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For other people named Burns, see Burns (disambiguation).

Jerome Burns (born January 24, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan) is a former American football coach. He coached college football, most notably as an assistant and later as the head coach at the University of Iowa. He then coached in the NFL, most notably as an assistant and later as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Contents

Background

Jerry Burns played quarterback at the University of Michigan from 1947-1950. Michigan won four consecutive Big Ten titles when Burns was with the Wolverines. He graduated in February 1951 with a physical education degree.

Burns then began his coaching career. He served as the head baseball coach and assistant football coach with the University of Hawaii in 1951. Burns left Hawaii to coach at Whittier College in 1952, where he was the head basketball coach and an assistant football coach. At the beginning of 1953, he left Whittier and took a job as head football and head basketball coach at St. Mary Redford High School in Detroit, Michigan. Following the 1953 football season at St. Mary, Burns was hired by fellow Michigan alumnus Forest Evashevski as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa.

Burns began serving as an assistant coach at Iowa under Evashevski, or "Evy", in 1954. He coached the freshman team for most of 1954 before helping with the varsity squad. He coached the backs (running backs, quarterbacks, fullbacks, and defensive backs) in 1955 and 1956. After the 1956 season, defensive coordinator Bump Elliott left to coach at Michigan. Burns was put in charge of the defensive unit, and in his final three years as an assistant, he was in charge of recruiting activities as well.

Iowa head coach

Burns served seven total years as an assistant coach to Evashevski. As part of a deal with Iowa Athletic Board, Evy was appointed as Iowa's athletic director and agreed to appoint his successor as head football coach at Iowa. Evy appointed Burns to succeed him, and Jerry Burns became Iowa's 20th head football coach beginning with the 1961 season. He was just 34 years old.

Jerry Burns was placed in a very difficult situation. He was replacing a legend in Evashevski, who compiled a 52-27-4 record in nine years at Iowa. Furthermore, Burns was extremely young to be a head football coach at a Big Ten university. Before his first game as a college head coach, his 1961 Hawkeye team was named as the preseason number one team in the nation in the Associated Press poll.

Iowa defended their lofty ranking by winning their first four games in 1961, but then the Hawks hit a disappointing slide, losing their next four. In their final game of the year, the Hawkeyes defeated Notre Dame, 42-21. It was Iowa's fifth win in six years over the Irish. It also assured Iowa of a 5-4 record. It was Iowa's last winning record for 20 years.

In 1962, for the only time in school history, Iowa defeated both Michigan and Ohio State in the same year. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes could not defeat anyone else, as Iowa posted a 4-5 final record. Iowa might have posted a winning record in 1963, but the school's final game of the season against Notre Dame was cancelled on account of the sudden assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Hawkeyes finished 1963 with a 3-3-2 record.

A 3-0 start in the 1964 season quickly turned sour, as the Hawkeyes lost their final six games. Burns was now in real danger of being fired, but Iowa had several players returning in 1965, and the Hawkeyes were expected to be very good. Burns was allowed to return in 1965 to see how he would do with that team. Before the 1965 season, Playboy Magazine picked Iowa as their preseason number one team in the nation and predicted a 9-1 record for the Hawks. Instead, Iowa finished the year 1-9, and before Iowa's final game that season, it was announced that Burns would not be retained in 1966.

At least publicly, Burns took the firing with a great deal of class. He said, "I want to be emphatic. I hold no ill feelings toward anyone. I hope, I sincerely hope, Iowa has great success in football in the future. If I can contribute to that future, I will." After his final game, his players hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him off the field, despite the loss. [1]

There were those who insisted that Forest Evashevski wanted to be called back as football coach and that rather than helping Burns to succeed, Evy hampered him with rules and regulations that were not in force when Evy was the coach. But Burns ultimately said, "If we have failed, and we have, I'll take the responsibility for that. It is not the players' fault. They have done the best they can." [2] He had a 16-27-2 record at Iowa.

Professional coaching career

Jerry Burns was a young man when he was hired at Iowa, and he was still a young man of 38 years of age when he was fired at Iowa. Despite being fired, Burns landed on his feet when he received a call from the Green Bay Packers. He moved to Green Bay to serve for two years as an assistant coach to Vince Lombardi in 1966 and 1967. During that time, he was an assistant coach for the Packer teams that won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

When Lombardi retired after the 1967 season, Jerry Burns was hired by Coach Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings. Grant hired Burns to be his offensive coordinator. Burns served as Minnesota's offensive coordinator for the next 18 years, from 1968-1985. During that time, the Vikings made the playoffs 12 times, won 11 division titles, and played in four Super Bowls.

When Grant retired from coaching in 1985, Burns was named as the fourth coach in the history of the Minnesota Vikings on January 7, 1986. He coached Minnesota for six years, from 1986 to 1991. Burns compiled a record of 52-43 and led the Vikings to the playoffs three times. He helped the Vikings win the division title in 1989 and led them to the NFC championship game in 1987. He announced his retirement as head coach on December 3, 1991.

During his time as the Vikings head coach, he may be best remembered for a November 5, 1989 profanity laced tirade where he defended then-offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker, despite the fact that the Vikings' Rich Karlis kicked a then league record-tying 7 field goals (since broken by Rob Bironas of the Tennessee Titans) in a 23-21 defeat of the Los Angeles Rams.

Burns retired from coaching after the 1991 NFL season. Jerry Burns has in recent years been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he has yet to gain the votes necessary for induction. In 1998, Burns gave the Hall of Fame induction speech for Paul Krause, the defensive back he coached both at Iowa and with the Vikings.

References

  1. ^ 25 Years With The Fighting Hawkeyes, 1964-1988, by Al Grady, Page 9 (ASIN: B0006ES3GS)
  2. ^ Grady, Page 10

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Forest Evashevski
University of Iowa Head Coaches
1961–1965
Succeeded by
Ray Nagel
Preceded by
Bud Grant
Minnesota Vikings Head Coaches
1986–1991
Succeeded by
Dennis Green
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