Loney Dealing With Additional Responsibility

Steve Loney is now the Vikings' offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. It's a dual job title that will require impeccable organizational skills and the tolerance for a lot of stress, but Loney is dealing with it as best he can this offseason.

Today's job-related stress may be more than ever for the average American, but Steve Loney's increased workload is a major-league challenge, to say the least.

Loney finished his third season as the Vikings' offensive line coach in January. A few weeks later, he was asked to pull double-duty.

When offensive coordinator Scott Linehan took the same position with the Miami Dolphins because the Vikings couldn't offer him any more job security beyond a one-year contract, the same ownership uncertainty forced head coach Mike Tice to make the request of Loney. Could Loney be the offensive line coach and the offensive coordinator?

He's trying.

"It's been like juggling five balls. I've enjoyed it, but it is a challenge," Loney said after a camp practice. "When (you are) the offensive line coach, you can say, ‘I'm done for the day,' but there are still several other segments that you've got to be involved in (as the offensive coordinator). You've got to know it all and be involved in it all. It still has been good."

It's not like Loney came into the position with blinders on. Although he had never been an NFL offensive coordinator – his only other NFL experience was as the offensive line assistant with the Arizona Cardinals in 1993 – Loney had been a coordinator before in the college ranks.

In fact, 30 years ago Loney had the exact same job title as he does now, as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach for Missouri Western. In 1979-80, he did the same for Morehead State before becoming its head coach. And before joining the Vikings, from 1995-2001, he was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for Iowa State, then the University of Minnesota, then Iowa State again.

He has had success at both posts. In 2003, the Vikings ranked No. 1 in total offense and fourth in rushing in the NFL while three different running backs had 100-yard rushing days. In 2002, the Vikings led the NFL in rushing with a franchise record 2,507 yards, breaking a 27-year old mark. It was also Michael Bennett's best year, as the running back had 1,296 yards.

In his second season at the University of Minnesota, the Gophers finished second in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in rushing. While offensive coordinator with Iowa State in the mid-1990s, the Cyclones produced the only running back – Troy Davis – to rush for back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons.

So the timing of the Vikings looking to establish a more consistent running presence and Loney being named the offensive coordinator may be good. Still, the National Football League is more complex than the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

"In the NFL it's new to me. You have so many more protections," Loney said. "It's kind of like this: Everybody that's running for the president of the United States, they all talk about domestic policy and they don't talk much about international things. And then they become president and they're always involved in the international because it's the time commitment. In the NFL, you look and you talk about protections and you talk about the run game, but then when you become the coordinator, now that pass game, you have to become so involved and know all that. That's the difference – you go in and have a lot more protections and you've got to be able to tie the routes into the protections. Before you just had to know the protections. That's the biggest difference."

At times, Loney wears his offensive coordinator hat. At other times, he concentrates on just his offensive line duties. And then there are plays during practice that he is both, sometimes beginning the play by studying the offensive line's blocking schemes and ending the play with a view of the rest of the field.

"In being the offensive line coach and the coordinator, what happens is that you jump in there and you've got to coach the offensive line. You can't not coach them. So I focus my attention there and then I look (at the whole offense), and if something jumps out at me I'll say something," he said.

"I think it's my responsibility (for) the tempo, the discipline of the offense – those sorts of things I try to interject myself into. But as far as the play going on and me looking and saying that guy ran the route at 14 yards and it's supposed be at 16, that's what (receivers coach) Wes Chandler is for. There was one time (at developmental camp) where I saw if the receiver had blocked the outside number, we had a good play. He was on the inside and it jumped out at me. I went over to Wes and he was on the same page."

Loney will be forced to rely on his assistants throughout the season, even if they number fewer than most coaching staffs in the NFL. That's part of the deal with an ownership in transition and Loney looking to make the most of the situation.

The Vikings will continue to experiment with Loney's responsibilities throughout the offseason and probably into the preseason. Tice, a former offensive line coach, has indicated he may call the plays if it all proves too much for Loney.

For now, however, Loney is just trying to deal with the additional responsibilities and job stress, maybe the most he's had since he began his coaching career in 1974.

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