MINNEAPOLIS — Legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns died Wednesday at the age of 94, according to team officials.
Burns served as the team's offensive coordinator from 1968 to 1985 before taking over as head coach from 1986-1991.
"I met Burnsie at Iowa when he picked me up from the airport when I was visiting down there and from that point on we started talking football and never stopped," said former Vikings coach Bud Grant in a statement. "Our friendship grew over the years and we became very close friends and so did our families. When I got a job in Minnesota I talked to him about coming here but he had a contract with Green Bay. The first year I was at the Vikings I coached one guy short, I was holding the job for Burnsie until he could come the next year. 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. I'm gonna miss him."
While he was an offensive coordinator, the Vikings won 11 division titles and reached four Super Bowls.
"Burnsie made me laugh and made me smile even if he was 2,000 miles away," said former Vikings and Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton. "He made everybody smile. He was one of the most unique characters we've ever known, but it didn't hide his brilliance. I spent the last seven years of my career with Burnsie and he saved my life. He was a brilliant, brilliant coach. He enabled me to be better than I was. We worked together so closely for so long and nobody ever had more fun doing it. We were laughing, yelling and screaming, but never had a cross word to each other. He had my total admiration. 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. We had the partnership of partnerships and maintained that relationship long after football."
As a head coach, Burns led the Vikings to three playoff appearances, including a trip to the NFC Championship in 1987, where they eventually lost to Washington.
"From the day I started with the Vikings, Jerry Burns was a great friend and someone I loved spending time with," said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer in a statement. He had a unique outlook on the game and I learned something every time we talked. The football world lost a great one today."