Q&A: With Defensive Assistant Pete Bercich

Pete Bercich, a former standout special teams player and backup linebacker for the Vikings, tells VU what he will be doing as defensive quality control coach and how his playing days can help him in his first pro coaching job.

The Vikings hired Pete Bercich, a familiar face, as a defensive assistant/quality control coach in January. Bercich, who played college football at Notre Dame, was a linebacker and special teams standout with the Vikings from 1995-2000.

Drafted in the seventh round in 1994 by the Vikings, Bercich missed the entire 1999 season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. He re-signed with the Vikings late in the 2000 season and played in two regular-season games and both playoff games. His most productive season on defense was in 1998, when he recorded 24 tackles. He was a consistent leader on special teams, led by his 1997 performance of 21 special-teams tackles.

Q: How did this job come about for you?

A: I had been in contact with Mike (Tice) and (former special teams coach) Gary Zauner about a year ago and they helped me out. They got me to the Scouting Combine last year. I spent some time with (former coach) Denny Green concerning coaching and playing. Denny said, ‘Try and keep both options open if you can.' I met and interviewed with a few people down there, but nothing really came up, so I took a job working in the sales department at a foundry in Indiana. I did that for a while and I enjoyed it. But I kept in touch with Mike during the season and called him every once in a while. I called Gary, too. They are always really busy during the season, so it's more of a courtesy call kind of thing.

When Mike was awarded the job as head coach here I gave him a call to congratulate him and I called Dean (Dalton) — his right-hand man. Dean's (voice) mailbox wasn't as full. Mike called me back. We talked about the job Thursday and Friday (after Tice was hired) and I accepted officially on Saturday.

Q: What is your role going to be as a quality control coach?

A: I don't know everything that I'm going to be doing. However, I'll be in charge of what they call taking down the tape, which is watching the previous opponents. If we are going to play Chicago, I take the last three of their opponents and I take the film and basically what I have to do is every type of formation, every type of play, every type of everything that they could possibly do has to be labeled and documented somehow.

I take that and I write it down on a type of format. That format goes to Steve Flye (the Vikings' director of information technology) and Steve Flye enters it into the computer. That way you have a database, and then you just have programs and such to pull that information out whichever way you see fit.

The actual physical entry is done by someone else, but I'm the one that watches the tape and has to categorize every little thing. It's more detail oriented than you would think because every possible personnel, formation, motion, everything has to have a name and it has to all be labeled the same or you are going to get garbage in, garbage out.

I'll be in charge of organizing the playbook. Anything that's hard copy, written material, that's going to go out to our players is really going to be my responsibility.

Q: Have you started doing anything yet?

A: We are still meeting on our system analysis. We are meeting on what are we going to call this, what are we going to call that. We are still working on that. Once all that gets finalized, then I can go ahead and really start hitting the film hard. You could say I serve at the pleasure of (defensive coordinator) Willie Shaw. My job is to give Willie whatever he needs or whatever he feels is necessary for him to best prepare for a game. If he says, ‘I want this film broken down this way and this ... I need to give it to him.' If he says he needs a lot of orange juice and coffee, then that's what I'll get him.

Q: How long has it been your goal to get into coaching?

A: I've always kind of wanted to teach. I think coaching can give you a teaching opportunity in a competitive atmosphere. I think that's probably what is the most appealing for me. I'm back doing what I love. With the way my playing career ended, I was around a while and I was a little bit in, a little bit out with my injury, my knee and everything.

But I knew when it was going to be over for me. I knew that after the season was over in 2000 that I was done. So, I guess it's a bit of a luxury because a lot of guys don't know when it's over. I had some time to think about things a little differently. That's when I felt that, hey, I think coaching might be right.

There's a lot of up and down-side to everything, with the mobility and the moving of the family and things like that. That's obviously a concern. But my wife and I talked about coaching for months. For a year almost. It's one of those things where you have an immediate reaction, ‘Yeah, I want to do it.' And then you say, ‘Let's take a step back and take a look at it.' And as time went on it just kind of reinforced, reinforced, reinforced. I know it's right for me, and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from peers as well as coaches.

Q: How much did you learn by observing when you were a player?

A: When I was playing, I was motivated by coaching. I know as a player you realize how much you depend upon the guy who is teaching you. If you want to be a great player, you just can't go out there and do it on your own. You have to have the support in the form of a coach. I've learned from some of the best. Tony Dungys, Monte Kiffins, Tom Olivadottis, Foge Fazios. I've been around what I think are some pretty darn good staffs and pretty darn good coaches. You can't help but learn. You know what works; you know what doesn't work. I think if I can build on that and use those little bitty things, little things make the difference.

It's exciting to be able to sit in a meeting and have a coach say, ‘This is what we are going to get. This is what we expect to happen.' And then go on the field and see it actually occur and say, ‘I've been preparing for this all week.' It's great. It's such a better feeling than to be on a field and to just not know what's going on. That's a horrific feeling, a rookie feeling when you first get thrown in the fire and you think you learn everything. But the first time you get hit you start getting tired and things get fuzzy. VU

Viking Update Top Stories