When the familiar blue truck wasn't in the parking lot before the sun came up, the Minnesota Vikings knew something had happened.
They knew Chip Myers, the newly promoted coordinator of the Vikings' prolific offense, was there every day at 6:10 a.m. Secondary coach Richard Solomon and coach Dennis Green were the only coaches who regularly arrived ahead of Myers.
"You could set your watch on it," Green said Tuesday. "Every day it was the same process. He and Solly'd get in an argument, have some fun, tease each other about who was going to read the paper and who paid for it, and all those other things. We've been doing it for years."
When the assistants began arriving Tuesday for a 7 a.m. meeting, several took note that Myers' truck wasn't there. When they went inside, Green told them why, relaying the crushing news he received about 5:15 a.m. from Myers' wife, Susie.
Myers had died of a heart attack hours earlier at his home in Long Lake. He was 53.
"In 28 years as a coach I've never had a more tragic thing happen," Green said.
Myers' death came without warning and stunned the Vikings. Although he was a casual smoker, there had been no signs pointing to a potentially serious health problem.
He was planning a skiing trip to Colorado next week, and recently spent a week in Hawaii with the rest of the Vikings coaches for the Pro Bowl. He was with the staff in Indianapolis over the weekend for the NFL scouting combine.
The coaches returned together late Monday afternoon. Myers last was seen at his home about 8:30 p.m., and police found his body on his bed about 3:30 a.m.
"It's devastating," outside linebackers coach Trent Walters said. "It's like losing a member of the family, like losing a brother. Because we were just that tight."
A native of Panama City, Fla., a graduate of Northwestern Oklahoma State and a former Pro Bowl receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, Myers came to Minnesota in 1995. He coached receivers in 1995-97, and shifted to quarterbacks last season.
Under his guidance, Randall Cunningham went from a backup role to the Pro Bowl. Cunningham led the Vikings to the most points in NFL history and a 15-1 regular-season record before an upset loss to Atlanta in the NFC championship game.
When former offensive coordinator Brian Billick left two days later to take the top job with the Baltimore Ravens, Green wasted no time putting Myers, a career assistant, in charge of the offense.
"He was really just starting to show what he could do," Green said.
Whether it was game day at the Metrodome or the off-season in his bass boat on Lake Minnetonka, Myers' calm, laid-back demeanor never changed, something that made him popular among his peers. He was typically low-key when he was promoted last month.
"I've been ready to do this for 10 years," he said. "I've just never (promoted) myselto do it, and I would never do that at all. ... A (job) title to me, it doesn't mean one thing. It never has, and hopefully it never will. I'm not comfortable even with (the coordinator) title. All I want is to be somewhere where I can win."
He wanted to be somewhere where he could fish, too. The combination of football and the outdoors made Minnesota the most rewarding stop in Myers' coaching career.
"I don't care what time I came here in the morning, his truck was sitting there," said defensive coordinator Foge Fazio, who worked with Myers seven of the last eight seasons with the Jets and Vikings. "He was always here. But, hey, come a Friday afternoon, if it was nice, he'd be fishing. Which was great. ... He was very, very happy here.
"We're all happy he got a chance to experience that. It's kind of sad he didn't get a chance to see how far he could go being an offensive coordinator in this league."
Myers is survived by his wife and five adult children. Funeral services were scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Indian Hill Church in Cincinnati, where Myers played for the Bengals from 1969-76.
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