The Owners, Coaches' Merry-Go-Round

A coordinator has left and the rumors are hot and heavy. The Vikings now know they will need at least a new offensive coordinator, maybe more, but who could replace Scott Linehan, and will the Vikings still have Red McCombs as an owner? Also, what about trading a running back? We shop around the league to find out more.

Scott Linehan is the new offensive coordinator in Miami. That is the most certain step in the initial stages of the offseason developments.

According to the Miami Herald, Linehan told people close to him that he could be with a new team before the Senior Bowl workouts start on Sunday, and the stability that the Dolphins offered him compared to the ownership circus developing in Minnesota was all he needed to make the move.

  • Interestingly, Miami's maneuvers in other areas are also of interest to the Vikings. The Dolphins have fired assistant coach Marc Trestman, and his name could surface as a potential candidate to replace Linehan.

    Another possibility to replace Linehan would be offensive line coach Steve Loney, who was an offensive coordinator for Iowa State and Minnesota in the college ranks. The 28-year coaching veteran spent six years as a coordinator at the Division I level.

    Head coach Mike Tice will also look into viable candidates at next week's Senior Bowl, a sort of coaching conference among the fraternity. Whoever ends up with the offensive coordinator title next year, Tice said he will get more involved in the offense again.

  • In other coaching news, Tice promoted assistant coach Pete Bercich, a former linebacker and special teams standout with the Vikings, to linebackers coach. He will take over those duties from Ted Cottrell so the defensive coordinator can concentrate on the defense as a whole.

    The Vikings are going through their coaching evaluations this week, and there is speculation that special teams coach Rusty Tillman could be on the hotseat. Former special teams leader Chris Walsh, who served as a coaching intern with the Vikings in 2004, could be in line to replace Tillman if he resigns or is let go. Walsh might also look around the league for an opportunity to coach wide receivers.

  • Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Denver Broncos running back Rueben Droughns, has received permission from the Broncos to seek a trade for his client, and Rosenhaus intends to contact Miami along those lines. That is significant to the Vikings because Tice said earlier this week that trading one of his running backs is a possibility this offseason, and he may need to start that process sooner than expected if he wants to work with the league's most desperate teams. The hiring of Linehan in Miami would make for an interest dynamic in any trade talks with Miami. Former Vikings and Packers assistant coach Ray Sherman is also a candidate to become the receivers coach in Miami, making the pipeline between Minnesota and Miami even more cordial.

  • Meanwhile, the ownership situation continues to hinder the Vikings' efforts in several other areas. Besides losing Linehan because of Minnesota's unstable ownership situation, the potential for a sale of the team might also affect the Vikings' free-agent spending.

    If McCombs does comes to terms with a potential buyer, the details of that pact may not be done in time for the NFL to review the purchase agreement and get league approval by the team owners at their March 20-23 meeting in Hawaii. That could mean an uncertain direction for the Vikings heading into the March 1 beginning of free agency and throughout best signing period.

    While Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler has been trying to put together a more comprehensive ownership group that includes Twin Cities car dealer Denny Hecker, that group may still need another big investor to meet McCombs' asking price of $600 million.

    If Fowler's group assembles enough businessmen to meet McCombs' asking price, that group might still struggle to get the kind of financing McCombs secured to allow their borrowed money to be self-liquidating debt, meaning the franchise would produce enough profit to make their annual loan payments without dipping into their own resources. It's a common practice with successful business people, but with McCombs' asking price at $600 million and financial constraints placed on a team with a poor stadium deal, that kind of financing may no longer be in the cards for a potential owner.

    There is also the matter of minority partners investing hundreds of millions of dollars without truly having control of the team for the minority partners. And the lead investor must put up at least 30 percent of the purchase price, according to NFL rules.

    So while there is a whole lot of smoke surrounding the sale of the team, there has yet to be enough to make a fire hot enough to send McCombs into signature mode. It could happen soon … or it could all just be more bravado for publicity.

    At this point, the only certain thing is that the ownership situation is hamstringing the football side more than Randy Moss' midseason injury did.



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