Jerry Burns, whose long coaching career included three playoff appearances as head coach of the Vikings, has died at the age of 94.
Burns took over the Vikings in 1986 and instantly improved the team, going 9-7 in his first season and then reaching the NFC Championship Game in his second season. But while Burns would make the playoffs two more times, he never got past the divisional round, and he retired after an 8-8 season in 1991.
After playing at Michigan as a backup quarterback and punter from 1947 to 1950, Burns took coaching jobs at Hawaii and Whittier, where he coached baseball and basketball in addition to football. Eventually he made his way to Iowa, where he was hired as an assistant coach in 1954 and then promoted to head coach in 1961. In his five seasons at Iowa he went a disappointing 16-27-2 and was fired after a 1-9 season in 1965.
From Iowa, Burns went to Green Bay, where he was an assistant to Vince Lombardi and was on the Packers’ sidelines when they won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II. After that he was hired by Bud Grant with the Vikings, and he spent the next 18 seasons as a Vikings assistant before he was hired as head coach.
The Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, released a statement saying, “Jerry Burns was one of the most important people we met when we came to Minnesota, and he was 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.”