Former Viking and current Viking Update publisher Bob Lurtsema remains close to the team and the coaches, so we'll check in with our boss throughout the off-season for his insider opinion on events surrounding the Vikings. This week we concentrate mainly on the draft and the offense, but we start with a question about defense because it leads to his take on the team's draft strategy.
Q: What are we going to see different this year with the styles of George O'Leary and Willie Shaw?
A: The big difference I think you are going to see is more consistency, they're not going to change week in and week out with their alignment and their calls. They're going to be on the same page in preseason as they will in the first game of the season as well as the last game of the season. The Vikings learned last year that the constant changing of personnel and defensive calls creates inconsistency, even with intelligent players. And if you have some players that are not capable of grasping change week in and week out — and some can't handle that — the problem multiplies. So I see consistency, inserting it in minicamp and sticking with that program, and having one year under your belt. You know your personnel, you know what they can do, and once you know your personnel you can build around the players' strengths and weaknesses. But last year, when different players were going in constantly, you had no idea. This year they're going to draft for intelligence. That's going to be the No. 1 priority. Second is going to be work ethic, and third is going to be athletic ability. That's the way Bud Grant did it, and almost any successful coach will grade your play on your mental mistakes. Because this game seems to be decided, week in and week out, by who has the least amount of mental mistakes. Turnovers are one thing, but mental mistakes are the biggest.
Q: Who is going to have the final say in drafting this year?
A: The thing with Coach Tice — who is a very, very bright coach — is that he has everybody on the same page. Paul Wiggin, Scott Studwell, Frank Gilliam., they're all on the same page. Tice pretty much said, ‘This is what I need. You have to fill these with this type of player because of the way I coach.' Mike learned a lot last year. He knows there are certain types of players who can play for him, with his style of coaching. Every coach in the National Football League has a different style. Some players, come hell or high water, cannot play for certain coaches. Other players, they know exactly what the coach wants and they fit the bill and needs of that particular coach. If you have no work ethic and aren't real smart, ha, I wouldn't come to the Minnesota Vikings this year.
Q: Offensively, with everything swirling around Todd Bouman, what is your gut feeling on what they're going to do with his contract?
A: He has a million-dollar bonus due in April. Mike and Todd talked during the season last year that Todd wants an opportunity to be able to start in the National Football League. They've been talking about this for quite a few months. They'll work out a deal that will help Todd, because they're pretty happy with Shaun Hill.
Q: If they can't trade Todd, do you think they will cut Bouman to avoid paying the bonus and then bring him back?
A: My idea is to let him go and then try to re-sign him. You really don't have the luxury of trying to sign Daunte Culpepper to a big-time contract and then also pay your backup quarterback about $1.850 million, with his contract and bonus. (Last year's third-string QB) Shaun Hill, they've watched him and like his improvement. But Todd could start for 40 percent of the teams right now. He's a bright quarterback and a tremendous athlete.
Q: What about on the offensive line and Chris Liwienski. Is he more of a right tackle now than he was a year ago, and where do you see him being the best, right tackle or left guard?
A: Liwienski is a sleeper. By that I mean he is very versatile. You don't find a lot of athletes that you can move from tackle to guard and play at the caliber he does. There are a lot of players that fill in adequately but not close to Pro Bowl caliber. It gives Mike the luxury of finding the right player in free agency to finish off the starters on the offensive. Now Mike could bring in a right tackle or a left guard because he knows Liwienski can play at a high level at either position. Plus he has Lewis Kelly, who can add to their depth inside and outside, and he seems to have rebounded as good as anyone could after the tragedy last year when he lost his wife and child. They're also looking for one more solid year out of David Dixon at guard. The offensive line is very close to being extremely good at the starting positions and with depth. And remember, with Steve Loney as the offensive line coach they finished with the top rushing offense in the league.last year.
Next week: Defense.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Offense And The Draft
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