MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings are conducting their first head coach search in eight years, and this will be an exhaustive project.
That’s the way general manager Rick Spielman works.
“I’ve sliced every way you can slice it,” Spielman said on Monday, after Leslie Frazier was fired.
Spielman has an old scout inside fueling his meticulous style of player evaluation and draft preparation, and he has dived into his pursuit of Frazier’s replacement the same way. Spielman said he’s identified 13 different categories of potential head coaches, from current offensive coordinators to college head coaches with and without NFL experience.
“We’re not going to box anything in,” Spielman said, adding: “There is no specific offense, defense, college coach, high school coach, whatever. It is a coach that we feel is the best fit for our organization.”
Of those 13 groups, Spielman said his research revealed no greater success from one to another. So Spielman told team owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf to clear their calendars.
“We will be very busy. I just told them, ‘Don’t plan on any stadium meetings for the next two weeks,'” Spielman said.
This will be Spielman’s first head coach hire. The Wilfs fired Brad Childress in 2010 and replaced him with Frazier, who was already on the staff. That was before Spielman, hired in 2006 as vice president of player personnel, was promoted to general manager.
The Vikings have at least five other teams competing for the candidates. Houston, Cleveland, Washington, Tampa Bay and Detroit also have vacancies. Top assistants on the top teams typically crowd the field, and this year is no different with Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer having emerged as potential targets. Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is another one; his team barely missed the playoffs.
Former Chicago head coach Lovie Smith will likely get another chance. Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is one of those up-and-comers; he interviewed with the Bears to replace Smith last season before Marc Trestman was given the job. Then there’s college: Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Stanford’s David Shaw are being circulated as pro prospects.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked on Monday about his coordinators as candidates for some of the open jobs.
“It just depends on what you’re looking for, but both of these guys are fantastic football coaches and they’ve been highly successful, and they’re leading really good units, and they can make all of the decisions and the choices and all of the stuff that you have to make,” Carroll said. “Neither one of them have been head coaches before and there is still a curve there for them, but they’re as qualified as anybody could possibly be. I’m particularly fond of these guys because they’ve been through our program and I know what they know. They’ll bring great order and structure to the next place they go.”
The Vikings have had mixed results since Childress came in 2006 with now-dated schemes on both offense and defense. Like any system, they’re only as good as the players on the field and the coaches calling each play. Considering NFL trends, though, the new staff is likely to bring a new look for one or both sides of the ball.
Spielman, unprompted during his news conference after Frazier was fired, pointed to Philadelphia’s success with the college-rooted spread offense coach Chip Kelly brought.
LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing for the Eagles this season, and the Vikings still have Adrian Peterson in his prime.
On defense, the 4-3 alignment is still in vogue, but the Tampa 2 zone coverage has faded in popularity. With rookie Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings have the type of physical cornerback who could thrive in a more man-to-man-based system.
“Change can always be good. It obviously makes things a little more interesting,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “But it’s one of those deals where you’ve got to take it in stride. You’ve just got to make the best of it, and hopefully it’s one of those deals that will turn our season around next year.”
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