EAGAN, Minn. — United by a tragic loss, Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko are helping the Vikings offensive linemen march on one coaching point at a time.
Barone and Janocko were named co-offensive line coaches by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Saturday, a day after the team attended the funeral service for Tony Sparano.
Barone joined the Vikings in 2017 as tight ends coach but brought prior NFL experience of coaching offensive line in Atlanta (2004) and Denver (2010, 2015-16).
Janocko was hired by Minnesota in 2015 as a quality control coach. He was promoted to assistant offensive line and worked closely with Sparano in helping the unit improve from 2016.
Each coach is comfortable in his own skin and also OK with drawing on lessons learned from working with Sparano. The biggest takeaways were to identify what players can do well and what they might struggle to execute and to have passion.
“I think you have to be yourself,” Barone said. “I was told a long time ago that you have to be yourself because everyone else was already taken. I think I’m fairly intense.”
Barone and Janocko each said they’ve enjoyed working with the other and look forward to continuing the effort.
“I’ve known Andrew now for a year and a half,” Barone said. “We’ve been in the same room working with Tony, doing the game plan and things like that and doing drills. There’s not many hiccups out there.”
Janocko said: “Clancy is a great guy. He has a lot of experience in this league, he has a Super Bowl ring, so we’re going forward.”
Those who have seen the tandem in action would concur. Barone and Janocko have brought an enthusiasm, intensity and clear focus.
Two voices, one message.
With training camp underway, the Vikings aren’t planning much change. The team actually was pleased that so much continuity could be maintained.
“The great thing about it is that Tony and I always talked about O-line play,” Barone said in a session with media members Tuesday. “From the day that I got hired, we were always watching tape together and he was asking me that, with my background, ‘How did you handle this situation or this look?’ He and I were on the same page quite a bit no matter what, which makes it a lot more helpful.”
“We’ve planned everything out, we’ve talked everything through and whatever comes up, we come to a decision and go with it with one message,” Janocko added. “That’s been the key thing so far. There’s two voices, but there’s one message. It’s been great working with him because he’s a good guy, a good football coach and he’s passionate about what he does.”
Downing also adjusting to new role
When Zimmer opted to shift Barone to the offensive line, he also moved Eden Prairie native Todd Downing, initially hired this offseason as a Senior Offensive Assistant, to coach tight ends.
Downing returned to Minnesota, where he assisted the Vikings from 2001-05, after spending the past three seasons in Oakland as Raiders quarterbacks coach (2015-16) and offensive coordinator (2017).
Downing described how his previous 17 NFL seasons are helping with the necessary adjustments to the Vikings offense under John DeFilippo.
“I think terminology is going to vary from play to play – that’s the biggest learning curve for me,” Downing said. “Scheme is scheme. You can call it different things, but the patterns eventually look the same and the blocking schemes eventually relate to something you’ve done in the past.
“For here, it might be the line calls that we’re making with the tackle on different looks and getting different double teams accomplished and things of that nature,” Downing added. “Just the vernacular of the position will be the things I need to acclimate the quickest to.”
Downing said he really likes the Vikings tight ends, a young group led by Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph.
“I really like the guys there,” Downing said. “The first thing about them is that they’re hard workers and they want to get better. They’re hungry to improve, including Kyle, who’s done it at a high level for a long time. I’m excited about the young guys we have in the room, as well.
“[Tyler] Conklin’s done a nice job getting back up to speed after missing some time in the spring, so between them and Blake [Bell] and David [Morgan], Josiah [Price] and [Tyler] Hoppes, I like those guys and where they’re at as a group and a whole,” he added.
Play of the day
Stefon Diggs got paid, then made the play of the day at Tuesday’s practice.
The Vikings were in a team drill when the defense jumped offsides just before the snap. Center Nick Easton alertly snapped the ball, and looking to take advantage of the free play, Cousins lofted a deep pass down the left sideline toward Diggs.
The wide receiver leapt up and high-pointed the ball for a nearly 40-yard gain in front of cornerback Horace Richardson.
Diggs got up and pointed back in the direction of Cousins to celebrate the splashy play.