Tice: Linehan Adapts To Talent

Head coach Mike Tice said new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's ability to adapt to talent from year to year, and system to system, made him the top candidate for the job. Linehan's track record and comments say Tice is right.

At Mike Tice's introductory news conference as Vikings head coach, he made it clear what the requirement would be for the team's next offensive coordinator: Show me how you are going to get Randy Moss the ball.

Scott Linehan must have had all the right answers because Tice named him the Vikings' offensive coordinator on Feb. 5. Tice, who also gave strong consideration to Vikings quarterbacks coach Alex Wood for the position, gives Linehan his first opportunity in the NFL.

"He's a Dennis Erickson disciple and also a Joe Gibbs disciple," Tice said. "We have the same philosophy for our offense, and I think he was the missing piece that we needed to take us back to the top. I'm very pleased to have Scott with us. He's also a developer of quarterbacks. … All Scott has been involved with are football teams that score points and win a lot of games."

Linehan comes to the Vikings from the University of Louisville, where he had served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 1999. During his time at Louisville, the Cardinals went to three consecutive bowls, became the first team to win consecutive Conference USA championships and a Louisville player was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in each season.

Quarterback Chris Redman, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, won the honor in 1999 and his successor, Dave Ragone, earned the award the past two seasons.

"This is a great opportunity for me because it will give me a chance to coordinate at every level," Linehan said. "I've done it in high school, I've done it in the Big Sky. I've done it in Conference USA. I've done it in the Pac-10. Now, I'm getting a chance to do it in the NFL. I'm getting to the point where I'm old enough [38] now to figure out that football is football.

"I know this is the ultimate football. I'm just excited about getting a chance to coach great players at every position. … I look forward to the challenge. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

Tice and Linehan first met during Linehan's coaching stint at the University of Washington, which lasted from 1994 to '98. Linehan also had success with the Huskies, who advanced to four bowl games during his time at the school.

Linehan, who played quarterback at Idaho from 1982 to '86, broke into coaching at his alma mater in 1988. He spent two seasons as Idaho's receivers coach and the following two seasons as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Linehan moved to Nevada-Las Vegas in 1991 to work as the quarterbacks coach.

It was more than Linehan's extensive coaching resume that caught Tice's eye. "I thought the fact that he has taken his offense and the schemes he has had and he has manipulated those schemes to suit the players that he has had [was impressive]," Tice said. "He has gone from two tight ends, two wide receivers, one back to three wide receivers, one back to an empty backfield with five wide receivers with one of the wide receivers in the backfield even, to shotgun, to under the center.

"What he has done in the course of his career, he is able to realize who his key players were, who his talented players were, and he has been able to adapt his system to those players. That was a very big key into part of the decision I made. The other key is that his terminology, the admiration he had for the Redskin way of shifting, motioning, really turned me on. It was a big factor in me bringing him in for the second interview. Frankly, when he came in for the second interview, it was his job to lose."

So, how does Linehan plan on getting the ball in the hands of Moss as often as possible?

"I think one of the things the offensive system I have been involved in has always been able to do, the featured wide receiver gets the ball," Linehan said. "We've always had a great receiver, one of the leading receivers in the country. The great thing about the personnel here, what Randy Moss has is he has a legit, big-time tight end (Byron Chamberlain), an up-and-coming running back that has a chance to put the ball in the end zone and be a home run threat (Michael Bennett), and all of those positions complement each other. Because when they are loading up to take away your franchise player, the guy that everybody is expecting you to get the ball to, there is somebody else that is going to take the pressure off.

"So I think you'll see the ball in his hands. It might be different ways than you have in the past, but you've got to put him No. 1 in the progression if you expect him to get the ball. We've got to be creative with him. We really do."

And when teams try to take Moss away, Linehan said the Vikings will use that opportunity to keep the ball on the ground.

"I love 50-50," he said of his philosophy of his mix of the run and the pass. "I love 50-50 on first down, that is obviously a pretty standard comment, but I like balance. A lot of times balance happens against a team that is basically giving you the run. It is going to happen because you are running the football more against a team that is playing more nickel and dime packages. And balance happens to a team that is basically lined up to stop the run, but you throw the ball a little more that game because that is what you are doing.

"One thing that you need to understand is that we are not just going to run it into a wall because we say we are going to run the football 50 percent of the time. If they are giving us the run, we are going to run it. If they are daring us to throw the football, then we have got to be good enough to throw the football. It is a very simple game."

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