Lurtsema's Reaction: Coaches and Schemes

Former Vikings defensive linemen Bob Lurtsema gives his takes on the Vikings' coaching staff and some of the top qualities of the coaches he's been under. And he also shares a little knowledge on the team's new Tampa-2 defensive scheme.

VU: Tell me what you like and what you are concerned about with Brad Childress and the new coaching staff.

With the new coaching staff, you have to wonder how long it will take for the players to adapt to the new terminology and the new defenses and how they're run. We learned from last year when they had all those defensive changes that it took about five to seven games to get everybody on the same page and then of course they had that strong finish at 7-2. So you wonder how fast they're going to grasp it. I just hope we're not starting over as a franchise because there is a lot of talent there. People will say, ‘Oh, a coach is a coach is a coach,' but it's not that way at all. You have to have a comfort zone and understand the calls. Even with Childress coming in, a lot of times the right side might be odd numbers (in the play call) with one coach and the right side might be even numbers with the next coach. When you get really tired and are sucking wind, a lot of times you go back to old habits—you think it's on the right side and really it's on the left side. Those things do come into play.

VU: Do you have any concern that you've got two guys who have never been NFL coordinators before and you've got Childress as a head coach, and even though he was a coordinator he really didn't call the plays all that much in Philly? Does that concern you?

Childress had a little bit of experience—he did call a few games for Andy Reid. It doesn't concern me so much calling the plays because they'll do their homework preparing for each game, it's how much they can adjust, not only at halftime but during the first half. The good coaches make adjustments and they make them immediately. So many times they say, ‘Well, we'll discuss it at halftime.' If you have to tweak something in your offense or defense, the good coaches will get it done before halftime.

VU: How much do you know about the Tampa-2 defense?

Basically what you need is speed with your linebackers. They're dropping back and have a lot more area to cover over the middle. But in the same breath, if you don't have a strong enough defensive line that can make that back hesitate enough for the linebackers to come up with their great speed, that could be a problem. So in a Cover-2, you really have to have a real strong defensive line that can control the run and tremendous speed with your linebackers. The front seven makes or breaks the Cover-2, in my opinion.

VU: Does it make Pat Williams and what he's done against the run even more valuable?

Without a doubt. Pat has to continue to play at that level.

VU: We've had close to a month to digest all the coaching changes. Do you think that there is anything that Mike Tice could have done differently last year to have saved his job or do you think it was pretty well decided that the Wilfs just wanted to put their own mark on the organization?

The only thing he could have done would have been to win out and advance a game or two in the playoffs. That was the only way he was going to save his job, which is unfortunate because he didn't have the budget. If Red McCombs had given him the budget to keep Scott Linehan, where would that offense be? Scott Linehan had them No. 1 or No. 2 on offense stat-wise as far as the run goes and now he's the head coach of the Rams, and McCombs wouldn't let Mike keep Linehan. If Tice would have had more money to work with, I think he would still be there. Unfortunately, a coach has to be responsible for his players, whether he likes it or not and the Love Boat issue was disastrous for him. And with Mike taking that $100,000 fine for scalping tickets, it was unfair that people judged him on that because he took the hit for a lot of people and kept his mouth shut.

VU: Do you know the number of head coaches you've gone through in the pros?

Five. Bud Grant (Vikings), Jack Patera (Seahawks), two in New York (Giants) with Allie Sherman and Alex Webster and then Don Shula (Colts).

VU: With those coaches, what are the best qualities and what does a head coach have to have? People might talk about coaches who haven't been coordinators before, but I'm not so sure that's the important part.

The biggest thing a head coach has to have—and more importantly an assistant coach—is that they have to be able to address each player individually. If you give a speech to the entire team and it's a motivational speech, you're not going to reach everybody because in any situation some people have to be patted on the back and others have to be just screamed at to get the maximum out of them. A coach has got to be a psychiatrist to a certain degree to be able to understand a player and know what are his hot and cold buttons. You cannot give the same speech to everybody. A guy comes off the field and some will slap on him on the butt, right? Me? If I came off the field and Bud Grant gave me a dirty look, I'd say, ‘Oh my gosh, I'd better pick it up.' It would just make me work twice as hard, but I was the type of guy when I played that you didn't want to give too many compliments. Demand more of me constantly and I will be a better ball player for you. Lucky enough, Jack Patera, who was my defensive line coach for seven years and head coach for two, knew exactly how to approach me and get the most out of me. … You can always do better. The one thing about the National Football League: You will never play the perfect game.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, 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 monthly column appears in the magazine.

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