Tice Wants Vikes to Go "Old School"

Replication is the norm in the NFL, but being on the cutting edge is where replication begins. That is where Mike Tice wants to be in rebuilding the Vikes.

In society in general, replication is the sign of success. In fashion, millions of teen girls are trying to look like Britney Spears. On television, when "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "Survivor" carved a niche, several knock-off replacements followed quickly.

The same is true in the NFL. The champion Rams of 1999 were a mirror of the Vikings record-setting offensive success in 1998. When the Ravens won in 2000, the rash of signings for massive defensive tackles shook the rest of the league. When New England struck gold by making numerous low-key signings in free agency to fill gaps, the NFL set records for free agent signings this off-season -- hoping to replicate previous success.

Mike Tice is trying to get in on the cutting edge of these replication trends, hoping to be the system under which other teams copy in future years. How do you achieve that? Go "old school."

Old school is an overused and misunderstood term. Musically, if you're a punk rocker, The Ramones are old school. If you're a rapper, Run D.M.C. is old school. If you're a guitarist, Jimi Hendrix is old school. If you're a songwriter, Bob Dylan is old school. What do they share? The belief that the past is the key to the future, and in many cases they're right.

In the NFL, old school can be a couple of years ago, since the shelf life of the NFL is quicker than most professions. However, Tice is looking to recreate a magic that won't be remembered by history...at least not yet.

Tice is looking to install an offense that was created by Brian Billick in the mid-1990s and enjoyed limited success for the Vikings. One running back, two tight ends, speedy receivers. With teams shamelessly replicating the West Coast Offense, the Vikes have been one team that has never done it. As close as it could be described, the Vikings offense of the Billick era was a hybrid of Bill Walsh's WCO and the power/speed combo game of the Redskins of the early 1990s.

That is what Tice and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is looking to achieve, throwing out the Vikings wide-open offense that, while record setting in 1998, was what Tice has termed "bastardized" in recent years.

The big play will remain a major component of the Vikings offense, but it will be set up by controlled running and short passing -- more a pirhanna attack than a great white shark "kill with one bite" approach. With so many teams being West Coast or so anemic they depend on defense to win, the Vikings are going to be unique.

Why? They're going old school, which, by NFL standards, is only about eight years ago.

* A Twin Cities newspaper reported Thursday that the Vikings were close to signing DE Jim Flanigan. Flanigan signed Thursday with San Francisco for the veteran minimum of $650,000 and a $100,000 signing bonus. If he had been willing to sign for $675,000, he would have cost the Vikes just $450,000 against the cap, but money talks and Flanigan walks to the Bay Area for an extra 75 grand.
* Billick will be under a lot of heat this year after his Ravens had to jettison half of its starting lineup from last season, but VU has been told by a source close to Billick that he will sign an extension through the 2005 season within the next few days -- a deal worth about $3.5 million a year, which won't count against the salary cap.

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