Lurtsema's Reaction: Offensive Game Plan

How difficult will it be for Steve Loney to be the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, and what issues could arise because of that dual role? We asked former Viking Bob Lurtsema about that and the running game.

VU: Steve Loney is taking on the additional responsibility of offensive coordinator while managing the offensive line. How is that all going to shake down?

I wouldn't like his job. I know if I was a defensive line coach and they put that job of also being defensive coordinator, there is a lot of extra, added responsibility, and you're more susceptible to criticism. But he's done it before; he's been a good offensive coordinator. His records back him up. He's very well-qualified for that, but I just think sometimes it's awful tough when you're working with five individuals – rather than just being with the quarterback and being the offensive coordinator – it's a little different when you're working with everything day in and day out that is going to control the game. When you coach an offensive line, that's a big job, but I'll be one guy rooting for him to be 110 percent successful.

VU: How likely do you think it is that, if the coaching staff gets its contracts extended after this year, the Vikings will add another coach and split those responsibilities back into two assistants?

The thing there is: How successful are they? Assuming that they will be successful, there's no reason for them to change. I think he (Loney) is going to enjoy that, but you can't really even take a wild guess at that now because it all depends on the particular success or failure of the coaching staff at the time.

VU: Correct me if I'm wrong (at which point Lurtsema gives a false start with a quick-witted, "I will."). If you're a line coach, it would be easier to be down on the field coaching; if you're a coordinator, it would be easier to be up in the box. Is that a fair assessment?

Where a coach is most comfortable is where he should be, and there is a big difference between being up in the coaching box and being on the field. You don't see that much on the field, but you have constant contact with your players as they come off. You're going to pretty much know where the failure is because you're going to look to the particular area – when you're on the field, you can see even by the defensive players' stance where they're going to go, how they're going to run their stunts. There are so many things you can see there that you won't be able to pick up in the press box. But then some people can read so fast on the field, like Mike Tice. The guy's a genius. He can watch a play on the field and pick up everything. Even myself, having played, it takes me a lot longer than Mike to pick up everything that's happening, but he has that particular vision and computer chip in his brain to work it that way. Some people have to be up top to see the entire field to take in and grasp the success or failure of a particular offense or defense.

VU: How likely do you think it is that somebody other than Loney will make the calls during the regular season? They're going to look at that during the preseason, but what's your guess on how that will play out?

During a game, coaches cannot step on other coaches' toes. They have to correct their mistakes on Monday, not during game day. Once a player sees his coach being a little disorganized, they're saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we're dead. They don't know what's going on.' They're the captain of your ship. You have to watch them and trust them and go with it. With Mike, he's going to come in, and a head coach should step in. If a head coach isn't agreeable, step in, boom, he's the boss. Then go with. Now, if it's a coordinator, he has to back (the head coach) up at that time. Then after the game when no one is around, or Monday morning, then get into a verbal argument about the situation. Don't let the players know that there is any indecisiveness among the head coach, offensive or defensive coordinator.

VU: Offensively as a whole, is it just because Randy Moss is gone or are there other reasons that they are trying to go away from the passing game more and become more of a running team?

Not really. You have to establish the run. That's a cliché and you get sick of hearing it, but if you cannot establish the run, defensive linemen can just fly off that ball – be totally uninhibited and go totally on instinct. When you get a defensive player in that position, he's one up on the offensive line. So you've got to establish the run. As far as the passing game goes, I think if the No. 1 draft choice, Troy Williamson, can get double coverage enough, they'll be able to continue being successful with the short stuff underneath and even dropping it to the back coming out of the backfield. But the rook has got a lot to learn right now. He didn't come from a passing team in college at South Carolina, and you do have a lot to learn with a lot of different reads. That's why I think it's great that Mike went out and got Wes Chandler. You hear him talking, and he's talking hips and cuts. Having played that position and what he's learned, he can get to a player for improvement once you've played the game because you know what they're thinking between the ears. Not all players are the same, and you can tell a lot of times what a player is thinking, why he is slow on his cuts, why he's not reading correctly. An ex-player as good as Wes Chandler can pick up on that. I'm pretty happy with that.

VU: Knowing how important the running game is, knowing how they want to establish it, knowing that Onterrio Smith is out for the season, are you surprised they haven't picked up a veteran back yet to go with their ‘potential-type' backs?

Not really. Mewelde Moore and Michael Bennett, if they stay healthy those are two good running backs. And then they were really happy with Butchie Wallace and what he did last preseason. If you're looking for a sleeper and why they haven't picked someone up, take a look at Wallace. Of course, you've got "All-Pro Moe" (Williams), my buddy, he's Steady Freddy. But there were so many positive things about Wallace that I'm going to look at it real hard in training camp to see if he's stepped up enough in case one of those premiere backs go down. And then the biggest thing you've got going too is that you've got Jim Kleinsasser coming back, Boy, I never realized what a force he was until he went down. That's going to make a difference. The way I look at it, if you're dumb enough to smoke a joint or do drugs, Onterrio Smith deserved to be out. I couldn't care less about talking about him until he gets his act straight. It's going to take a year for him to win me back.

  • Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his column appears in the magazine.

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