The Linehan Plan

While much of the off-season focus has been on the defensive changes, the offense has a new attitude under new coordinator Scott Linehan, who is bringing a different philosophy and more aggressive attack.

Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan moves from a college offensive coordinator to an NFL offensive coordinator, and his aggressive approach seems to be sitting well with star receiver Randy Moss. At his only extensive spring interview, Moss said Linehan reminds him of Brian Billick, the Vikings' former offensive coordinator that led the team to the NFL points record in 1998.

"I love Linehan," Moss said earlier this month. "He knows his stuff. No offense to the other offensive coordinators that have been here in the past, but Linehan and Coach Billick remind me a lot of each other the way they approach things. I think Billick is more outspoken than Linehan, but the way they approach the football game, they are very similar, and I like that about a coach."

For Linehan's part, he sees some similarities between himself and Billick, but he also sees differences in their offensive philosophies.

"I'm nowhere near as smart as Brian Billick," Linehan told VU. "I'm a big fan of his. A lot of things we'll use because he gave a good background here as far as the scouting report system and some of the philosophies. I'm a little bit more old school in that this is what we want to do versus two deep, this is what we want to do versus three deep, this is what we want to do versus man. I think every coach is different. I'm Scott Linehan, and we'll do it that way. And our staff is different than the staff that was here in the mid-90s and late '90s when Brian was here. But I think the philosophy is going to be very similar, in that what we do is going to look quite a bit alike."

The personnel Linehan is working with is far different. One of the major differences is the emphasis Linehan will put on using two tight ends, with a very solid receiving tight end in Byron Chamberlain and accomplished blocking tight ends in Jim Kleinsasser and Hunter Goodwin.

"It's a system that I believe in. [The two-tight end set] is where we start," Linehan said. "We can run pretty much anything out of the offense with that personnel grouping, because we have the big, blocking tight end with very good receiving skills, using Kleinsasser as an example. The same with a Hunter Goodwin, another very good blocker that could be a very good receiver if we needed him to be.

"Then you've got the receiving tight end that can be a blocker — can be a receiver first and then a blocker but has to do both in Byron Chamberlain. By doing that, I think you can line up in any formation that we have. Byron gives us the ability to have somebody that can play in the backfield even, in the wing. He could even be in the slot. He could even be an outside receiver."

Using two tight ends in multiple sets — and even using other position players where they normally wouldn't line — it's all about personnel mismatches, according to Linehan.

"Really now we can predict what defenses we see based on our personnel," he said. "Most defensive coaches, and you can ask Willie Shaw, are going to base what they call defensively off of what personnel you have offensively. We're not going to be just two tight ends. That's where we start. The three wides will do the same things, and we can even get into four wides. We can get into two backs. Harold Morrow is going to do a lot of the same things that we asked Jimmy Kleinsasser to do. They kind of cross paths that way. That's why we need the entire group to understand the offense, so we don't limit one group to this part of the offense."

The Vikings' rash of June practices enabled the coaches to see their talent, but it also got the players somewhat familiarized with their new roles.

Linehan had already spent months before the camps looking at how the Vikings offense had performed over the years and analyzing what he liked about it and where he thinks he can improve it.

"What I liked is that it was a very big-play, explosive offense," Linehan said. "For example, the West Coast offense teams — which is dink and dunk, which is great, that's why the offense is so great — I like the aggressive nature of the offense. There's a time in the drive that you really try to score with the play that you call, that you are trying to make a big play out of it. That's what I've always liked about what the Vikings offense has done over the years, and it hasn't changed.

"The biggest thing that I thought needed to be corrected was just getting everybody on the same page. The backs have to know why they have a flat route when they've got a curl behind them, as opposed to telling everybody what to do and everybody's got separate entities on the field. I felt like my goal was that every offensive player knows the system. If our slot receiver goes down, our slot tight end knows what to do, those kinds of things."

The past few months started that process for the players, but it is far from engrained. In four weeks, the players and coaches pick up where they left off, only this time it is in Mankato and the start of the new season.

"We're on our way," Linehan said. "We've got a long, long ways to go, but we're on our way to having a complete offensive group understanding the entire system."

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