Q&A: With OC Scott Linehan

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has numerous reasons to look forward to a better year. He talks to VU about what the changes on the offensive line mean to him, how Michael Bennett's injury affects his play-calling, the Randy Ratio and his young receivers.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan enters his second season in Minnesota. Linehan previously served 14 years as a collegiate coach. He added the position of quarterbacks coach to his title for the 2003 season.

Prior to joining the Vikings, Linehan spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Louisville. During his time there, the Cardinals went to three straight bowl games and became the first team to win consecutive Conference USA Championships (2000 and 2001).

Linehan also coached at Washington (1994-98), Idaho (1992-93), Nevada-Las Vegas (1991), and Idaho (1988-90). He played college football at Idaho from 1982-86.

Q: How much did Michael Bennett's injury affect your offensive strategy?

A: Michael will be back in there sometime — it's up to his recover time. We just moved to the next back and ran the same offense, basically. Really, there's no change. We really didn't adjust much of anything. We maybe put a little more emphasis on some different types of runs that are better for Moe (Williams) and (Doug) Chapman and those kind of things. But really it changes nothing to our approach of what we're going to do offensively.

Q: The Randy Ratio is a thing of the past, but how are the Vikings going to ensure that Randy Moss gets ample opportunities to make plays, given his big-play ability?

A: You put him in the best position to get the ball, but you don't force the ball — it's that simple. He's going to have his chances and he'll get his catches, but you've got to find positions where you're going to take your shots but not force the ball to him. We're going to script situations to, ‘This is when we're going to call this play,' and basically call it. We're not going to worry about what defense they're going to give us or what blitz we might see. We just have to call it and let it go. When you stay on offense like that, you tend to be a lot more explosive and a lot less predictable.

Q: Aside from Randy Moss and D'Wayne Bates, there is really no experience at receiver. Plus, before last season, Bates had played sparingly. Combine that with the enormous youth the Vikings at receiver, are you concerned?

A: The great thing about it is D'Wayne is our veteran. He was our second-leading receiver last year and came on and handled any role we asked him to do. He can play any position as a receiver. He backs up Randy in all the special situations. He gives us a great weapon with experience and depth at receiver. We have some really young guys in Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson, who definitely have the ability to be excellent players in the NFL, but certainly haven't proven themselves yet.

Q: How much can you expect Burleson, a third-round rookie draft pick, to contribute early in the season? And how about Keenan Howry, a sixth-round pick?

A: Receivers usually don't play much early, and I think Nate will play a lot more than some of the receivers you saw go in the first round of the draft. That's the exception, not the rule. We feel really fortunate about it and good about our evaluation at the draft. We got a young player and kick returner in Keenan Howry who's going to give us depth at receiver, too. So when you come out of the draft with two receivers who are suiting up on Sunday, you did a pretty darn good job of evaluating.

Q: After you drafted the two receivers, was it realistic to expect both to contribute in Week 1 of the regular season?

A: You wouldn't have drafted them if you didn't. Nate got dinged up in minicamp so we didn't know how durable he was going to be, if he was injury-prone … Those things can happen. A lot of it was we were fortunate that they could stay healthy, and we were able to get those guys a lot of reps early.

Q: Daunte Culpepper signed a long-term $102 million deal in the offseason. Will that provide the confidence that Daunte maybe lacked, at times, last season?

A: No question. I think the contract has something to do with it, but I think you'll see a guy who's comfortable playing in a system for a second year. The terminology and all those things are very similar to what he's done. But he's had three or four coordinators since he's been quarterback here, too. You always get better over time when you get more comfortable with who's designing the system and who's calling plays.

Q: In addition to being the offensive coordinator, you are also the quarterbacks coach. How does that help your relationship with Culpepper?

A: I think it will help him, but he's 100 percent accountable to me because I'm his coach now. Now he's comfortable knowing why plays are being called, as opposed to why we called that same play with the same terminology two years ago. Maybe there's a different thought process that we have to get through so we'll have a better understanding. I think Daunte has shown me that he's come a long way as far as the understanding of what I want to get done on offense. And he'll do anything I ask. That's why he'll be successful.

Q: Having Bryant McKinnie in for a full training camp can only help the offensive line. How much further along is this line — with McKinnie and Mike Rosenthal?

A: We started last year without a left tackle. Everett (Lindsay) and Lewis (Kelly) did a great job filling in there, but they're not left tackles. They're better suited to play the guard position. So you go into the season that way, and the uncertainty of who's going to be there throughout the season affects your whole approach to a game. You have to game-plan around certain lineman. When you've got a pretty solid group of guys who've been together and have the ability to play the positions you're asking them to play, you can do so much more. That plays a big part in our confidence as an offense, especially early in the year.

Q: You're calling the plays from the booth, rather than being down on the field during the game. What advantages are there to working from the coaches booth?

A: You see the whole field and you're not distracted by the emotion from the sideline. Some guys are more comfortable on the sideline and that's fine. I like to separate myself from all that. I like to focus in and get my tendency charts, get my play list together, talk to my quarterback on the headphones. … Basically have a really calm demeanor as opposed to that sideline demeanor where there's so many highs and lows. You can't — as an offense — have those emotional peaks and valleys. You have to stay really steady and not get distracted. That's why you'll see a lot more of Daunte, Gus (Frerotte) and Shaun (Hill) in their own group, not talking to too many people unless they need to. They'll keep their focus on the job at hand, the next series, the next play-call list. You have to keep that calm demeanor and keep that even-keel.

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