The upheaval among the NFL's offensive coordinators continued yesterday with the Minnesota Vikings promoting offensive line coach Steve Loney to replace Scott Linehan, who left Wednesday to become the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.
"We are happy to be able to keep some continuity on our offensive staff by promoting Steve Loney," Vikings Coach Mike Tice said in a written statement released by the club. "He has proven himself during his coaching career and has been key to our success here during the previous three seasons."
Loney became the sixth new offensive coordinator hired by NFL teams since the regular season ended, and seven or so other clubs are likely to have new offensive bosses next season. Usually, head coaches are the fall guys for NFL teams that have disappointing seasons. But this offseason, while there have been only three head coaching changes, offensive coordinators have been the fall guys.
The pressure on offensive coordinators league-wide increased this season, some in the league say, with the implementation of the new rules emphasis that opened up the passing game. A number of NFL passing records were broken, but the owners and executives of teams that weren't as productive as they'd hoped were quick to look for new offensive leadership to try to keep up.
On Wednesday, Linehan jumped to the Dolphins and Mike Heimerdinger moved from the Tennessee Titans to the New York Jets to replace Paul Hackett, who resigned under pressure. Linehan and Heimerdinger, whose contracts with their previous teams were expiring, benefited from the suddenly-competitive market. Linehan signed a three-year contract in Miami worth about $2.5 million, nearly tripling his $300,000 annual salary with the Vikings. Heimerdinger became the league's latest $1 million-a-year coordinator by signing a three-year deal with the Jets worth more than $3 million, after making about $400,000 per season in Tennessee.
Hackett became the second offensive coordinator league-wide to resign under pressure since the season ended, joining Baltimore's Matt Cavanaugh. Detroit's Sherman Lewis retired. New England's Charlie Weis accepted the head coaching job at Notre Dame but is staying with the Patriots through the end of their season. The Dolphins' Chris Foerster was sent packing because of a head coaching change, and Cleveland's Terry Robiskie and San Francisco's Ted Tollner could have the same fate. Arizona's Alex Wood, Chicago's Terry Shea and Jacksonville's Bill Musgrave were fired. The Titans join the group of teams looking for new offensive bosses and the New Orleans Saints might have to replace Mike McCarthy, who is a candidate in Detroit and Jacksonville.
The six coordinators hired include Jim Fassel with the Ravens, Ron Turner with the Bears and Keith Rowen with the Cardinals.
Hackett was to be in Tampa yesterday to interview for a spot on the Buccaneers' offensive coaching staff. Tampa Bay hired Aaron Kromer, Oakland's offensive line coach the last three seasons, as a senior offensive assistant.
Another Fassel in Baltimore
The Ravens hired John Fassel, son of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, as an offensive assistant. John Fassel, 31, will break down film and prepare scouting reports. He resigned as coach at New Mexico Highlands, a Division II college. . . .
The Dolphins hired George Edwards, the former Washington Redskins defensive coordinator who spent this season as the Browns' linebackers coach. Edwards probably will be Miami's linebackers coach.
Gloves Off for Big Ben
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't planning to wear a glove on his throwing hand for Sunday's AFC title game against the Patriots. The rookie had gloves on both hands during Saturday's triumph over the Jets at frigid Heinz Field, and had trouble gripping the ball during his shaky, two-interception performance.
Seymour Unlikely Again
Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour seems likely to miss Sunday's game because of the knee injury -- apparently a sprained medial collateral ligament -- that kept him out of the regular season finale and last weekend's playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts.