The coaching carousel spun like no season in recent memory. From long-time head coaches who wore out their welcome to others that did not reach the pinnacle of success expected, many National Football League team owners entered the 2003 off-season intending on making a statement.
In Minnesota, the Vikings sported a high-powered offense led by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Linehan, a budding star in the coaching ranks, was believed to be a sure-fire head coach candidate in the making. Following the Vikings' disappointing end to the season, Linehan did not receive the attention some in league circles expected. In his first full season as the Vikings' offensive coordinator, Linehan's Minnesota offense was second to none.
"Scott Linehan is a coach that will get some serious play in the near future. He has done a tremendous job in Minnesota with (quarterback) Daunte Culpepper and he has led the offense to a resurgence, with less than top-notch talent at the receiver position," one general manager said. "Granted, the Vikings had many pieces in place to enhance their offensive capabilities, but to get Culpepper to play with confidence, minimize the vast number of mistakes he had been prone to, and to understand and develop as a young player, the credit has to go to Linehan.
"It is highly doubtful he (Linehan) will be an offensive coordinator for longer than the next season or two, tops."
Amidst speculation, an unknown candidate was rumored in the running for the recently filled Chicago Bears head coach position. Linehan's name was floated by some media outlets as a potential Bears mystery candidate. Unfounded in basis, Linehan was never a candidate for the Bears' top post, and the Vikings organization retains their talented offensive mind, though with mixed emotions.
"Scott (Linehan) would make a good head coach in this league. He is a straight-up man, a very strong communicator, and he has the ability to lead. Any team that did not or does not take him as an up and coming head candidate will miss out on a good one," a team source said. "He (Linehan) has done a great job here, especially during the turnover and growth in the organization, and is loyal and dedicated. We were not approached by a team expressing an interest in Scott (Linehan) yet, but we expect that to change in the near future.
"I would be happy for him if and when the opportunity presents itself, and it will be a loss for the Vikings organization when that time comes."
Secure and quite happy in his role with the Vikings, Linehan is already preparing for the off-season. The belief within the Minnesota organization is of commitment to improving the talent and depth on the roster. This commitment is expected to provide Linehan additional weapons in the receiving game, as well as another year of experience under his belt, and that of his players.
"This (Minnesota) is a great place to coach, a great place to play. The guys in this organization and in this locker room all have a common goal, and that is to win," Linehan said recently. "The way the season ended was not how we wanted it to end and it was not what we expected, but we'll keep working and come back hungrier and ready to play.
Missing from the Vikings' arsenal was a consistent No. 2 receiver. D'Wayne Bates and rookie Nate Burleson shared the duties opposite Moss, but neither player was able to provide the team with a consistent presence in the passing game. Throw into the mix that H-back, tight-end, all-around talent Jim Kleinsasser is going to be a free agent, the Vikings have some issues to address on the offensive side of the ball.
"As a team, you are always looking to see where improvement can be made and what the ramifications would be in potentially changing the face of your team. We like where we are at running back, along the line, and at quarterback, but we have some work to do this off-season at the receiver and tight end positions," the team source concluded.
How Good Is Linehan?
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