NFL Nation: Dan Quinn
Pettine said Thursday that he never gave the team an ultimatum and that the only time he expressed concern about the process was when he “vented” to his agent, Trace Armstrong.
“Not at any point did I say you need to tell me or I’m pulling out,” Pettine said.
The question was relevant in light of Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn saying he would have been interested in the Browns opening. The Browns chose not to wait, though, and hired Pettine. They said it was because they wanted Pettine, but when Pettine admitted he needed to know the team’s decision it indicated the Browns may have acted because of that.
“It was unfair to the Bills how long it was going,” Pettine said.
Armstrong was one of the league’s more respected players when he played, and he is a former president of the NFL Players Association. He might have conveyed Pettine’s feelings, but Pettine was not asked that, and everything he said indicated discussions stayed between him and Armstrong.
“It was putting [the Bills] in a tough spot,” Pettine said. “The loyalty there was a driving force, but it never came in the form of an ultimatum.”
They’re criticized for the length of time they took to hire a coach and now they’re questioned because they didn’t wait longer.
That’s because the first guy they interviewed -- Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn -- went on to win the Super Bowl. Which conveniently ignores the fact that the offensive coordinator the Browns asked about before they talked to Quinn lost the Super Bowl.
The immediate reaction is that the Browns waited a long time, then didn’t wait for a second interview with a Super Bowl winning coordinator and hired one whose team went 6-10.
“I certainly would have been interested,“ Quinn told Mary Kay Cabot. “I mean, it’s a big-time place. It’s the Cleveland Browns.”
Quinn could have interviewed in the week after the NFC Championship Game, but he declined, preferring to focus on the Super Bowl. He simply wanted to wait until after the game out of respect for his players.
The Browns chose to go ahead and hire former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
CEO Joe Banner called the decision not to interview Quinn for a second time “the toughest decision” in the search. He addressed the issue on Jan. 23, the day Pettine was hired.
“I think we felt that we knew [Quinn] well enough to make the comparison,” Banner said.
He had nothing but praise for Quinn, calling him “an outstanding guy, an outstanding coach.”
“If we had felt that he would be likely to prevail, we would not have liked to wait, we would not have liked to take 10 more days of pummeling, but we would have,” Banner said.
Pettine made the story a little more complicated by saying the day he was hired that if the Browns' search had dragged out a little longer -- Rob Chudzinski was fired Dec. 29 and Pettine was hired Jan. 23 -- he would have withdrawn.
Pettine felt he couldn’t keep the Bills waiting any longer.
If the Browns knew that -- and it would be shocking if they didn’t -- they were looking at either ...
- Hiring Pettine immediately. Which was the right move if they felt he was the guy.
- Waiting for Quinn and risk losing Pettine -- who would have withdrawn -- without being certain if Quinn would have taken the job.
That could have left the Browns without both coaches and the Super Bowl over, which would have led to even more criticism.
They went with the sure thing, a guy they liked while knowing they were turning down a guy they liked.
“That was probably the toughest decision because there’s no doubt we were very impressed with [Quinn] and there’s no doubt he’s going to be a head coach, an outstanding head coach,” Banner said. “There are a lot of people around the league that think very highly of him. But in the end we decided to move forward.”
The Browns simply can’t win in this situation, and in many ways questioning this is classic second-guessing.
The first coach the Browns sought permission to interview was Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
His offense looked bad in the Super Bowl against Quinn’s defense. Which led many of the same folks who were clamoring for Gase to be thankful the Browns didn’t get him.
One game doesn’t define a coach, good or bad. It does create reactions.
Because Quinn won, questions come up about why the Browns didn’t wait.
The questions are fair, but the answers don’t guarantee Quinn or Pettine will be the better head coach.
It was as good as it had to be. Russell Wilson's passer rating was 123.1, eight different players caught his passes and he wasn't sacked or intercepted. Seattle raced out to a huge first-half lead, so Wilson didn't need to put up gaudy stats to win. But he was 4-of-5 for 64 yards on third-down plays in the first quarter, when the game was still in doubt, and he was still flinging it around in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks padded their lead.
Marshawn Lynch struggled to find room against Terrance Knighton and a Broncos defensive front focused on stopping the run. But Seattle's yards-per-carry average got a boost from Percy Harvin's 15-yard and 30-yard runs on jet sweep plays, and Lynch was able to muscle into the end zone on second down from the 1-yard line after a pass interference penalty in the end zone set up the game's first touchdown.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won his fifth MVP award for a season in which he threw a record 55 touchdown passes. But he was a mess all night against Seattle's pass rush, throwing two interceptions. Led by Cliff Avril, Seattle's line moved Manning off his spot all night and batted down some key passes while the big, physical defensive backs made life miserable for Broncos receivers before and after the catch. The "Legion of Boom" lived up to its name, outmuscling the top-scoring offense in NFL history.
Total domination. And yeah, the Broncos had to get away from the run because they were down 15-0 before they had a chance to run their offense. But Seattle's front bottled up Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball, holding Denver to 27 yards rushing on 14 carries, forcing a fumble (that Denver recovered) and stripping the Broncos of any chance to maintain any level of balance on offense.
Harvin barely played all season. Finally healthy, he was a difference-maker in the biggest game of his career. Seattle's 22-0 halftime lead looked tough to overcome, but the 29-0 lead they had 12 seconds into the half after Harvin's 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown looked impossible. Seattle's kick coverage team held electric Denver return man Trindon Holliday in check.
Give Pete Carroll the grade for the full year, as every move he made seemed to pay off. He had enough faith in his defense to let Manning start the game with the ball after he won the coin toss and to kick a first-quarter field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-short inside the Denver 10. He also stayed aggressive even as his team was rolling early, calling timeout on a Denver fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 19 with 1:06 left in the first half. Seattle didn't even try to move the ball in the final minute after stopping the Broncos and taking possession, but it showed a coach in control of the game. You also have to hand Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn the victory over Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase in the matchup of hot head-coaching candidates.
We've talked previously about how the Vikings' coaching search was focused almost exclusively on current coordinators, and most of the candidates in whom the Vikings expressed interest were coaching with teams that made the playoffs. That put an inherent bind on the Vikings' coaching search, and it's interesting to wonder if things would have played out differently if, say, the Bengals would have won their wild-card weekend game against the San Diego Chargers and the 49ers would have lost a close wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers, rather than advancing all the way to the NFC title game.
It's impossible to know, but as Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, Bevell and Del Rio might have factored much more prominently in the Vikings' coaching search if their teams hadn't kept winning. The interview process for coordinators carries NFL rules by which the Vikings had to abide, and a playoff result in one city can affect the timing of a coaching search in another. General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings would take as long as they needed to find the right coaching candidate, and Zimmer came out as the clear favorite after an initial round of interviews, but it's also hard to judge the coaching search in a vacuum, when no team decided it could wait for Bevell, Quinn, Gase or Del Rio to finish their seasons.
For those coaches, the chances to take a head coaching job will have to wait at least a year. The tradeoff of coaching in the Super Bowl is undoubtedly worth it, but as the Broncos and Seahawks make final preparations for Sunday's game, it's interesting to think about whether any of their coordinators would have altered the Vikings' coaching search if their teams had lost earlier.
Quinn did it for two years, in 2007 and 2008, coaching the defensive line for Eric Mangini's New York Jets. You never know, maybe there will be more green in his future, because if Rex Ryan disappoints in 2014 and gets fired, Quinn will be high on general manager John Idzik's list of replacement candidates.
But that's crystal ball talk, especially this week, with Quinn back home for Super Bowl XLVIII. He's the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, and his job is to figure out what so many others have tried (and failed) to do this season: Make Denver Broncos star Peyton Manning play like a mortal quarterback.
Quinn, 43, isn't coming into this with decades of been-there, done-that experience, that's for sure, but he has worked for several respected coaches in a relatively short amount of time. Pete Carroll. Nick Saban. Steve Mariucci. And the late Joe Gardi, the former Hofstra coach who made his bones as a Jets defensive assistant during the heyday of the New York Sack Exchange.
"It was one of the most awesome places to come up as a young coach," Quinn said of his five years at Hofstra (1996-2000), which produced NFL players Wayne Chrebet, Willie Colon, Lance Schulters and Marques Colston before the university's suits decided to shut down the football program.
After jobs with the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, Quinn ended up back on the Hofstra campus, except it was to work for the Jets, who trained at the Long Island school before moving to Florham Park, N.J., in 2008. He saw a lot in a short amount of time with the Jets, experiencing one of the most talked-about years in team history.
Quinn said the quarterbacks had a small basketball hoop in their meeting room and that, during breaks, Favre organized games. He described the future Hall of Famer as ultra competitive.
"He was one of the most fun guys to be around," Quinn said, smiling. "He had a great energy about him in terms of the way he conducted himself."
Unfortunately for the Jets, Favre's arm gave out, the team collapsed in the home stretch, it missed the playoffs, and Mangini was fired.
In came Ryan, who cleared out almost the entire coaching staff, including Quinn. But there was something different about Quinn's departure. People remember how a variety of staffers, from the video department to the grounds crew, showed up to say goodbye -- a reflection of his popularity.
Quinn went to Seattle, where he was introduced to Idzik, then a Seahawks executive. Quinn stayed for two years and returned this season, with a two-year stint as the University of Florida defensive coordinator sandwiched in between. He was Carroll's immediate choice to replace Gus Bradley, who left to become the Jacksonville Jaguars' coach.
Under Quinn, the Seahawks improved, going from No. 4 to No. 1 in total defense. Obviously, he inherited a tremendous amount of talent, but there's something to be said for not messing up a good thing. In some ways, he made it better, especially against the pass.
"He represents our mentality and our approach really well, that's why we were so excited to get him back," Carroll said. "He's everything beyond what I thought he'd be. He was able to not just capture [our philosophy], but accent it, doing it in his fashion."
Quinn has worked for polar opposites in Carroll and Mangini. Carroll is laid back, the epitome of California cool. Mangini is rigid and uptight, a micromanager. But Quinn liked his time with Mangini, praising his organizational skills and saying "there was an upper level of thinking with Eric."
Carroll has a Mr. Nice Guy reputation, but he challenges his assistants in the meeting room, seeing how they respond in hypothetical game situations. Of course, there's a soft edge.
"There are a lot of different ways to do the job," Quinn said.
Quinn has drawn attention around the league. During the Seahawks' playoff bye, he interviewed for the Cleveland Browns' head-coach vacancy. He might have landed the job, but he was penalized by the Seahawks' success. The Browns didn't want to wait for Quinn, so they hired Mike Pettine.
"No complaints on my end," said Quinn, who will be a hot candidate next year.
What's to complain about? He's preparing for a Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., where he spent part of his youth cheering for his champions. If he wins Sunday, he'll walk among them.
There is, however, a connection between Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Quinn, who is preparing this week for Super Bowl XLVIII, recommended Tomlin for the job that launched the latter's coaching career.
That happened in 1995 when Tomlin joined Virginia Military Institute's staff as a wide receivers coach.
Quinn and Tomlin had spent the previous year together at William & Mary, with the former coaching the defensive line and the latter playing wide receiver and also serving as captain. When Quinn left William & Mary for VMI, he pushed for Tomlin's hiring.
"You knew that Mike Tomlin had 'it,'" Quinn said Tuesday during Super Bowl Media Day, "so that's why it was so easy for me to recommend him as [wide receivers coach]. I saw what he was as a player, how he led the team and how people just gravitated toward him. You knew when a guy had terrific leadership skills."
Those skills translated into Tomlin rising quickly in the coaching ranks and landing the Steelers job at the age of 34.
He became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl in just his second season in Pittsburgh, and Tomlin is 71-41 as a head coach.
His success has not surprised Quinn.
"There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be a terrific coach," Quinn said. "That's the understatement, right there."
The Vikings are conducting a second interview with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer inside their facility as we speak, and if they chose to do so, they could make the 57-year-old Zimmer their next coach today. But is there a reason to hire Zimmer before the Vikings can talk to candidates like Seattle's Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn and San Francisco's Greg Roman a second time?
There might not be, and if the Denver Broncos lose Sunday, their top assistants (offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio) would also be in play. The Browns reportedly want to wait on Gase before making their decision, so there might not be anything pushing the Vikings until Denver's season is over.
When the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman outlined a process in which the team would likely whittle its search down to two or three finalists after an initial round of interviews. Zimmer appears to be the first of those finalists, is believed to be the front-runner for the job and could grab it if he impresses ownership Tuesday.
But the Vikings' last two coaching searches happened in relative haste, and Spielman has turned to a deliberate decision-making process for the moves he badly needs to get right. Now, the Vikings can somehow thank a confluence of events for putting them in a situation where they're facing little outside pressure, other than Spielman's stated preference to have a coach in place by the Senior Bowl.
Zimmer might be the man for the job, but it would also appear as if the Vikings have the luxury of being able to wait a little longer to make sure that's the case.
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."
Where will the guy who replaces him come from?
So far, the candidates are all coordinators in the NFL. But I was curious where head coaches in the NFL originated. What positions did they coach before they moved up the ranks?
Some moved around a lot, some worked exclusively at one spot. Some were tougher to categorize than others and I leaned a bit on what they played if I was tie-breaking.
My breakdown of the NFL coaches who were in the league in 2013 and remain in their posts:
Quarterbacks (7): Mike McCoy (Broncos), Bruce Arians (Cardinals), Marc Trestman (Bears), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Mike McCarthy (Packers), Sean Payton (Saints), Jim Harbaugh (49ers).
Defensive backs (6): John Fox (Broncos), Chuck Pagano (Colts), Dennis Allen (Raiders), Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Jeff Fisher (Rams), Pete Carroll (Seahawks).
Linebackers (5): Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Gus Bradley (Jaguars), Bill Belichick (Patriots), Mike Smith (Falcons), Ron Rivera (Panthers).
Offensive line (3): Doug Marone (Bills), Andy Reid (Chiefs), Joe Philbin (Dolphins).
Defensive line (1): Rex Ryan (Jets).
Running backs (1): Chip Kelly (Eagles).
Special teams (1): John Harbaugh (Ravens).
The Titans' interviews so far were with two guys with a quarterback background in Jay Gruden (who's now off the market) and Jim Caldwell and one with a defensive backs background in Mike Zimmer. Next up is Ken Whisenhunt, who has a tight ends background.
Others who I think will be interviewed: Dan Quinn (defensive line) and Rich Bisaccia (special teams).
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
My first choice would be Stanford coach David Shaw, but I don’t think the Titans could lure him away from Palo Alto.
General manager Ruston Webster is connected to a lot of coaches who could be candidates from his time in the front offices in Tampa Bay and Seattle.
But a few other coaches Webster knows could surface. Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is a name I’ve already heard Webster will consider. Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden or Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Kromer might be of interest.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, whose current office is only a couple miles from LP Field, is a high-energy coach who’s very popular in Nashville. He has a bit of NFL experience. Adam Schefter says Franklin interviewed with the Houston Texans before they hired Bill O'Brien.
A Pennsylvania native, Franklin is reportedly in line to talk to Penn State about its opening. I feel he’s a better fit with college kids than the NFL, but Webster certainly could feel differently.
Like Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean before me, I’ve heard Bisaccia and Seattle Seawhawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are guys Webster is likely to interview.
Before the Titans hired Munchak in 2011, I wrote about why I thought Bisaccia would be a good candidate for the job. It included a rave review from Jon Gruden and Derrick Brooks. (And a bad assessment by me of Raheem Morris.)
From what I’ve heard about Bisaccia, I think he might be a Franklin-type in the energy department. He’d bring far more experience coaching guys in the pro ranks. Already on Twitter some are crushing the idea. I’m asking them if John Harbaugh was a bad hire for the Baltimore Ravens. He won the Super Bowl with Baltimore last year and was hired by the Ravens with a resume that was predominantly overseeing special teams with the Philadelphia Eagles. A top special teams coordinators should have head coaching qualities, and it's an outside-the-box idea worthy of consideration.
Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton have been popular names with regard to remaining openings and it would be no surprise if Webster considered them. Greg Roman of the San Francisco 49ers is among the most popular offensive coordinators in the NFL right now.
One guy I do not think will draw Webster's attention: San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former coach of the Cardinals. I don't think Webster is a big fan.
Mike Mularkey (not working this season) and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interviewed with the Titans when Munchak was hired in 2011. Mularkey got the Jacksonville Jaguars job in 2012 and was a one-year disaster.
Working for a new president and CEO, Webster will have a great degree of power.
Tommy Smith took over the franchise in late October, after his father-in-law, the team’s founder and owner Bud Adams, died.
Webster and Mike Munchak went home Friday evening after returning from a meeting with Smith in Nashville and slept on it. They spoke by phone Saturday and concluded Munchak could not continue as coach.
“In the end we were not able to agree on the future or direction of the franchise and I felt it was time to make a change,” Webster said. "So we move ahead into the next phase of the Tennessee Titans and look for the next coach and for great things.”
To a follow up question about that answer, Webster said he and Smith decided.
Webster is hardly a power monger. And maybe it was just a default word choice. But I thought his use of “I” was significant here. It, and his tone through 15 minutes at a podium alone for the first time, says Webster was the key decision-maker. I believe that to be the case given Smith’s inexperience.
Now Webster will make his first coaching hire, calling on the situation he’s watched in Tampa Bay, under Rich McKay, and Seattle, the two places he worked before joining the Titans front office in 2010.
He said a person in his position will always have a list of potential coaches in case this situation arises. At least one is part of a staff in the playoffs, he said, and there could be an in-house candidate interviewed. That would almost certainly be senior assistant/defense Gregg Williams.
Two outside candidates for the job, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, will be Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Dallas special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
Munchak’s staff has not been told anything, and Webster intends to talk to them Monday.
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