With Mike Zimmer all-but-hired as Vikings head coach, we can now begin speculating on the make-up of his staff. What assistants can we expect Zimmer to target?
The easy guess for defensive coordinator is Paul Guenther, Zimmer’s linebackers coach in Cincinnati. Guenther and Zimmer have worked together for a long time and are in sync schematically.
The easy guess for offensive coordinator would have been Hue Jackson, but he will be staying in Cincy as OC after the departure of Jay Gruden. With Jackson off the table, most insiders seem to agree that Zimmer will now target out-going Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to run his offense.
Linehan of course will be a familiar name to Viking fans. He was offensive coordinator for three years under Mike Tice before moving on to become head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
The head coaching run in St. Louis wasn’t a very happy one for Linehan, but he is a highly respected OC after his stints in Minnesota and Detroit. Those with long-enough memories will recall that Linehan in his first go-around with the Vikings liked to run the ball a lot despite having Randy Moss on the roster, a situation that led some fans to grumble about Moss being under-utilized.
The “Vikings don’t use Moss enough” argument led directly to Mike Tice implementing the infamous “Randy Ratio,” a misbegotten pledge to feed the ball to Moss a certain percentage of the time. Because when you’re a head coach, what you really want is to dictate your playcalling via some arbitrary ratio rather than let your perfectly capable offensive coordinator feel that out as the game goes along.
In Detroit, Linehan seemed to have the opposite problem. Calvin Johnson is a great weapon but it always seemed people thought Matthew Stafford fed the ball to him too much. Every year it was, Detroit needs more of a running game.
Linehan tried to run the ball in Detroit it seems, but he never had good enough backs to get the job done. That won’t be a problem if he returns to Minnesota, where Adrian Peterson is still the #1 offensive weapon.
You could actually argue that, in terms of run/pass balance, the Vikings have a better overall array of weapons than Linehan possessed in either Detroit or Minnesota under Tice. The receiver corps is solid, there are good tight ends and we know what the running game is like.
Of course the big issue is quarterback. Linehan had Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota and Matthew Stafford in Detroit. He won’t have anyone with near that talent in Minnesota unless something big happens on draft day.
Any way you slice it, fixing the quarterback issue will be priority number 1 in Minnesota. Mike Zimmer and whoever he hires as OC will have to figure that out, in concert with Rick Spielman and his scouts.