NFC North: Todd Bowles

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings spent most of the day Tuesday interviewing Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, but at the end of the night, there was no resolution to the team's coaching search.

Zimmer
Zimmer had not been named head coach, and told a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter he had not been offered the job as of Tuesday night. It's unclear at this point if the Vikings will make Zimmer an offer on Wednesday, or if they would turn to other candidates.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who has also been named a finalist for the job, had not been told if he would come to Minnesota for a second interview as of Tuesday night, according to a NFL source. It is believed the Vikings would only bring Bowles in for a second interview if they did not offer the job to Zimmer.

General manager Rick Spielman had said he planned to be deliberate in his job search, bringing two or three finalists to ownership after an initial round of interviews. Zimmer was the first finalist to interview in Minnesota after meeting with the Vikings in Cincinnati last Wednesday.

If the Vikings were to name Zimmer their head coach, it would seem unlikely they'd have him return to Cincinnati before making a move official. If Zimmer leaves town on Wednesday it could be an indicator of whether or not the Vikings plan to offer him the job.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer meets with Minnesota Vikings ownership about their head coaching opening on Tuesday afternoon, the team's other known finalist is paring down his options.

Bowles
Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Cleveland Browns' job, according to a NFL source. Bowles does not have a second interview scheduled with the Vikings yet, but the source said Bowles should know more tonight after Zimmer's interview.

General manager Rick Spielman had said he planned to bring two or three finalists back to Minnesota after an initial round of interviews. All signs have pointed to Zimmer being the favorite, and it remains to be seen if the Vikings will bring Bowles in for a second interview or decide to hire Zimmer before another candidate meets with ownership.

Bowles, who was in his first season with the Cardinals, helped mold one of the league's best defenses after coming to the team from Philadelphia. He had previously been an interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings hired Brad Childress as their head coach in 2006, infamously keeping him in the Twin Cities before he could get on a plane to interview for the Green Bay Packers' head-coaching position, they were taking their chances on an offensive coordinator from a successful team (Philadelphia) who had not been a NFL head coach or a playcaller for the Eagles. That search wrapped up six days after Vikings ownership fired Mike Tice on the final day of the season.

When the Vikings removed the interim tag from Leslie Frazier's title before their final game of the 2010 season, they were taking their chances on a defensive coordinator who'd done good work for them and managed to win three of the final six games in a chaotic year marked by the collapse of the Metrodome. But Frazier, like the man he replaced in the middle of the season, had not been a head coach.

Those two searches were relatively short -- the first likely because of the Wilf family's inexperience as NFL owners, the second because the Vikings were rewarding a candidate who had interviewed for a handful of jobs elsewhere and who had kept the team together during a trying season. The Vikings' current search for a head coach, though, has general manager Rick Spielman criss-crossing the country, talking to coaching candidates. As ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported on Saturday and as we discussed on Friday, the Vikings will interview San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Saturday.

That would make Roman the sixth known candidate the Vikings have talked to. And all of those -- Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Roman -- are current coordinators who have never been NFL head coaches beyond an interim level.

After the Vikings fired Frazier on Dec. 30, Spielman outlined his process by talking about the research he'd already done on previous head coaches. NFL coaches can come from 13 different backgrounds, he said, and none had proven to be more successful than any other.

"That can be anything from head coaches that are currently offensive coordinators, former head coaches that are currently defensive coordinators, defensive coordinators [and] offensive coordinators without head-coaching experiences, college head coaches with and without NFL coaching experience," Spielman said. "So there is a long list of areas that you can look for in a head coach."

We'll say this with the disclaimer that the Vikings could certainly be talking to candidates whose names haven't been publicized, but the list so far has zeroed in, almost exclusively, on coordinators who haven't been permanent head coaches yet. As ESPN's John Clayton pointed out this week, the Houston Texans decided to go away from a coordinator because of how many have failed at the NFL level -- 60 percent, in Texans owner Bob McNair's estimation.

If the Vikings have found the coordinator pool to contain the best candidates, great. Spielman has too much riding on this hire -- his reputation as a GM and possibly his future with the team -- not to turn over every stone, and he has gone through this search in his typical diligent manner.

Roman certainly has the wares to be conducting an extensive interview tour this year, too; he's helped the 49ers get to the NFC title game and the Super Bowl with two different quarterbacks, and has designed one of the league's most diverse offenses behind quarterback Colin Kaepernick and a power running game. The Vikings could certainly use someone with that kind of offensive know-how, especially if he's able to develop a young quarterback.

But it's worth pointing out the considerable risk in the coordinator pool, and the Vikings should be well-acquainted with that, based on the past two coaches they've hired (and fired). The search, at least so far and at least with the names that have become public, hasn't included as much diversity in coaching backgrounds as we thought it could. We'll have to presume that's because Spielman is finding the right people in a class of coordinators that's historically been fraught with risk.

"There is no specific [type of coach we have to have]: offense, defense, college coach, high school coach, whatever," Spielman said on Dec. 30. "It is a coach that we feel is the best fit for our organization."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings suddenly found themselves with an opening in their schedule today, after Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden -- whom the Vikings were scheduled to interview in Cincinnati -- accepted the Washington Redskins' head coaching job. Gruden is believed to be the first candidate to come off the market that the Vikings had planned to interview, and now, it will be interesting to see how they react.

Bowles
Zimmer
To this point, we know they've talked to five people: Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. They've requested interviews with San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. At this point, the Vikings could talk to the 49ers candidates this week, and then not again until their season is over. They'd have to wait until after the Broncos' season is over to talk to either Gase or Del Rio, and can't go back to Bevell or Quinn until the Seahawks are done.

So the Vikings, in other words, have a few options at this point: They could talk to one of the 49ers' candidates between now and Sunday, conduct interviews with candidates they haven't talked with yet, or double back to some of their previous candidates. Considering they're believed to be high on both Zimmer and Bowles, they might well pursue the third option.

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said general manager Rick Spielman was very impressed with Bowles, but added that the Vikings would want to talk again with Bevell and Quinn. Spielman said last week that he planned to bring two or three finalists to Vikings ownership after an initial round of interviews, and that the Wilfs would make the final call at that point.

Here's where things get interesting, though: Zimmer, whom ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter said has emerged as a favorite for the Vikings, was interviewing with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, and Bowles has also talked with the Cleveland Browns. Do the Vikings risk waiting on the Seahawks to be eliminated from the playoffs, or do they move forward with the candidates who are available now in hopes of securing one of their top guys before he goes somewhere else? Spielman had said he wanted to have a coach in place by the Senior Bowl, and while he would still have time to make that happen, it's possible the Seahawks could wind up in the Super Bowl, keeping Bevell and Quinn off-limits until February.

The Vikings aren't at a point where they have to rush their process, and they could well be talking to other candidates we don't know about. But the candidate pool does appear to have split into two groups -- those who are available now, and those who might not be available until much later. It will be interesting to see if Spielman has to alter his process because of competing teams, and what will happen if the 49ers, Seahawks or Broncos should happen to lose this weekend. The results of those games could help steer the Vikings firmly in one direction or another.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- On Thursday, when the Vikings are schedule to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, it will have been 10 days since the team fired Leslie Frazier. At that juncture of their coaching search, here's what we know so far:
  • The Vikings interviewed Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn over the weekend. They talked to Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Tuesday. They interviewed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Wednesday.
  • They are scheduled to interview Gruden on Thursday.
  • They have requested interviews with San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

That means as of Thursday, the Vikings will have talked to six coordinators in the last six days, with four more still on the schedule. There could be other candidates they've talked to, but given what general manager Rick Spielman said last week -- that each interview is likely to last six to eight hours -- it's tough to imagine the Vikings have done more formal interviews than the ones mentioned so far.

A couple of themes emerge from this list, as it's currently constituted:
  • The 10 names on this list are all current coordinators. Eight of the 10 have never been full-time NFL head coaches. Of those eight, one (Bowles) has been an interim head coach. After firing Frazier, Spielman talked about having researched 13 categories where head coaches come from, concluding that none was more successful than another. The majority of the list so far, though, is made up of coordinators with no prior head coaching experience -- which was the same category Frazier came from before he got the Vikings' interim job and then became head coach. Four of the eight coaches hired last year were previously coordinators, and one of those four (Bruce Arians) had been an interim coach. In 2012, coordinators made up three of the NFL's seven coaching hires, and all of them were first-time coaches. It's been a popular cradle for head coaches, but based on what we know so far, Spielman's search has been more focused than it has been diverse.
  • We talked about this last week, but I think there's a real possibility the Vikings could bring in a coach who wants to run a 3-4 defense, and the coaches they've either talked to or expressed interest in so far would corroborate that theory. Quinn runs a 3-4/4-3 hybrid in Seattle and ran a 3-4 defense at the University of Florida. Bowles and Horton run 3-4 defense. Whisenhunt used a 3-4 when he was Arizona's head coach, and Roman's current team (the 49ers) uses one. If you're keeping score, based on the candidates we know about, the Vikings have split their time talking to or expressing interest in coaches from 3-4 and 4-3 teams. At the very least, it's an idea they're considering.
  • The Vikings are one of five teams still looking for a head coach, but they're still not in any danger of missing Spielman's self-imposed deadline of the Senior Bowl. The GM said he will take two or three names to ownership for a final yes-or-no decision, and practices don't start at the Senior Bowl until Jan. 20. That might make it tough for Gase or Del Rio to enter the process if the Broncos wind up in the Super Bowl, but Spielman has also said the Vikings could wait until after the Senior Bowl if it took that long to find the right guy.

My guess is, we'll see things heat up in the next five to seven days. But barring an unexpected batch of names, it seems there are definite trends emerging in the Vikings' search.
Erin Henderson, Leslie FrazierHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesThe coach hired by Minnesota to replace Leslie Frazier, right, must be able to relate to a younger generation of players, according to former Viking Chris Doleman.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are continuing on with their coaching search this week, talking to Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton today after interviewing Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday. They will talk with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Thursday, according to a league source, and likely still have interviews coming with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt, and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. They have already talked with the Seattle Seahawks' offensive and defensive coordinators (Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn). If their coaching search goes until the Denver Broncos' season is over, they could wind up talking to Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase or defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, too.

It's a long list with a range of different options. But one consideration I've been wondering about lately relates to something former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman said in an interview last month: How much weight should the Vikings give to a coach's ability to manage millennials?

Ah, yes, 'millennials' -- the buzzword for my generation that's colloquially come to describe a group of people in their teens, 20s and early 30s who are narcissistic, overstimulated by technology and in constant need of and affirmation. Or, at least, that's been the scouting report on us in countless magazine articles about millennials in the workplace -- which, curiously enough, always seem to quote analysts the age of our parents, the same people who helped condition us to so much privilege and praise.

At any rate, Doleman related the concept to football in an Inside the NFL interview last month in which he described many millennials as "soft, soft players" who might not want to work as hard as previous generations of players did.

"This is a class of players that feel like they deserve so much more. I don’t know if the work ethic is still there," Doleman said. "I think these guys want to win. I think they want to be good players, but are you willing to do the hard stuff? This, ‘I’ll ease into the game’ type of attitude is just not good enough. You have to be able to step up there and make it happen.”

Doleman pointed out Vikings linebackers coach Mike Singletary's time as the 49ers' head coach as an example of a disconnect with today's players, because Singletary couldn't understand why every player didn't have his drive. Both Doleman and Singletary were Hall of Famers as players, so they're naturally on the far end of the bell curve, but Doleman does raise an interesting point.

While I'd say the stock criticism of millennials is overly simple and often refers to affluent suburban kids who grew up as hyper-achievers in school (present company admittedly included), there's little doubt young professionals come to the workforce from a different background than previous generations. Football players do, too. Millennials grew up in organizational environments that place a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, and as a result, they draw greater meaning from experiences where they feel like their ideas matter. Generally, they're less used to being screamed at, more used to being asked what they think and more likely to buy into an idea when they've been told the rationale behind it. Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier seemed to get that -- he met each week with a players' leadership council consisting of players as young as 23 or 24 -- and in an era where salary-cap restrictions have pushed more and more teams toward younger players, the Vikings' next coach will have to find the right style to connect with millennials.

That doesn't necessarily mean every coach has to be like Pete Carroll; Jim Harbaugh has certainly been able to get the most out of young players, first at Stanford and then in San Francisco. But even as gruff as Harbaugh can seem in public, his leadership style is different than that of the coaches he played for (Bo Schembechler or Mike Ditka). A Sports Illustrated profile of Harbaugh in October quoted players who said Harbaugh "thinks of himself as part of the team." Receiver Anquan Boldin said of Harbaugh, "He's definitely not a screamer. He's usually calm when he talks to guys. He's more of a teacher."

Is that a softer way of relating to players? Is it more refined? I'll let someone else be the judge of that, but today's player probably requires a different kind of leader than players did in the 1980s or 1990s. It's a tough thing to quantify, but as Vikings general manager Rick Spielman continues his tour of coaching candidates, he'll have to find the coach that can connect with a generation of players who respond to something different than their predecessors did.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings wasted little time in expanding their coaching search to include coordinators whose teams played in the first round of the playoffs over the weekend. And as expected, they went right to Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

They are one of four teams to request an interview with Gruden, according to a league source. Gruden, who has won praise around the league for his work with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, is free to interview for jobs now that the Bengals are out of the playoffs, and could emerge as one of the hottest coaching candidates this offseason.

It's telling that four of the five teams with coaching openings -- Washington, Tennessee, Detroit and the Vikings -- have requested permission to talk to Gruden and even though the Bengals' offense sputtered in the team's loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Gruden has built plenty of momentum before this season. He interviewed for four jobs -- Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia and Arizona -- after last season, and seemed likely to get strong consideration this year. The Bengals jumped from 18th to sixth in the league in offense in Gruden's three seasons, and they've made the playoffs in each of his three seasons working with Dalton, who was drafted after the Vikings took Christian Ponder.

Gruden, the younger brother of ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden, would follow the Vikings' interviews with Seattle offensive and defensive coordinators Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn over the weekend. They also have scheduled talks with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Monday and Tuesday, and had requested to talk to Denver offensive and defensive coordinators Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio.

San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are also able to interview for jobs this week, and both could wind up on the Vikings' radar.
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.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Passing along a few coaching search tidbits as the Vikings get started with interviews this weekend:
  • After talking with Seattle Seahawks coordinators Dan Quinn and Darrell Bevell this weekend, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman will move onto Phoenix. He'll talk to Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Tuesday, according to Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten. Both men have built impressive defenses in their current jobs and would invigorate the Vikings on that side of the ball. And if it's a coincidence Spielman is heading out west this weekend, it's also a lucky one; he'll be in Phoenix just as wind chills are supposed to drop to -40 in the Twin Cities.
  • If you're seeing a common theme among the coaches the Vikings are talking to so far, it's that the three defensive coaches all have experience with a 3-4 scheme. As we discussed earlier Friday, the Vikings would have some flexibility to make the move to a 3-4, given their current personnel, and while Spielman's process is partially about gaining insight and evaluations on his own team from people around the league, it seems hard to believe the Vikings wouldn't at least consider the possibility of switching. It's safe to assume, at the very least, they won't be going back to the Tampa 2 scheme they played under Leslie Frazier; the Vikings allowed the most touchdown passes in the league in two of the last three seasons.
  • The Vikings are able to start talking Monday with coaches whose teams are playing in the first round of the playoffs this weekend. That would mean San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could enter the process next week. If Spielman hasn't talked in any detail with Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase or defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio by Sunday, though, he'd have to wait until the Broncos' season is over. Same goes for Bevell, Quinn, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott or any other possible candidate from a team with a bye this weekend.
  • Lastly, Leslie Frazier's chances of winding up as the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay seem to hinge on whether the Dallas Cowboys will allow Lovie Smith to talk to Rod Marinelli. But even if Marinelli ends up as Smith's defensive coordinator in Tampa, Wooten said Frazier would still join Smith's staff as an assistant head coach.
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.

[+] EnlargeTodd Bowles
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona 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.
In the video below, ESPN's Adam Schefter suggests that Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin appears to be the favorite of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for the team's head coaching job. Philbin had a second interview Wednesday with the Dolphins. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is rumored to be the favorite of general manager Jeff Ireland. Dolphins defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is the third finalist for the job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier appears very much in the running for the St. Louis Rams' head coaching job. The Detroit Lions'? Not so much -- meaning it's possible the Lions are wrapping up their 18-day search for a new head coach.

Frazier spoke Wednesday with Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune and said he had no second interview scheduled with the Lions, as had been previously reported. Considering the Lions have already conducted at least two second interviews, it's reasonable to assume he is not on the team's short list.

The Lions have brought Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Miami assistant head coach/defensive backs Todd Bowles back to Detroit to meet with owner William Clay Ford. And according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Lions gave Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera a first interview Wednesday in Houston, site of the East-West Shrine game.

If the Lions have more interviews scheduled, no one has reported them. Anything could change at any time, but it's possible the Lions will choose between Schwartz and Bowles in the coming days. (Rivera would have to be brought back to Detroit if he becomes a finalist.) As John Niyo of the Detroit News points out, every passing day will make it more difficult for the Lions' next coach -- whomever he is -- to assemble a desirable coaching staff.

The clock is ticking.

With that bit of drama, let's continue an early-morning sweep around the division:

  • Frazier could learn his fate with the Rams by the end of this week. He told Zulgad: "I felt really good about the interview. I had no second guesses about, 'Maybe I should have said this or that.' I put everything out there that needed to be out there and now it's a matter of if I'm the right fit for what they're looking for."
  • Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman underwent reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Tillman played most of 2008 with injuries to both shoulders and is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp.
  • Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggests the Packers give consideration to Carolina secondary coach Tim Lewis as their next defensive coordinator. Lewis played for the Packers from 1983-86.
  • Former Packers secondary coach Lionel Washington has been hired in the same role by Oakland, according to WBAY in Wisconsin.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Through Tuesday evening, the Detroit Lions had trotted out two finalists for their head coaching job to speak with the local media. Both men -- Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Miami assistant head coach/defensive backs Todd Bowles -- were asked how they would like the Lions to use the No. 1 overall pick.

Ultimately, that decision will be made by general manager Martin Mayhew. But it was interesting that Schwartz drove his answer toward the quarterback position, while Bowles gave a more general answer. And it's worth noting that Bowles hails from the Bill Parcells school of coaching, which almost always favors using a veteran quarterback over developing a young one on the field.

Here's what Schwartz said Monday, courtesy Birk's Eye View:

"I think the important thing is finding the right person. I don't think you tie yourself into positions. Obviously, there's a lot of needs. I think, obviously, the most important position on the team is quarterback. It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne."

(Nice line on Bobby Layne, whom the Lions traded 50 years ago.)

And here's what Bowles said Tuesday:

"We sit down and we try to make a collaborative effort of what's best for our team. There's going to be a great player there obviously being the first pick in the draft, but he has to be great for our team. We have to fill a lot of voids, we have to find out which void we have to fill first, so I'll sit down with Mr. [Tom] Lewand and Mr. [Martin] Mayhew if I'm the coach and we'll discuss what we need to do."

Bowles might not get to decide whether to draft a quarterback, but if he holds true to his Parcells principles, you would assume he would at least strongly favor finding a veteran quarterback to start in 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy apparently has taken an in important step in re-assembling his coaching staff, selecting Shawn Slocum as his next special teams coordinator. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the story.

Slocum was the assistant to former special teams coordinator Mike Stock, who announced his retirement earlier this month. At least two other outside candidates interviewed: Kansas City special teams coach Mike Priefer and former San Francisco special teams coach Larry MacDuff.

Now McCarthy can turn his full attention to hiring a defensive coordinator. Tuesday, Jim Haslett became the third known candidate to interview for the job. Following the decision of Mike Nolan to join Denver and the apparent desire of Gregg Williams to return to Tennessee or go to New Orleans, Haslett might be the Packers' top candidate at this point. He is also a finalist for the St. Louis Rams' head coaching job.

Another possibility is Philadelphia defensive backs coach Sean McDermott.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Bears coach Lovie Smith is trying too hard to protect defensive coordinator Bob Babich. (Babich will retain his title while Smith will call the defensive signals.) Writes Mulligan: "Noble as his desire may be to cover up for his friend Babich, the loyalty he's showing one man is disloyal to all others in the organization. How did his bosses ever sign off on this idea? Are they looking to get rid of Smith?"
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune supports Smith's decision to take a more active role in the defense: "In putting defensive play-calling back on the table for himself, Smith did what good leaders do. He played to his staff's strengths while removing any doubt or ambiguity as to whom should be held accountable if the defense fails."
  • During his Tuesday conference call, Smith also reiterated his support for Kyle Orton as the 2009 starter, according to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald. Smith suggested that comments from general manager Jerry Angelo on the position were intended to address the need for a replacement to backup Rex Grossman, a pending free agent.
  • During a news conference with Detroit reporters, Miami assistant head coach/defensive backs Todd Bowles said he would follow a structure set by longtime mentor Bill Parcells if the Lions hire him as head coach. That includes a desire for the 3-4 defense. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press has details.
  • Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was in Los Angeles on Tuesday to continue interviews for the St. Louis head coaching job, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Frazier is scheduled to return to Detroit on Thursday for a second interview.

Evening Black and Blue notes

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
9:43
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A few evening notes from the NFC North:

  • St. Louis interim coach Jim Haslett became at least the third candidate to interview for Green Bay's defensive coordinator job, according to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also has the story along with some details of Haslett's visit. This is an interesting decision by Haslett, who is also one of five finalists for the Rams' permanent job. Haslett actually hired McCarthy to be his offensive coordinator when he became New Orleans' head coach.
  • Detroit's interview with San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was shifted to Wednesday, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The Lions have at least three finalists for their job: Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Miami assistant head coach/defensive backs Todd Bowles and Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
  • The Packers have interviewed at least one candidate for their open special teams coordinator job. Kansas City special teams coach Mike Priefer has spoken with McCarthy, according to my AFC West colleague, Bill Williamson. Priefer, who joined the Chiefs in 2006 after stints with the N.Y. Giants and Jacksonville, is part of a staff that is not expected to be retained by new general manager Scott Pioli.
  • Packers cornerback Charles Woodson pulled out of the Pro Bowl because of an unspecified injury, presumably a fractured toe that bothered him for most of the season. Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber was named to fill Woodson's spot on the NFC roster.

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