10 things to know about LSU's new passing game coordinator, Scott Linehan
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Scott Linehan didn’t come to LSU to fix the Tigers’ passing game.
It doesn’t need any fixing after historic production helped LSU go 15-0 and win the national championship.
But that success earned first-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady the Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach and the job as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
Linehan’s challenge is much different from Brady’s, thanks to Brady. Linehan has more to start with, but his success will inevitably be judged in comparison to Brady’s off-the-charts performance.
Brady was an unconventional choice when head coach Ed Orgeron hired him and Linehan too was an unconventional choice for different reasons.
We’ll begin to get a sense of how wisely he chose this time when the Tigers open the season against Mississippi State on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
In the meantime here are 10 things you should know about Scott Linehan, LSU’s new passing game coordinator:
1. He’s not Joe Brady
Linehan might be as good as Brady or he might not. But he’s older (57), more experienced and has a different background and skill set heading into this position.
His job is not to install a new passing game but to modify and continue the success of the one Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger utilized to the historic levels of success in 2019.
His approach and Brady’s are similar enough that any modifications should be easy to accomplish, which is one of the reasons Orgeron selected Linehan.
2. An NFL guy and a college guy
Linehan’s hiring was surprising, in part because he was considered “an NFL guy.” (So was Brady to a lesser degree as a New Orleans Saints assistant for 2 seasons.)
As head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2006-08, Linehan’s teams compiled an 11-25 record. He was fired after a 0-4 start in 2008.
But Lineham is also a college guy. He has more than a decade of coaching at each level. His most recent experience has been in the NFL (Dallas 2014-18), but college football is far from unfamiliar to him.
3. The coaching tree
He has worked with familiar names such as Nick Saban, Jason Garrett and Dennis Erickson, but the coach he had been closest to is former Louisville head coach John L. Smith
Linehan’s lineage can be traced to Smith, Erickson and back to Jack Elway, father of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
4. Louisville is most analogous
That brings us to the stint in Linehan’s 3-decade career that is perhaps most analogous to his current one. He was the offensive coordinator at Louisville from 1999-2001.
Linehan’s offenses averaged 406.5 yards per game, the Cardinals never averaged fewer than 30 points per game and the team won the Conference-USA championships in 2000 and 2001.
During his time in Louisville, Linehan first demonstrated his ability to run a pass-heavy, run-heavy or balanced attack and be successful.
5. A quick-pass, spread offense
The scheme that Linehan has tailored to the talent on hand is a quick-pass, spread offense.
It’s generally a 1-back set with 4 or 5 receivers split wide to attack the defense vertically and horizontally.
In other words, it’ll look very similar to last year’s offense, just with different names.
6. He has a quarterback’s mindset
Linehan is not going to be the quarterbacks’ coach. That’s Ensminger’s responsibility, but Linehan has a quarterback’s mindset, a track record of guiding record-setting quarterbacks and surely will be an asset to Ensminger in mentoring Myles Brennan and the other QBs.
He passed for 7,018 yards 45 touchdowns while playing at Idaho from 1982-86, leading the Vandals to the Big Sky Conference championship as a junior.
He coached NFL quarterbacks such as Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo to standout seasons in addition to shepherding Dak Prescott during the first few years of his Dallas Cowboys career.
7. Don’t forget the wide receivers
The wide receivers are Linehan’s position group – as it was with Brady and Brady’s predecessor’s (Jerry Sullivan).
Linehan’s helped former NFL standouts such as Calvin Johnson (Lions) and Randy Moss (Vikings) have banner seasons.
LSU has lost some important receivers from last year’s team, but it has plenty of young talent at the position. Linehan’s ability to help inexperienced receivers to develop could be an underrated aspect of his job.
8. Most recent stint was mostly successful
Linehan’s most recent tenure was with the Dallas Cowboys and it shows partly why Orgeron was attracted to him. Linehan arrived in 2014 as passing game coordinator, was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later and was fired after the 2018 season when Dallas went 10-6.
During Linehan’s tenure under Garrett, the Cowboys won 3 NFC East division titles, had 3 NFL rushing leaders and Prescott was named Rookie of the Year.
Dallas finished 8-8 in 2019 and Garrett was fired.
9. It’s the offense Orgeron wants
It took Orgeron awhile to get the offense he wanted from the time he became interim head coach during the 2016 season until Ensminger and Brady figured it out last season.
So whatever changes Ensminger and Linehan have in store compared to last season, when the Tigers averaged 568.9 yards per game, they’re not going to drift very far from the 2019 scheme.
10. Focus on crunch time
Orgeron cited 3rd down and red-zone situations as being a key to Linehan’s and the offense’s success.
That also will be a good indicator of how this team winds up doing in the wake losing a significant amount of talent from last season.
The 2020 Tigers don’t figure to be as explosive as the 2019 Tigers, so being efficient in crucial situations will be a key to their success.
What will it look like? The answers will begin to emerge Saturday against Mississippi State.