It’s been a rough week for the Vikings with the sudden loss of their offensive line coach and locker room leader Tony Sparano at the age of just 56. His funeral was held yesterday and considering how unexpected the loss was, there was no immediate timetable to find his replacement although with training camp also starting this past week, you knew that the team was going to make a move sooner rather than later. Thanks to the wonders of the internet it appears that we now know who the Vikings chose to fill Sparanos giant shoes and it appears that because of the size of those loafers that they actually promoted two different coaches to both run the offensive line together.
According to a press release from the team, former tight ends coach Clancy Barone and assistant offensive line coach Andrew Janocko will be splitting the duties at offensive line, a move that may come as a surprise but both brought a lot of positives to the position and because of their familiarity with the offense and it’s players, should be able to help heal the locker room (at least better than bringing in someone externally would’ve) and also keep Sparano’s plan for the season intact. Both Barone and Janocko had been filling in at the position this week and apparently, both were doing a great enough job to both get the gig. I personally witnessed Barone on the first day of camp handling the rookies, who weren’t as connected to Sparano and thus could’ve been treated more like, well, rookies (as it’s easier to be hard on rookies than those who are grieving heavily). I witnessed Barone really make sure that all of the players were standing at attention, quite literally, and his hard line on the rookies sort of made me feel like everything was going to be okay at the position as football tends to help people heal by going out and just bashing the ever-loving hell out of one another.
Those moves left a void at the tight end position which will be filled by Todd Downing, who previously was a senior offensive assistant with the team. Downing has also been an offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. While the team did decide to stay within the organization for its new offensive line coach(es), it actually turns out that the team did reach out to former Vikings offensive line and head coach Mike Tice, a move that was rumored early on last week but seemingly split the Vikings fan-base in half. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport the two sides “couldn’t get it done” in terms of bringing Tice back into the fold, which is too bad as he is considered one of, if not the, best offensive line coach in the history of the team (and it could’ve cleansed the pallet of his time at head coach where he did an admirable job considering he was the face of the Red McCombs era, a dark, dark period for fans and players alike).
Stay tuned to both VikingsTerritory.com and purplePTSD.com for player reactions and more from Eagan as we were out at camp today and will also be out there every day this week and for the rest of camp!