Pete Bercich called Mike Tice to congratulate his friend and former teammate. By the time Bercich hung up the phone he was pondering a job offer.
Bercich, who played linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings from 1995-2000 (including one year with Tice, a Vikings tight end), made a phone call last January when he learned Tice was the new head coach.
"Tice knew I was trying to get into coaching," Bercich said. "He said he planned on calling me and that he had a position for me, if I wanted it. We talked on the phone on a Thursday and I called him back and took it that Sunday."
The job Bercich accepted was a recently created position with the Vikings: defensive assistant/quality control.
Don't be mistaken. This isn't a case of one friend letting another hop on board, get tossed a fluff title and land on the team's payroll. Bercich's job is instrumental to the Vikings' success.
He and Jim Panagos, the Vikings'offensive assistant/quality control, share similar jobs. Bercich focuses on defense, Panagos on offense. But their day-to-day duties are practically identical, just on opposite sides of the ball.
Early in the week — on Sundays and Mondays, for instance — Bercich and Panagos normally conduct self-scouts. This is where Bercich and Panagos, who usually analyze future opponents, break down film of the Vikings and look for tendencies that may get overlooked by their own coordinators.
"It's a way to take a snapshot of yourself," Bercich told VU. "The difference is offenses and defenses scout the other side differently. I say that, ‘If I was scouting you, this is how I'd break you down.'"
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Bercich and Panagos are already looking a game ahead. This week, for example, the Vikings play host to the Giants. During the middle of this week, though, both Bercich and Panagos were starting to scout and analyze film of the Green Bay Packers, whom the Vikings play on Nov. 17.
Later in the week, on Thursdays and Fridays, the pair gets more involved with the current game plan. Both also play roles in setting up the scout teams during practice. Since they have been watching the next opponent's offense and defense, they are often the most knowledgeable staff members to set up the plays and formations.
Both Bercich and Panagos hope their positions serve as springboards to coaching careers. Not too many seasons ago, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden worked in quality control. Vikings defensive backs coach Chuck Knox Jr. started in quality control as well.
"I really enjoy defense and I want to be a defensive position coach, so this will help me out a lot," said Panagos, who, like Tice, played college football at Maryland. "Right now my short-term goal is to be a position coach. I really want to be a position coach in the NFL or college. It doesn't matter to me."
After being with the Vikings for six years, Bercich was happy to return to Winter Park.
"It is nice to be part of it again, to be part of the NFL and be part of a staff," Bercich said. "It's nice to be back inside."
Both agree their current positions are training grounds for coaching.
"You're learning from grass roots," Bercich said. "I'm learning coaching from the bottom up. You're basically in charge of the look team in practice, you're in charge of the schedules. I basically work under (defensive coordinator) Willie Shaw … I get George (O'Leary) coffee sometimes."
More important than cream and sugar, though, is what matters most to Panagos and Bercich. Not surprisingly, it is what matters most to Tice. Wins and losses are the only measuring sticks they use to gauge success.
"If we play well, that's the key," Panagos said. "The bottom line is winning. If you don't win, it's not successful."
The Coaching-Scouting Hybrids
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