Lurtsema's Reaction: Frazier, Draft and More

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema catches us up with his thoughts on defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's head-coaching possibilities, the college all-star games and the Vikings' draft needs.

VU: With Leslie Frazier receiving a couple of interviews for head coaching positions this offseason, do you think he's ready to make that step?

BL: Absolutely ready. He could almost be Tony Dungy's clone, just the way he approaches life, his demeanor. When he first got here, I asked him if he was going to blitz more to put a little more pressure on the quarterback and he said, ‘I have to know what the players can do and then I'll coach to the strengths of the players.' Once he said that, I went, Whoa, I love this guy. He's a winner. But to talk to him, he's just a wonderful, wonderful person on top of everything else. He's very knowledgeable and he does know how to coach to the players' strengths. I always say coaching is 65 percent of the equation – you know I've said the umpteen million times; I'm a firm believer in that – and the players totally respect Frazier.

VU: Do you think coaches necessarily need to become coordinators or successful coordinators to become successful head coaches or is that two different skill sets we're talking about?

BL: I think you're better off to be a defensive or offensive coordinator because there you get a little more knowledge of delegating authority. As a head coach, you can't take everything on. As a coordinator, you've got to learn to delegate authority and work within yourself and within your ego. You have to know when to listen and how to direct the authority. I think it's a tremendous plus. I think Mike Tice learned on the run. I absolutely loved Mike because he improved each and every week. Now being the assistant coach over there in Jacksonville, when somebody gets him – he will become a head coach again – he'll have a really, really successful campaign.

VU: They just got done with the Senior Bowl and I'm wondering how much stock you, as a former player, put into how these players perform in all-star games? And what are your thoughts about some of these top draft picks skipping the all-star games?

BL: You know how good they are and you can read all that analysis on a piece of paper, but I watch their body language. That's what I'm more interested in – how is their effort and how is their body language? That tells so much about a player. Nine out of 10 times you can see who is going to make it, who is going to be successful. Watch that and then watch their instincts. Don't worry about whether they are coachable or if they couldn't cover this guy or that guy. Check on their God-given talent – their instincts – and watch their body language to see if they have a lot of heart. All the other crap – how smart, how dumb, what they do here or there – you can throw all that out the window.

VU: Offensively, what do you think is the absolute number one need for the Vikings?

BL: Quarterback. Quarterback over wide receiver. When a quarterback is able to get on the same page with his wide receivers, he'll be able to read the hot receivers that are going to open up; he's going to know when a receiver is going to come off a route. I think if you take a Brett Favre in place of a Tarvaris Jackson, I think he'll make the receivers good because he has that experience. Yes, they could use a receiver. The running game is intact, so they're all set there. But quarterback first. Then do you need a tight end? Do you need a wide receiver? I think a lot of those problems will surface immediately if you have a good veteran quarterback. Then all of a sudden you're going to see that you do or don't have receivers. I even asked Coach (Brad) Childress at their last press conference if there was a special player, would they give up their draft choices, and he thinks the draft choices are the strength of the team to build on that foundation. I think hypothetically if you throw a first- and a third-round draft choice after a quarterback like Derek Anderson from Cleveland or some quarterback like that, it's a steal because you've got to pay a first-round pick anyway. And the first-round picks, a third of them are total busts so why not give up your number one and know that you have a proven veteran that is going to help your club immediately. Especially with some of the defensive players, they're a little long in the tooth. They want to win now. You've had two years to rebuild. That's enough.

VU: The biggest defensive need? Is it a pass-rushing end or is there something else that you see?

BL: On defense, they kept bringing defensive backs in last year, so that tells you they're not real comfortable with the defensive backs. But yet the defensive backs work hand in hand with the defensive pressure up front. It's tough to get a defensive back that can go one-on-one. They're just not out there, and then if you don't have the pass rush, they are going to be able to find the weakness of all your defensive backs. So my number one would be a good stud defensive end to rush. The linebackers are in great shape. I love that crew. They're smart, they're fast. Then the corners are still suspect.

VU: The Vikings have spent a lot of first-round draft picks on defensive ends in their history. Is that a position where you feel a guy can come in and make a contribution right away or do you think they need to look at free agency for that position?

BL: I came in my rookie year and started. Now, they can argue how bad I was, but I had a certain instinct with my hands. It's not the speed. They had Gerald Robinson, who had great speed, but they had to teach him how to pass rush. You don't teach a guy who is 6-6, 260 or 280 to pass rush. He's got to have something that you can tweak, but you can't teach it because then they are going to think about it. You want somebody that can get off the ball with instincts. When I saw Gerald Robinson the first day in practice, I said, ‘Geez, he's got terrible hands.' They said they had to teach him how to pass rush. Besides one game, he only averaged two tackles per game. You've got a defensive lineman with great speed who's only averaging two tackles a game? Something is wrong. I saw that from day one, and sure enough he was a bust. You want somebody who has the agility, is light on his feet because you've got the two horses inside. Get somebody who is very active, like Dwight Freeney from the Colts. He does the spin move all the time, he's active, spins in, moves out – he's got that offensive lineman thinking constantly. I haven't seen that a lot from the Vikings. Brian Robison will do that on occasion, but there's where a coach comes in because a coach knows that if the quarterback bounces, he doesn't yell at the defensive end. The defensive end flushes him and that's the communication. … You can't limit how active a defensive end can be. You've got to be loosey-goosey when it comes to pass rush time.

VU: The top two ends in free agency are Terrell Suggs in Baltimore and Jared Allen in Kansas City. Have you seen enough of those two guys to say which one you prefer?

BL: I like Allen better. For a defensive end, and this is my opinion, I don't think they should ever have coverage and Suggs played some linebacker. But quarterbacks don't like it either, and he's where everybody has an opinion, because you will see occasionally a defensive lineman make a play in coverage because the quarterbacks don't read that. So it's a Catch-22. But it's the same for me when you're inside the 20-yard line – don't go to a three-man line. It drives me crazy. If you go three-man line ever against Tom Brady, you're crazy. We'll give him more men in coverage, but we'll give him all day to find somebody to open up. It doesn't make sense. That phrase that the prevent defense prevents you from winning, I'm a firm believer in that.

< BR>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 VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.


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