The Minnesota Vikings made some changes to their coaching staff last Friday.
Rick Dennison, who served as the team’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator, is moving into a new role as a senior offensive assistant. His job title is reminiscent of the one the Vikings gave to Gary Kubiak when he came out of retirement. Kubiak was named the senior offensive advisor and was tasked with aiding Kevin Stefanski in his inaugural year as offensive coordinator. Phil Rauscher will fill in Dennison’s O-line role after he was hired as an assistant offensive line coach last season.
When the news of Dennison’s departure first broke, there were fans who were happy to see him go. The offensive line has been Minnesota’s Achilles heel for years now, and Dennison’s reliance on aging veterans who ought to be backups rubbed fans the wrong way. It turned out that any celebrations were premature: The Vikings came to an agreement with Dennison that allows him to continue to coach the offensive line, albeit in a different capacity.
Still, fans are wondering what changes will be made to the Vikings’ offensive line after they drafted Christian Darrisaw in the first round and Wyatt Davis in the third. Will Rauscher be given more authority to make personnel decisions, like starting higher-upside talent at guard? After all, Rick Spielman recently complimented Oli Udoh and said that he’s competing at RG along with Mason Cole, who the Vikings acquired via trade from the Arizona Cardinals.
Before making a guess on the future of the Vikings’ offensive line, it’s important to give you a bit of background on who Phil Rauscher is and what he’s all about. Rauscher previously served as the Washington Football Team’s offensive line coach in 2019 as well as the team’s assistant offensive line coach in 2018. He was also an offensive assistant for the Denver Broncos from 2015-16 before he was promoted in 2017 to be the assistant to then-head coach Vance Joseph.
Rauscher previously worked as a coach at the collegiate level. He was both the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for the California Lutheran Kingsmen in 2014 before jumping to the NFL. He also has experience coaching tight ends, having done so for Hawaii from 2012-13 and at Utah in 2011 after serving as the Dixie State offensive coordinator in 2010.
It’s worth noting that, during his time as an offensive lineman at UCLA, Rauscher played under offensive coordinator Tom Cable, who is currently the Las Vegas Raiders’ offensive line coach. He was also the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator when they won Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos. Cable runs a zone-blocking scheme similar to the one Gary Kubiak implemented in Minnesota before retiring, the same scheme the Vikings are currently running.
Rauscher would go on to become an undergraduate assistant at UCLA and later a graduate assistant, making him part of the Tom Cable coaching tree. Hue Jackson also worked under Cable, and he and Mike Zimmer were on the Cincinnati Bengals’ coaching staff together.
They may have never coached together, but Jackson and Rauscher share similar influences. Rauscher also worked with Bill Callahan and Jay Gruden, both of whom coached Kirk Cousins during his time in Washington. Oh, remember how I said earlier that Phil Rauscher was an assistant to the head coach under Vance Joseph? Turns out, Joseph was directly influenced by none other than Gary Kubiak. It really is a small world.
So will Rauscher come in and shake things up? Probably not.
For starters, camp has already started, so it’s not like the Vikings are gonna overhaul everything this close to the season. Also, Dennison is still going to have a major influence on o-line personnel. That alone should be a good enough reason. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a moment that he’s completely out of the picture.
The truth is, Rauscher was hired by the Vikings because he has the same philosophy as many of Minnesota’s coaches. His original job was to be an assistant to the coaches in charge of the offense, it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone who preferred a scheme that was different from the one Kubiak and Co. wanted to implement.
On top of this, Rauscher has spent most of his coaching career learning from the same coaching tree. That means he would share similar philosophies and is more likely to make the same decisions his predecessors did. There are some instances where coaches successfully mix old-school common sense and new-age analytics to help aid their decision making, as Stefanski did. However, those coaches get noticed around the league well before they get into a position of power, and Rauscher was an assistant head coach for the Broncos, so he had enough exposure that teams know what he’s about.
In an ideal world, the Vikings would make significant changes to how they evaluate and determine who starts on the offensive line, but that’s not going to happen under Rauscher. For now, it’s safe to expect the same old philosophy.