Coaches Q&A, Part I: Off. Asst. Jerry Rhome

Offensive assistant Jerry Rhome talks about his return to the Vikings, how the play-calling process works and the return of Brad Johnson to being a starting quarterback.

Jerry Rhome just joined the Vikings a couple of weeks ago as an offensive consultant.

Rhome is one of the most accomplished and prolific passers in the history of college football. Named to almost every All-American team and Collegiate Player of the Year by several polls, Rhome began his collegiate career as quarterback at Southern Methodist University in 1961, leading the Southwestern Conference in passing and total offense. Rhome then transferred for his last two seasons to Tulsa University.

At TU, Rhome made shambles of NCAA passing and total offense records, breaking 18 of them. He threw for a career 4,779 yards and 42 touchdowns. In 1964, after passing for 2,870 yards and 32 touchdowns he was a Heisman Trophy runner-up to Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte.

Drafted by both the New York Jets in the American Football League and the Dallas Cowboys, then the expansion franchise of the National Football League, Rhome signed with the Cowboys. He played on two championship teams with Dallas and participated in the famous "Ice Bowl," against Green Bay in 1967.

He later played for the Cleveland Browns, Houston Oilers and Los Angeles Rams before his career was cut short by a rotator cuff injury.

Rhome returned to Tulsa in 1973 as the Hurricane's offensive coordinator and receivers coach, developing talents like Steve Largent, who went on to become one of the NFL's all-time great receivers.

In 1976, he moved his coaching abilities to the NFL, where he would spend 24 years developing the likes of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Troy Aikman of Dallas, Kurt Warner of St. Louis and Minnesota's Cris Carter, the NFL's all-time leading receiver.

Rhome was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Texas High School Hall of Fame in 2001.

Q: What's it been like the last couple of weeks returning to Winter Park?

I've enjoyed it, but it's been really tough. Last week it was pretty good (after beating the Packers) and now it's been sad (after losing to Carolina). It's been up and down, but I've enjoyed being around the players and coaches.

Q: What were doing when Mike called you and asked you to come aboard?

I was fixing to go play pool in a pool tournament. I shoot a lot of pool and I was going to shoot some pool. But I went and played after Mike called.

Q: How has the communication lines been for you, Mike, and offensive coordinator Steve Loney?

It's been very good. I go a long ways back with Mike and Steve, so that's been very very smooth. Mike's been very good about listening to me and certainly Cccoach Loney has too, so it's been good.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a complex play-calling system such as this? Is this unique?

I don't think this is a complex play-calling system. We've got one guy calling the plays and we have people that are feeding him information. So it's not really different from any other system. You have Steve telling Rich (Olson, the quarterbacks coach) what the play is and he relays it to the quarterback. Steve's calling the plays. We just make suggestions between series.

Q: What were your first impressions of the Vikings offense when you joined the team a few weeks ago?

I was immediately impressed with their tempo and their upbeat attitude and the energy that (Daunte) Culpepper had and the energy that coach Tice had. Right off I was impressed.

Q: It's a million-dollar question, but how can the offense perform so differently on the road versus at home?

I really can't answer that question because the last time I coached the Vikings was 1994.

Q: It would be foolish to suggest the Vikings won't miss a beat with the season-ending injury to Daunte Culpepper. But psychologically, might a quarterback change — now that Brad Johnson's the starter — be beneficial to the team?

I think we lost a great player and a great leader. Brad Johnson has proven in the past that he is a leader also so I think the team will rally around him and feed off the talent that he has and the things he does well.

Q: You were here when Brad was here the first time with the Vikings. Is he still the same Brad Johnson?

He's much more confident now, although I told Brad he's done a lot of great things. But his greatest accomplishment was putting two Heisman trophies on the road. He had to beat out two Heisman trophy winners (Gino Terretta, Andre Ware) to make the team. He sent them packing. Here's a guy who didn't even start during college.

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