1947-1950. He quietly ascended the college ranks, including a head coaching stop at Iowa. In 1967, Burns joined Vince Lombardi’s staff at Green Bay. He’d serve on Lombardi’s staff for the Packers Super Bowl I and II victories before Jerry was poached by division rival Minnesota, to serve as head coach Bud Grant’s offensive coordinator.

Jerry was forward thinking for the time. Arguably he can be considered one of the pioneers of what was later popularized as the West Coast Offense, as his team’s short to intermediate passing game, supported by runningbacks predated the Walsh era by a few years with Fran Tarkenton. Jerry served as offensive coordinator for 18 years- eventually succeeding Grant as head coach in 1986.

As head coach, Burns guided the Vikings to the playoffs from 1987 to 1989, losing to the Redskins in the 1987 NFL Championship Game, and then the 49ers in the divisional round in both 1988 and 1989. His teams were actually known more for stacked defensive talent than anything else, and he posted a 52-43 record over 6 seasons. Burns retired after the 1991 season, after posting an 8-8 record.

I love writing players who share with me history and information about their lives, and I had heard that Jerry loves getting fan mail, so I thought it was worth the shot. About a month later I received this very nice letter in the mail from his daughter, Kelly. Jerry is in his 90s now, and getting him to recall these memories makes him feel great. She kindly paraphrased and wrote down Jerry’s responses to my questions.

What was your favorite moment as a coach?

“He’s had so many wonderful moments but finally becoming the Vikings Head Coach!”

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Did you have a signature Bread and Butter play you liked to call?

Of course- being an offensive guy- the pass was his favorite- short pass and run!!

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Who was your favorite player to coach over the years?

Ricky Young and my Dad have always been close- and to this day!! They are super close!!

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What is your secret to longevity?

My beautiful wife who has always been my best friend and who has always cared for me- and my family.

Kelly and the Burns family humbled me by thanking me for my letter and letting me know that they very much enjoyed it.