VU: After Tarvaris Jackson's up-and-down season, what are your thoughts about the possibility of having to go into next season with him as the starter?
BL: One thing about the people that read this is that they know I always shoot from the hip and I really think that if they go into the season with Tarvaris as the starter it could be total disaster. I think there will just be too much controversy, not only from the fans' aspect of it with the enthusiasm and trying to sell out the stadium, but the nucleus of this group of athletes right now is just a quarterback away from really being dynamic for the next couple or three years. Remember, you can say what you want – he's learning or he's this or he's that – they have not had a 300-yard passing game since Brad Childress took over. With his knowledge of the quarterback position – that was supposed to be his strength – I'm not buying into the part that Tarvaris is going to improve. You're going to fall into a 300-yard game every now and again. I think when Gus was in there, he almost hit 300. Gus was so much better and gave them a better opportunity the entire year. Did he get tired at the end? I don't know, but I know he was healthy enough to play but Coach Childress decided to stay with Tarvaris. I personally would not have picked Tarvaris Jackson as the starter.
VU: What do you think are the possibilities of Gus coming back next year?
BL: Gus is a wonderful, wonderful guy. When you play in this league, even myself when I was traded to Seattle, I did not want to live away from my wife and children. It's too long of a time. Even flying back for a day or two, it really, really throws your life cycle off. To miss those golden years with your children and everything, those are priceless. You're not going to stay home 24 hours a day when it's all over. That doesn't work because you're not showing any work ethic, any type of leadership responsibilities of the breadwinner in the house. That can wear and tear on somebody. We had 23 moves, I believe, in my career going from Michigan to New York and back and forth. You try to do what's best for the family, but you're pulling your kids out of school. That comes into play. It's a neat couple and it's a wonderful situation he has, but he knows that money isn't the answer. Should he come back and be a regular? Absolutely. He earned that job and he should have it. If he gets that commitment, maybe he'll bring the kids up here for six months. But he's got to come back a starter. For him to come back and hold a clipboard and miss your family like that at his age and he has financial security, it doesn't make sense. I'm very supportive of Gus because not only is he a starter, but the team responds well to him, he has his ducks in a line. For somebody to play ahead of him who is not as good as he is – I'm being as blunt as I can, Gus is better – to sit behind somebody that is not as good as you is tough to swallow, especially when you know you can be in the Super Bowl.
VU: If the Vikings would release him from his contract, Gus could end up a backup to Marc Bulger in St. Louis.
BL: It would be perfect. You talk about a scenario that might work out, he wants to start and everything, but that's where the family comes on because that's where the family is.
VU: What are your thoughts about Frazier as a potential head coach?
BL: God bless him. He's a wonderful, wonderful man and it's a shame we might have to lose him next year because he's a twin to Tony Dungy. They've coached together, they have the same philosophy, they have the respect of all the players and their demeanor is so parallel. He's going to be very successful when he is a head coach. Those are going to be some big shoes to fill. They do have the talent, but you don't want to make any major changes for whoever might come up as the new defensive coordinator. I think moving linebackers coach Fred Pagac up would have been a no-brainer if Frazier would have been hired somewhere else this year.
VU: What is it about Pagac that you think would work well as the coordinator?
BL: Familiarity with the players. A lot of times when you bring outside people, they don't understand what an individual's hot button or cold button is and what he can or can't do. Having been in the system the last three years, he knows the strengths and weaknesses of every player. When you know that, you can design schemes with your defensive packages. If you bring a couple new guys in there or even with a couple of draft choices, you don't know if they can make a 16-game season. Are they players that can only go 30 plays a game? Some of your big linemen, they don't even go a full game anymore. There are so many variables that go into a new player on the squad that it takes a special person to adapt to that. It's no different with Jared Allen with Frazier. When Jared came in here, a couple of times they might have beat him on the outside, but they never told him not to take the inside. When you're a great pass rusher, like he is, once you have to hesitate because a coach might get mad at you for going inside, that's cancer. You've got to let those players in certain situations go the way they want. When we used to have the five-man line, we'd always communicate when we'd go out of our lanes and we did exchange responsibilities on our own. Jack Patera, the great coach, he knew how to let everybody do their little dance. That's why you feel comfortable and that's why you get off the ball a little quicker – because you're not hesitating. You're using your God-given talent and, more importantly, your God-given instincts.
VU: What are your thoughts and predictions on the conference championship games?
BL: You have to have a good defense. If you're in the top 10 defensively stats-wise, that could carry you all the way through the Super Bowl. It did it with the Ravens under Brian Billick in 2000 if the quarterback had a bad game. With two good defenses in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, they're trying to create a bad offensive game and hope their defense can give them the ball a few extra times with turnovers. I love Pittsburgh. I think they have the offense to go with that great defense that they have. With Joe Flacco, how much can he do? And with a rookie coach, to go as far as they have, they've done it with defense to a big degree, but give me Pittsburgh.
As far as Arizona goes, who came to play the last two games? Their defense. That's all they were talking about the last two weeks – where is Arizona's defense coming from? With Kurt Warner, he reads so quickly. I know they are four-point dogs, but with Philly and Donovan McNabb, I don't think they have the running game. I think Arizona might just inch them out.
Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was 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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