Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A look at some Vikings coaching candidates
By Ben Goessling
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the third time in eight years, the Minnesota Vikings are looking for a head coach, and unlike the processes that landed Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier in the job, this year's search could be a long one.
General manager Rick Spielman said on Monday he's looked at 13 categories where head coaches come from, and after all that research, he found that no one category was more likely to produce a successful head coach than another. That means the Vikings haven't found a shortcut in searching for their next coach, and it's also indicative of Spielman's rather deliberate style of doing things.
"That's why we have to do this extensive process, and we have to go out and find the right head coach we think is going to lead us into the future," Spielman said. "We will interview extensively. Talking to ownership, we will be very busy. I just told them, don't plan on any stadium meetings for the next two weeks."
Spielman said he hopes to have a coach in place by the Senior Bowl later this month. Here are some of the candidates that could make sense for the Vikings:
Darrell Bevell, Seattle offensive coordinator: One of this year's hottest coaching candidates, Bevell is also plenty familiar with the Vikings; he was the team's offensive coordinator from 2006-10, and has already coached Adrian Peterson, Phil Loadholt and John Sullivan. It remains to be seen how Bevell would feel about coming back to a team -- and replacing a coach in Frazier -- that let him go after the 2010 season, but one benefit for Bevell would be familiarity with some of the Vikings' personnel. He'd also have a running back in Peterson who could be the same focal point of Bevell's scheme that Marshawn Lynch is in Seattle.
Bevell is reportedly set to interview with Washington, as well, so the Vikings would have competition for him, but his familiarity with the team and his success in Seattle make him an intriguing option.
Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is one of many names the Vikings could have on their list of potential head coach candidates.
Todd Bowles, Arizona defensive coordinator: According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, the Vikings have asked for permission to talk to Bowles, who has built one of the NFL's best defenses in Arizona and served as an interim head coach in Miami for the final three games of the 2011 season. Bowles has also received interest from Cleveland, and might be able to pick between several openings if he decides to leave the Cardinals. Under Bowles, Arizona allowed the seventh-fewest points and the sixth-fewest yards in the NFL this season. His background -- a Super Bowl-winning safety for the Washington Redskins in the 1980s, a longtime position coach and a defensive coordinator -- might skew a little too similar to Frazier's, and if the Vikings hired someone like Bowles, they'd also have to land an impressive offensive coordinator. But the Vikings' defense needs work, too, and Bowles could get a look.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt head coach: Franklin, who was a wide receivers coach with Bevell in Green Bay in 2005, also coached Josh Freeman at Kansas State before moving on to Maryland and becoming the head coach at Vanderbilt, where he led the Commodores to their third nine-win season in school history in 2012. Franklin did a minority coaching internship with the Vikings in 2008, where he again worked with Bevell, and has received interest from the Vikings, according to Schefter. He's a former college quarterback who's worked with receivers, run offenses and could bring some life to the Vikings' passing game, and though he could get a look from Penn State if the Texans wind up hiring Bill O'Brien, the Vikings appear to be one of his early suitors in the NFL.
Adam Gase, Denver offensive coordinator: Gase directed the Broncos' record-breaking offense and is getting attention for NFL jobs at just 35 years old, though he's already told teams he won't interview for jobs until after the Broncos' season is over. The major caveat with Gase, as it is for any coordinator working with Peyton Manning, is that the quarterback's ability to direct the offense at the line of scrimmage obviously wouldn't translate to another team. But before Manning came to town, Gase did build an offense around Tim Tebow that helped the Broncos get to the second round of the playoffs. If the Vikings can wait out what could be a long playoff run in Denver, Gase could be worth an interview.
Jay Gruden, Cincinnati offensive coordinator: He might be the hottest candidate of the year, for his work with Andy Dalton and his leadership of the sixth-highest scoring offense in football. Gruden can't interview until next week, with the Bengals in the playoffs this week, but after he got interviews for the Chargers' and Eagles' coaching jobs last year, his name figures to make the rounds again this year. Gruden, the younger brother of Super Bowl winning coach and ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden, might get the Vikings' attention solely because of his quarterback pedigree; he won four Arena League titles as a quarterback and has had far more success with Dalton than the Vikings have had with Christian Ponder after taking him in front of Dalton in 2011.
Greg Roman, San Francisco offensive coordinator: He'd be another coach the Vikings would have to wait on; the 49ers visit Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs this weekend, but Roman's command of one of the NFL's most diverse offenses could intrigue the Vikings. He built a power-running, angle-blocking scheme in San Francisco, and proved adept enough to harness Colin Kaepernick's talents when the 49ers switched quarterbacks last season. Roman might be able to maximize Peterson's worth while developing a young quarterback, and coming from one of the league's most successful teams over the last three seasons, he's got the kind of résumé that figures to interest the Vikings.
Dan Quinn, Seattle defensive coordinator: Quinn is another candidate the Vikings have reportedly asked to interview, and another that should get plenty of attention after directing the NFL's best defense. He's in just his first season as a NFL defensive coordinator, having replaced Gus Bradley after he became the Jaguars' head coach before this season, but he'd been the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida before coming to Seattle. Quinn is just 43 years old, and is one of a number of young candidates the Vikings appear to be targeting. He'd represent a difference in philosophy from Frazier, but the Vikings' defense has undoubtedly lost some of its edge and might benefit from the kind of reboot Quinn could provide.
David Shaw, Stanford head coach: He's said he has "no desires" to leave Stanford after replacing Jim Harbaugh, and the Vikings would have the added obstacle of buying him out of his current contract, but the work Shaw has done with the Cardinal is hard to ignore. He'll take them to their third straight BCS bowl game on Wednesday, when they face Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, and he's directed sound offensive schemes at Stanford since he was working for Harbaugh. He'd bring a similar philosophy to Roman, and the Vikings might also get the benefit of Shaw bringing Stanford co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason, a former Vikings defensive backs coach under Frazier who's directed a stout defense against some of the most prolific read-option schemes in the country.
"Who knows?" said one Vikings player who will attend the Rose Bowl on Wednesday. "I might be watching our next coach."