Former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was hired as the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Friday.
Most recently, Linehan was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2006 until being fired during the 2008 season. He is entering his eighth season as an NFL coach, going on 20 years of coaching experience, but statistics cited in the Lions' press release on Linehan brought to the forefront just how effective some of Linehan's offenses were, especially when he was with the Vikings.
The Rams struggled to win games under Linehan, but he started with a potent running attack in his first year as a head coach, giving the ball to Steven Jackson 346 times in 2006 – the most by a St. Louis player in 20 seasons. Jackson finished the year with 1,528 rushing yards (third-most in the NFC), 105 first downs (first in the NFC) and 2,334 all-purpose yards (first in the NFL), earning his first career Pro Bowl appearance.
The Rams' passing game also experienced success in Linehan's first season there. QB Marc Bulger passed for a career-best 4,301 yards, setting franchise records with a 1.4 interception percentage and 588 passing attempts. His 370 completions for 24 touchdowns were also second in Rams history. That season, WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce finished with 1,188 and 1,098 yards, respectively, combining for 167 receptions.
But the Rams' record dipped in 2007 and 2008. They were 2-14 last year and 3-13 in 2007. In Linehan's first season, St. Louis was 8-8.
Linehan's mark came as an offensive coordinator, first with the Vikings and then with the Dolphins.
He broke into the league as an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach with Minnesota in 2002. The Vikings ranked second, first and fourth in offense from 2002 to 2004. During his tenure, the Vikings compiled a franchise-best 36 consecutive games of 300 yards or more of total offense. In 2004, they had a franchise-best five games of 400 yards or more of total offense.
In Vikings history, his offenses also rank first and second in total yards (6,339 yards in 2004; 6,294 yards in 2003), first and second in first downs (351 in 2004; 350 in 2002), second and third in touchdowns (51 in 2003; 50 in 2004), second in points (416 in 2003), first in passing first downs (225 in 2004), first in rushing touchdowns (26 in 2002) and second and third in rushing yards (2,507 yards in 2002; 2,343 yards in 2003).
QB Daunte Culpepper and WR Randy Moss each had career years while Linehan was with the Vikings. Moss garnered two Pro Bowl selections (2002, 2003) under Linehan and finished with 106 catches for 1,347 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002 while his 111 receptions for 1,632 yards in 2003 remain personal bests. He also tied a career high in 2003 with 17 touchdowns, a personal best he held until he brought in 23 in 2007 with New England.
Culpepper also had some of his best seasons with Linehan calling the plays, including a career year in 2004. That year, his second Pro Bowl season, Culpepper finished with a passer rating of 110.9, the fourth highest in NFL history, and his 69.2 completion percentage (379-for-548), league-leading 4,717 passing yards, 8.6 yards-per-play average and 39 touchdowns still mark career bests.
But even with the dynamic passing game, Linehan also made significant improvements to the team's running game. Prior to his arrival in 2001, the Vikings finished 25th in the league with 376 rushing plays for 1,609 yards (4.3 average). In 2002, Linehan helped the Vikings to the league's top ground game, finishing with 473 rushing plays for 2,507 yards (5.3 average).
Linehan may face his biggest personnel challenge in Detroit, but he appears to have some of the pieces in place. WR Calvin Johnson is one of the top talents in the league at his position if he can stay healthy and find a consistent quarterback. Could Culpepper see a re-emergence under Linehan?
It will all shake out in the Vikings' division, where they will be able to face Linehan twice a season and witness it up close.
Lions' hiring reminds of Linehan's success
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