The East-West Shrine Game was played Saturday and it had a deep Minnesota Vikings influence on both the coaching staff and the outcome of the game.
The West squad won 10-3, a team that was coached by Vikings defensive coordinator George Stewart and included three Vikings assistant coaches.
Longtime Vikings assistant coach Kevin Stefanski, who was recently named quarterbacks coach, served as offensive coordinator. Assistant offensive line coach Hank Fraley, who will be moving on to coach at UCLA, served as the West’s O-line coach and offensive quality control coach Andrew Janocko coached the tight ends.
The advantage to the Vikings was Saturday’s game was the first time that active NFL coaches were used to coach the game. It gave Minnesota a chance to not only get their defensive coordinator an up close-and-personal look at the draft-eligible seniors who opted to play in the game – not to mention their quarterbacks coach and an offensive line coach. Some of the biggest franchise questions that are going to need to get answered this offseason are the long-term disposition of the quarterback position and a much-needed infusion of talent on the offensive line. Edwards getting a week-long look at every defensive player he had is a nice advantage.
Edwards, after being named head coach, was able to bring along a few members of his crew (from both the sides of the ball) to make talent evaluations.
In future years – if allowing current coaches becomes a permanent trend – the competition to have multiple coaches from one NFL team be part of the East-West Shrine Game week likely will be fierce.
Fortunately for the Vikings, if it is a one-year experiment, they got in on the ground floor of players who are largely going to be Day Three draft picks or undrafted free agents.
To the rest of the world, the East-West Shrine Game produced nothing that created buzz or attention. The Senior Bowl will dwarf the Shine Game and both will be afterthoughts when Combine stars vault from third-round prospects to blue-chippers.
The Vikings reaped some inside knowledge this past week. The prospects won’t be guys that are highlighted in prime time. They will be guys who may drafted in commercial breaks, if at all.
Both sides of the ball got involved in finding mid- to late-round picks and] undrafted free agent gems, likely generating some strong opinions this week because the Vikings were as embedded as any franchise in the Shrine Game. The intel collected is priceless, especially for a team without a first-round pick.