Barone, Janocko come together to lead offensive line, carry Sparano's message

Clancy Barone works with the Vikings offensive line during the first two days of training camp.Brian Hall

Vikings are trying to make the best of a tough situation after coach Tony Sparano passed away.

EAGAN, Minn – Clancy Barone had spent the past year with the Minnesota Vikings coaching the team’s tight ends, just like he had three other stops on his NFL journey.

A former offensive lineman himself, Barone had alternated duties throughout a 32-year coaching career between the offensive line and tight ends. When asked by Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer to move again, Barone accepted the task.

It was not a welcome change because of the circumstances. Barone was named a co-offensive line coach along with Andrew Janocko by Zimmer after coach Tony Sparano passed away on July 22.

“Those are nice words, but let’s understand this: I would much rather be the tight ends coach right now for obvious reasons,” Barone said Tuesday when it was mentioned that the transition has been seamless. “I lost a very good friend and there are people who lost a very good husband and very good father and grandfather and so forth. That’s my focus. If I was coaching tight ends, it would be a much better place for a lot of people.”

Certainly, this is not a situation anyone within the Vikings wanted to tackle. Barone joined the team in 2017 after eight years with the Denver Broncos where he was part of a Super Bowl winning team. His resume ever-changing, he coached tight ends for five seasons in Denver and spent three seasons as the team’s offensive line coach, including two seasons before joining Minnesota.

When Zimmer weighed his options of replacing his friend, mentor and offensive line coach, he could have gone outside the Vikings’ organization.

Reports say that Zimmer received calls pitching support for former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. But Zimmer chose to stick with Barone, who had already started working with offensive lineman during the first two days of training camp before the veterans reported, and Janocko, Sparano’s assistant.

“Everything happened so fast that I had to kind of move things around a little bit,” Zimmer said when announcing the decision.

Zimmer added: “I know these guys have been around these guys, for the most part, for a while. That was part of it. But if I felt like there was a better option that was outside, then I would have done it.”

Barone and Janocko appreciated the head coach’s trust and went about trying to continue on Sparano’s teaching.

“I’m not Tony and that’s the first thing I would tell you, but luckily I have done this before with Atlanta and Denver and so on and so forth and I’ve had pretty good success doing it,” Barone said. “So in that regard, in a way it’s like going back home again, but in no way am I trying to fill Tony’s shoes. That’s not fair to anybody filling Tony’s shoes.”

Janocko, like Barone, joined the team in 2017 and got to spend a year-plus working under Sparano.

“The biggest thing is his passion and the way he cared about his players,” Janocko said Tuesday of what he learned from Sparano. “The Xs and Os, he was a great coach. He won the division when he was a head coach. He’s been a head coach twice and a coordinator. So the Xs and Os are all there and that’s all great, but I think the biggest thing is the way he cared about his players; the way you can coach. You can coach tough. You can push your players but also really care for them as people.”

Barone and Janocko will share the responsibilities of coaching the offensive line. They will work together to offer a unified message to the group.

“Clancy, he’s a great guy, a lot of experience in this league,” Janocko said. “He has a Super Bowl ring. So, we’re going forward. We plan everything out. We talk everything through. Whatever comes up, we come to a decision and we go with it with one message. That’s been the key thing so far. There’s two voices but there’s one message. It’s been great. It’s been great working with him.”

Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo appreciates the way Barone and Janocko have stepped forward with a new challenge and new responsibilities.

“They’ve done a fabulous job,” DeFilippo said. “\Whenever you are dividing up responsibilities in a position room, in a position room as intimate as the offensive line room, you’ve got to really, really examine the people that are being involved in that decision. Both those guys have zero ego and they want to see the team win. There’s not going to be any push and pull with those two guys.

“Both guys are going to install, in front of the team, and are going to have equal voice and equal responsibility. It was an easy decision for us to make to go that direction because of those two guys. That’s a credit to them. They’ve done a fantastic job at stepping up.”