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Monday, January 6, 2014
Vikings can talk to new round of candidates

By Ben Goessling

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings enter Week 2 of their coaching search -- officially, at least -- with general manager Rick Spielman set to interview Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton in Phoenix. Spielman will head there after scheduled interviews in Seattle this weekend with Seahawks coordinators Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn, and when he returns from those interviews, he'll have another round of candidates he's able to approach.

Assistant coaches from teams who played in wild-card games this weekend are now eligible to interview for head coaching jobs. For coaches from teams that won this weekend -- like San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt or San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman -- those interviews would have to take place either this week or not until the end of their teams' seasons. For coaches from teams that lost, of course, interviews can happen at any time. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are two coaches expected to meet with Spielman at some point, but now that the Bengals lost, those interviews wouldn't necessarily have to happen this week.

Gruden, in particular, could be in high demand, with several years of success guiding the Bengals' offense and agent Bob LaMonte's considerable influence driving his stock up. LaMonte is also Spielman's agent, and the Vikings' last two coaches -- Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier -- are his clients. The relationship is well-established, and it could play in the Vikings' favor if they decided to make a push for Gruden.

The Vikings are one of five teams still looking for a head coach, now that the Tennessee Titans fired Mike Munchak, but at his press conference after the Vikings fired Frazier last Monday, Spielman said he wouldn't be rushed by other teams hiring coaches.

"We don't have 'a guy.' I think there's a lot of potential candidates out there," Spielman said. "I don't think everybody needs to panic [and say], 'This team already hired a guy. This team already hired a guy. What are the Vikings doing?' We are going to go through our process and do our due diligence and I think there is enough to potential candidates out there that we will be able to get the guy that we want."

Given how deliberate Spielman has indicated he wanted to be -- and how meticulous he usually is with big decisions -- it wouldn't be a big shock to me if the Vikings are the last team to hire a coach. It would be surprising if they've got a coach this week, but with another pool of candidates now available for interviews, the coaching search should heat up.