Lurtsema's Reaction: QBs, Communication, More

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema offers his insight on the communication gap between the coaches and players and how it can be addressed, the quarterback situation, the buy-in factor to the new schemes and the possibility of losing defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

VU: With Brad Johnson meeting with Brad Childress, what do you think is going to happen there?

I think the brilliant Brad Johnson is going to test the market. It will work out best for Brad because of the personality conflict in their different approaches – between Childress and Johnson it's basically night and day – Brad is going to go out and find a coach that likes to work with his thought process. What Brad is saying basically is that he wants to go to a coach that he can be with 24/7 – live, eat and sleep together. A lot of quarterbacks and coaches have that relationship, which wasn't the case here with the Minnesota Vikings.

VU: It seems to me when you've got a 15-year veteran like Johnson, Childress was handling him more like a rookie, more like you'd expect him to handle Tarvaris Jackson, therefore not using the strengths of a veteran.

Definitely. I think Brad Childress was so much into selling his system to everyone that he didn't realize that you will never, ever be able to sell your system to 11 players on offense and 11 on defense. That's a perfect scenario that never really happens. There's always doubt because one system will never, ever, ever fit 11 personalities on offense or 11 personalities on a defense. There are different ways to get a job done, and I know for a fact that at different times in Vikings meetings, players who executed their blocks perfectly, pancaked people, came out of it with a minus as far as how they were rated, and it became very frustrating. Mike Curtis and I basically lived that when I was in Seattle. Mike Curtis was probably the best linebacker I every played next to. We were playing the Giants. Mike would give me a call when I was at right end, and we would actually go against the called defense. We weren't bucking the system, but we knew what play was coming, so we made an adjustment and the coach chewed us out during the film session. Afterwards, we told him what we were doing and he said, "Well, you guys can do it, but you'd better be right." The point here is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. You want to grade the end result. Don't judge the result on a coach wanting you to make moves from A-B-C-D and a player can go from A to D. A good coach does not trip over his ego when he's dealing with players. Having lived that in Seattle, I can see frustration on so many different players as far as adapting to one person's system.

VU: Do you think that for the overall good of the team, Tarvaris Jackson being young and being able to accept the strict confines of an offense might actually be a better fit than a veteran like Johnson or someone else?

You said keeping him in the confines of that offense. Don't ever keep a player in the confines of an offense, especially a quarterback. You keep him in the confines of his ability—don't ever take him outside his ability. If he's got the God-given talent to scramble, don't take that strength away to have him lock into a system that really doesn't fit him. You had Brad Johnson in that system, and he and Brad Childress should have been a perfect match and it never materialized. Brad Johnson is brilliant—use that. Let Brad audible out of everything. Let Brad use that. Who cares? You want to listen to your players. One system does not fit 11 players.

VU: If you think Brad Johnson wants out and they had this meeting on Tuesday, why not just release him right now, or do you think they are trying to search for a trade?

I really don't know. … Here's one of the greatest quotes I've ever heard. Brad Johnson told me this: "Sometimes the Jims and Joes and the Xx and Os win games, and then sometimes it's just the Xs and Os." That made so much sense as far as the players and the coaching and working together. We were talking about basketball when he brought that up. Sometimes the Xs and Os better do it. When the Jims and the Joes aren't doing it, you'd better have your Xs and Os down.

VU: If they get a couple of wide receivers that can actually catch and actually get separation and maybe a tight end, is that enough to surround Tarvaris Jackson with so he can be successful?

Oh yeah. They want to get the offensive line and the coaches communicating so they're on the same page. Get those five offensive linemen in a comfort zone, and then with Jackson's God-given ability, when he does get in trouble, let him get out of it a little bit. And then with veteran receivers, they can pick up on that and be fast enough to do some comebacks and curls or whatever to find the open spot and work back to the quarterback. There are some receivers out there that do that so well.

VU: They keep talking about the buy-in factor. Do you think the offensive linemen are going to be able to buy into these blocking schemes?

If the coaches do not communicate and talk to the offensive line, they'll be worse next year. I know they have the talent, and I'm assuming there are going to be some adjustments made for the positive. You don't start out the way they did and then go in the toilet. Players don't go in the toilet that badly unless they're thinking too much – more penalties and not believing in the plays called. Brad Childress has got to find that communication gap. Everybody knows he's the head coach, there's no problem that way, but he's got to be able to communicate with all players – especially on offense – have the players know that come hell or high water, he's got their back. They don't have that right now with Brad Childress.

VU: Do you get the impression right now that the players who had concerns voiced them and they weren't listened to, or did those players just never speak up?

That's a great question because some of them voiced it quietly and it went into deaf ears. Unfortunately, it's a negative to be coachable – you're not going to stir things up, you'll do as you're told. But that's the fine line sometimes between an average coach and a great coach. A great coach can tell when something is bothering a player and he'll listen to him. They've got to spot that on the coaches' part. Players aren't going to cry and moan, but when a veteran player complains, you'll listen because they don't complain much.

VU: Do you think Mike Tomlin is ready to be a head coach and do you think he'll get serious looks?

I think Tomlin is well thought of by his players, and players talk to other players so the word spreads fast. Yes, he'll get consideration. But is he ready right now? My personal opinion is no, he'd need another year as a coordinator. With some of the adjustments that they have to make, they probably could be made a little quicker than what he does. He has head coaching qualities, especially as far as how the players feel toward him and understand him and how he does simplify certain plays for certain players.

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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