Why are the Vikings keeping Rick Dennison on their coaching staff?

(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) /

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings announced that Rick Dennison is going to remain with the team for the 2021 season as a senior offensive advisor.

Last week, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported that Rick Dennison was no longer going to be the offensive line coach/run-game coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

After the report, the Vikings released a statement saying that Dennison had not been fired and that they were still attempting to figure out what he might be able to do for the team during the upcoming season.

On Tuesday, Minnesota ultimately confirmed Cronin’s report when they revealed that the longtime NFL assistant will not be the team’s offensive line coach for the 2021 campaign. However, the Vikings also announced that Dennison is still going to remain with the team this year, but in a new role as a senior offensive advisor.

What is the benefit of the Minnesota Vikings keeping Rick Dennison on their staff?

In addition to switching up Dennison’s role on the coaching staff, Minnesota also officially announced the promotion of Phil Rauscher to be the team’s new offensive line coach and the hiring of Ben Steele to take Rauscher’s old role as the Vikings’ assistant offensive line coach.

With his promotion, Rauscher is now the sixth-different offensive line coach Minnesota has had on its staff since Mike Zimmer was hired in 2014.

In his new role, the Vikings are hoping Dennison will still be able to help them succeed during the upcoming season. If he remains without the COVID-19 vaccine, he will only be able to meet with players virtually, and he is not permitted to do any on-field coaching.

On Tuesday, Zimmer shared some of the responsibilities Dennison will now have as a senior offensive advisor for Minnesota.

"“He’s going to watch the practice with the offensive coaches. He’s going to help evaluate little things. As we start getting ready for games and the season, he’ll help with game plan ideas, third-down, protections.”"

Despite the struggles of the offensive line during the last two seasons, the Vikings clearly value the knowledge that Dennison has gained during his multiple decades in the NFL as an assistant coach.

He has also been in charge of Minnesota’s rushing attack during his time with the team and that has obviously been a strength of the offense for the last two years. The Vikings will likely continue to lean on Dennison for advice on how to maintain their success at running the ball.

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Zimmer says Rauscher will be using the same scheme for Minnesota’s offensive line that the team used when Dennison was in charge. But even with things expected to remain the same from an offensive philosophy perspective, it will be interesting to see if Rauscher will become the guy to finally figure out a solid group of starting offensive lineman for the Vikings.