I'm sitting here looking at the sad remains of a pint of Guinness, what's left of the once-proud head lamely pooling at the bottom of my glass. The nitrogen-fueled fury of the pour and surge is gone, memorialized by the dried lacing clinging to the inside of my pint glass. I want more beer, but . . . is it worth it? The last foamy mouthful? The hollow, bitter swallow that covers my tongue but evaporates before it makes it to my gullet?
This is the worst possible hire. I'm absolutely speechless right now. Every move up until now, including the Bob Slowik hire that apparently wasn't a real hire, I've either loved or warmed up to. But Scott Linehan?
For those not in the know, Linehan started his football career as the quarterback of the illustrious Idaho Vandals, playing for head coach Dennis Erickson (some of you might remember Idaho's defensive coordinator at the time, one John Lewellyn Smith). He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, then quickly moved to coaching. First, John L. hired him at Idaho to be the wide recievers coach, then he scored the OC gig at UNLV. Linehan then returned to Idaho as the OC, then went on to the University of Washington as the WR coach and was quickly promoted to OC. From there, John L. hired him away to coach Louisville's offense. In his second year, Linehan's offense led the Cardinals to an 11-2 season, and he accepted a position as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.
Ugh, excuse me for a minute . . .
Okay, I feel a little better now, but my toilet might never forgive me.
In his three years as offensive coordinator of the Vikings, Linehan drew up the schemes that allowed Duante (*urp*) Culpepper (*gag, choke*) to throw for 12,049 yards and 82 TDs . . . don't get too excited, the Vikes went 23-25 in that stretch. On the strength of this, Nick Saban hired Linehan to run his offense in Miami. After a stunning 2005 season where the Fins won their last six games to finish 9-7, the St. Louis Rams tabbed Linehan to be their new head coach. Late Rams owner Georgia Frontiere said of him at the time:
“It’s like picking a star for a movie, you want the right person. My first impression was that he was youthful and upbeat and had great energy. Just a down to earth person. Very genuine. He told me of his plans for the Rams, and it made me want to get the season started right away.”
He got started right away, lifting the team to a .500 season. However, the 2007 Rams squad was absolutely decimated by injury, as badly as I've ever seen. The best the Rams could muster was a 3-13 finish. Hopes were high coming into the 2008 season, but the Linehan-led Rams were hopelessly overmatched, and dropped their first four games, getting outscored 147-43 in that stretch. Linehan controversially benched veteran starting QB Marc Bulger in the fourth game, looking for any kind of spark. Like the Lions, the Rams had a week 4 bye. Unlike the Lions, the Rams had seen enough. Linehan was summarily fired.
So, what on earth does Jim Schwartz see in this guy? Linehan had been on the sidelines for some really explosive passing games, but never for more than a few years, and in most cases the offense was successful either before he arrived or after he left. It was never clear that it was his gameplanning or scheme or playcalling that made the difference. When he finally got to call the shots on his own, he was an unqualified disaster. Well, Schwartz gave us a clue during the search:
"The philosophy's gonna be ours. We're not going to count on that guy to bring the philosophy. I think personality is going to be important, experience is going to be important -- those kind of things. What I'm saying is, we're not looking to hire a guy to bring a scheme to us. We have a good vision of what we want the team to be, and what we're looking for is somebody to be able to execute that vision."
Well, wasn't the philosophy going to be "run and stop the run"? What on earth is reuniting Scott Linehan with Duante (*hork*) Culpepper going to do for a running game? We saw how pathetic Culpepper is; he was noticably worse than both Kitna and Orlovsky, and the numbers bear that out. Sure, we have Megatron, and sure, we can play jumpball with him, but a consistent offense that does not make. You can't run the ball and control the clock when you're constantly trying for the moonshot TD. I mean, just look at the numbers:
* In 2002, Linehan's first year as coordinator, Michael Bennett, Duante Culpepper, and Moe Williams combined for 2,507 yards and 26 TDs, with a 5.3 ypc average--leading the NFL in all three categories.
* in 2003, Minnesota's three-ring running back circus of Moe Williams, Onterrio "Whizzinator" Smith, and Michael Bennett spearheaded a rushing attack that compiled up a 4th-ranked 2,343 yards on 493 carries (4.8 ypc) and 15 TDs.
* In 2004, the Vikings rushed much less often as Culpepper was going crazy through the air--they had the 4th fewest attempts of any team--but they maintained a 4.7 yard-per-carry average, 2nd best in the NFL, to rack up 1,823 yards. This despite the fact that Onterrio Smith led all Vikings rushers with just 544 yards, and Culpepper was the next-highest rusher.
* In 2005, rookie Ronnie Brown and Ricky "Sticky Icky" Williams combined for 1898 yards on 444 attempts, good for an 8th-ranked 4.3 ypc average.
Remember, this was when Ronnie Brown was a bust.
* In 2006, Linehan's first year with a stud running back in the stable, Steven Jackson carried the ball 348 times for 1,528 yards (4.4 ypc) and 15 TD . . . not to mention 90 receptions for 806 yards.
As a friend of mine once said, "That's totin' it".
Color me stunned. I thought Schwartz had foolishly decided that reuniting Culpepper with Linehan would recapture some sort of magic, and the Lions could play pitch-and-catch with Megatron in lieu of rebuilding the O-line or establishing the run. Actually, Schwartz has already come out and said that the Minnesota reunion has nothing to do with it, and Linehan's hire will not affect whether Culpepper stays or goes. It turns out that Linehan actually has a bulletproof resume as a run-first coordinator, using a bruising rhythm many-carries-per-game run scheme to draw in the defense, then bomb it over their heads. With Linehan in the fold, Schwartz has now hired two men who've both been coordinators and head coaches before to sit at his right and left hands. He's unafraid to hire strong coordinators because he values their strength and experience--and confident in his own ability to lead.
I'm staring at that last bit of bitter, empty foam in the glass. I suppose I'll have to swallow it--and my pride--on this one. And with that, I propose a toast to the Grandmaster. Salud.