Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A glance at the rumored Vikings coaching candidates

If you are wondering who the Vikings might hire and what their philosophies and past coaching experiences are like, Daniel House breaks down all of his candidates for the Vikings head coaching vacancy. 

The Vikings decided to part ways with head coach Leslie Frazier yesterday and the process to hire a head coach is already underway. The Minnesota Vikings organization is looking to hire their a leader for the third time in the last eight years and this search will be the most extensive of the three. General manager Rick Spielman said that the Vikings will use 13 categories to search for their head coach and the ultimate goal is to have the new leader at the helm by the January 25th Senior Bowl. This means the Vikings will have to move at a quick pace, which isn't the easiest task when searching for the head coach for the future of the team. In an interview with KFAN 100.3-FM this morning, GM Rick Spielman said each interview will last roughly 6-8 hours and will involve many scenarios and philosophical explanations. Spielman said ownership and himself will ultimately make the final decision when a new coach is decided upon next month.

"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 explained in his press conference yesterday.

Here are some of the candidates that will be discussed as the Vikings make their decision.

Todd Bowles, Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator: 

Age: 50 years old

Playing Experience: Safety for 49ers and Redskins (1986-1993)

Defensive Philosophy: 3-4 defense

Coaching Experience: Bowles has witnessed extensive experience in defense since 1997 with various NFL squads. He also has worked with the defensive backs in Cleveland, Miami, and Philadelphia during several stints in his career. Bowles was the interim head coach in 2011 for the Dolphins and most recently revamped a Cardinals defense to one of the top groups in the league.

The Scoop: ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter is reporting the Vikings have already asked for permission to talk with Bowles about the head coaching position. With Minnesota tallying one of the worst defense's in team history, Todd Bowles could be a man that has the tools to fix the issues. The Arizona Cardinals defense witnessed a vast improvement over last year, allowing the sixth-fewest points and seventh-fewest yards this season. With Bowles background on the defensive side of the ball, he will draw strong interest from the Vikings, along with the Browns, who have also contacted Bowles for their head coaching vacancy.

House's Take: With a historically poor Vikings defense, there is seemingly no doubt the new head coach should strongly be considered to have a defensive background. This story sounds very familiar to Leslie Frazier's, as Bowles saw an NFL career on defense, and has become an illustrious coordinator during his coaching tenure. If the Vikings decide to hire Bowles, they will need to find a dynamite offensive coordinator that has experience working with young quarterbacks, to cover that side of the equation. With the Minnesota defense being so bad, it seems a defensive coach is the most logical way to rebuild this team, but it didn't work with Leslie Frazier, so will it be any different with a new defensive mind?

James Franklin, University of Vanderbilt Head Coach:

Age: 41 years old

Buyout: Unspecified, but rumored as unsubstantial

Playing experience: 4-year starting quarterback at East Stroudsburg University

College Head Coaching Record: 23-15 (3 bowl appearances)

Offensive Philosophy: West Coast offense with an emphasis in the power run game (one or two running back formations)

Experience: Franklin has coaching experience that dates back to 1995 and he has witnessed both college and NFL experience during this period of time. After spending four seasons as wide receivers coach of Maryland University, Franklin joined the Green Bay Packers as a wide receivers coach in 2005. He spent a two year stint as the offensive coordinator at Kansas State and coached Josh Freeman during his time with the Wildcats. In 2008, Franklin performed a minority coaching internship with the Vikings and worked with former Minnesota offensive coordinator and coaching candidate, Darrell Bevell. Following his stint in Kansas, he ran the Maryland offense for three seasons and joined Vanderbilt in 2012, leading them to their third nine-win season in school history.

The Scoop: Franklin had been rumored for this position before the Vikings announced the firing of Leslie Frazier. Franklin is an offensive mind that has saw his stock rise after he implemented a new offense in 2011 and quickly provided only the third nine-win season in Vanderbilt school history. He has struggled in his ability to produce extremely efficient offenses, which means he will need a heavy reliance on coordinators to provide NFL scheme implementation. Many critics have labeled Franklin an 'organizational mastermind' and in a league that requires clear management, Franklin could work in the NFL.

House's Take: With only one-year of professional coaching experience, I shy away from interest in James Franklin as a head coach of this team. He has clear goals in mind, but I question whether the Vikings want to rely on a coach that has limited experience in the schemes of the NFL. This team needs a coach who can develop a quarterback and Franklin played the position in college, but he has a limited pedigree of producing powerhouse franchise quarterbacks. If the Vikings decided to hire Franklin, they would need to ensure he found coordinators who have extensive experience in the league.

Darrell Bevell, Seattle Seahawks Offensive Coordinator:

Age: 43 years old

Playing Experience: 4-year starting quarterback at the University of Wisconsin

Offensive Philosophy: Hybrid West Coast Offense, which believes in softening defenses with zone running schemes to set up play-action passes down the field.

Experience: Bevell spent six seasons with the Green Bay Packers as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach during that time. Vikings fans are very familiar with his past career as Vikings offensive coordinator from 2006-2010. He was the coordinator during the 2009 season Brett Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. Minnesota allowed Bevell to leave in 2010 and it is unclear whether he would be willing to return to an organization where he was unwanted. Bevell has spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks and was the coordinator to establish the offense Russell Wilson is currently leading.

House's Take: Many Vikings fans are very against Darrell Bevell returning to the Vikings as head coach of the team. They want no past blood relating to Brad Childress' tenure with the team. I understand this belief, but Bevell is a hot coordinating candidate in the league this off-season. Washington has already contacted Bevell for a potential interview and the top-team in the NFC is garnering huge interest in their coordinators and coaches. Bevell has a strong pedigree working with quarterbacks such as Brett Favre and Russell Wilson and with the Vikings looking to draft a quarterback and groom him into franchise potential, I wouldn't entirely be against Darrell Bevell being the leader of this process. Although it would be tough pill to swallow with the team bringing Brad Childress blood back into the facility, the Vikings made find it worthwhile.

Jay Gruden, Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Coordinator: 

Age: 46 years old

Playing Experience: 4-year starting quarterback at Louisville University, eventual 8-year stint in AFL

Offensive Philosophy: Traditional West Coast Offense

Experience: Gruden began his NFL coaching stint back in 2002, as he spent seven seasons as an offensive assistant in Tampa Bay. He later spent the next seven seasons as head coach, offensive coordinator, and later general manager of the Florida Tuskers and Orlando Predators of the AFL. Finally, he landed with the Bengals as their offensive coordinator in 2011 and has played a pivotal role in the development of quarterback Andy Dalton. He is the brother of former head coach, Super Bowl winner, and current ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst, Jon Gruden.

The Scoop: Jay Gruden cannot be interviewed until next week because the Bengals are currently participating in the playoffs this weekend. Gruden will be a highly attractive candidate due to his pedigree as a quarterback in the AFL, where he won four titles as a quarterback. He also has played a huge role in the development of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and given he has found more success developing Dalton, than Minnesota has with Christian Ponder, he will get a strong look from the Vikings brass.

House's Take: Gruden is my favorite candidate to land the Vikings head coaching vacancy. His past as a quarterback, along with his development of Andy Dalton, has made him a luxurious applicant to fix the Vikings inability to find a franchise gunslinger. His offensive system has continually worked well over the past three seasons in the AFC and as the Vikings embark on the search for a worthy offensive mind to turn the tides of the organization, Gruden has a distinguished pedigree. It is certain with Gruden's household name throughout the league, he will be able to land a dynamite defensive coordinator who can fix an absolutely awful Vikings defense. Put it this way, with the weapons the Vikings have developed on the offensive side of the ball, if they can find a quarterback and Gruden can add a creative system, along with finding a solid defensive coordinator, the Vikings could be deadly and very soon.

Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator:

Age: 46 years old

Playing Experience: 3-Year defensive lineman at Salisbury State University

Defensive Philosophy: 4-3 in Seattle, but ran 3-4 at Florida

Experience: Dan Quinn started his career as a defensive line coach for the 49ers, Jets, Dolphins, and Seahawks. He left Seattle in 2011 and joined the Florida Gators, where he coordinated their defense. Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley left to fill the head coaching vacancy in Jacksonville at the end of the 2012 season and Quinn returned as the defensive coordinator for Seattle this season.

The Scoop: Quinn is another candidate the Vikings have reportedly asked for for an interview with and is another coordinator who could get plenty of attention after directing the NFL's best defense in 2013. As I discussed, Quinn is in his first year as defensive coordinator in the NFL, but also coordinated in his time with the Florida Gators. He is a young 43 years old and his coaching style would change from Leslie Frazier's, but it might provide the change needed to turn the team around.

House's Take: Quinn comes from the NFL's top defense in 2013, which is the front offices' main area to address this off-season. The Vikings defense was historically bad this season and a change in scheme would be the best way to fix the defense. As I discussed, Quinn runs the 4-3 defense in Seattle, but he ran the 3-4 at Florida, which makes his scheme very flexible. In fact, Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd played within Quinn's 3-4 system at Florida and given Everson Griffen could easily transition to outside linebacker, it seems logical Quinn would make the switch to the 3-4 scheme. If Quinn is the choice as the leader of this team, as with any defensive coordinator, the front office will need to ensure he has an offensive coordinator that can install a solid scheme.

David Shaw, University of Stanford Head Coach:

Age: 41 years old

Buyout: $2 million

College Coaching Record: 34-6 (1-1 in bowl games, pending Rose Bowl game)

Offensive Philosophy: Pro-style with pistol looks and plenty of shotgun formations

Playing Experience: 3-year starting wide receiver at Stanford University

Experience: David Shaw began his coaching career at Western Washington, where he coached the linebackers and the tight ends. He then moved to the NFL to run quality control and coach the quarterbacks with the Oakland Raiders for four seasons. Shaw left Oakland and joined the Ravens for four seasons as a quarterback and wide receiver coach. In 2006, he returned to the college ranks and coached quarterbacks at the University of San Diego. Finally, he arrived at Stanford and was the offensive coordinator for four seasons and following the 2010 season, he replaced Jim Harbaugh as head coach. In his short time with the Stanford, he has led them to three straight BCS bowl games in his three years as head coach.

The Scoop: David Shaw continues to express he has zero interest in heading to the NFL after replacing Jim Harbaugh three seasons ago. The Vikings would also have the added obstacle of buying out his contract, which is actually an affordable two million dollars. Shaw's body of work is hard to overlook and after developing power house offenses in the Pac-12, he is a hot commodity to find a franchise quarterback and develop a brilliant offensive scheme. Also, if he decided to come to Minnesota there is a chance he could bring along defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who spent a short stint on Leslie Frazier's staff.

House's Take: Stanford has developed not only a prolific offensive attack, but their defense has held up relativity well to the read-option schemes of the Pac-12. If Shaw has any interest to head to the NFL, he is the perfect candidate to fix the Vikings issues on both sides of the ball. His offensive attack at Stanford has been so diverse, he could easily attract a young quarterback to buy into his system, which is half the battle when producing a franchise quarterback for a team.

Adam Gase, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator:

Age: 35 years old

Offensive Philosophy: West Coast offense, with man-on-man blocking schemes

Playing Experience: None

Coaching Experience: Adam Gase spent four years coaching the wide receivers and quarterbacks, before he was promoted as offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, when Mike McCoy left for San Diego at the end of the 2012 season.

The Scoop: The Vikings may have to wait awhile to interview Gase, as he told teams he won't interview for head coaching positions until the Broncos playoff run concludes, which could push into February. If the Vikings are willing to wait past their tentative January 25th deadline, Gase could implement a sophisticated scheme into the Vikings offense. He has had the opportunity to work with Peyton Manning and developed an offense that revolved around Tim Tebow, before Manning arrived.

House's Take: Gase is a young coach who has limited experience in the league as an offensive coordinator. Peyton Manning is his quarterback, which means there are many audibles taking place at the line of scrimmage, which won't translate over to his new team. The Vikings need a coordinator who has experience in this league developing quarterbacks and installing offenses and I'm not sure Adam Gase provides this for the Vikings organization.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator: 

Age: 57

Defensive Philosophy: 4-3

Playing Experience: Quarterback and Linebacker at Illinois State University

Coaching Experience: Mike Zimmer's coaching experience dates all the way back to 1979, when he started as a defensive assistant at Missouri. He later spent six years coaching the Dallas Cowboys defensive backs and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000; a role he would fill for six seasons. He then joined the Atlanta Falcons for one season as defensive coordinator and he joined the Bengals as defensive coordinator in 2008.

The Scoop: Reports indicate the Vikings will give Mike Zimmer an interview for the head coaching position, but they will have to wait until next week to do so. Zimmer has been with the Bengals defense as the coordinator for six seasons and each year their defense has produced at high levels. Zimmer hasn't been provided with many household names during his time in Cincinnati, but he has received production. His pedigree in the league with developing defenses and his experience are key reasons why his name is being mentioned throughout all the coaching vacancies.

House's Take: Mike Zimmer has plenty of experience, which is very attractive when I'm thinking about head coaches I would like to operate this team. His lengthy experience with defense could help pinpoint areas that need fixing among the train-wreck that is the Minnesota Vikings defense. The Vikings will need to wait to interview Zimmer until next week, but if he were hired as head coach of this team, I would pleased, as long as a schematically sound offensive coordinator was brought with him.

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator: 

Age: 51

Playing Experience: Tight End for Atlanta, Washington, and New York Jets (1985-1993)

Offensive Philosophy: West Coast (Erhardt/Perkins offense)

Coaching Experience: Whisenhunt is primarily known for his time as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a position he held for three seasons, until he left for the head coaching position in Arizona. He went onto win a Super Bowl in 2008, but the team collapsed four years later and he was fired at the end of the 2012 season. He was hired in 2013 to run the offense in San Diego and he did an admirable job, leading the Chargers to the playoffs.

The Scoop: Whisenhunt's name hasn't been mentioned very much when head coaching vacancies have arose. His offensive mastermind has led to his success as a head coach and coordinator in the league. The Vikings would need to wait until next week to interview him if they decided to, but his name hasn't been in the early conversation. With his ability to be creative on offense and his past pedigree of turning teams from the bottom, to the top in very quick time periods, Whisenhunt will be considered.

House's Take: Ken Whisenhunt deserves a chance to interview for the Vikings coaching position due to his past experience in the league. As I discussed earlier, his ability to turn teams around in a quick amount of time is very attractive. Phillip Rivers corralled his best statistical season under Whisenhunt's coordination in San Diego this season. Furthermore, he developed a raw Ben Roethlisberger into a Super Bowl champion quarterback. He is one of my dark horses for this position and if the Vikings interview Whisenhunt, I hope he gets locked in the elevator of the hotel like Brad Childress was.

The Vikings will be making decisions soon and will be coordinating interviews with many of the individuals I listed above. In the coming days, I will make my case for who I believe should become the Vikings head coach, but right now, the process is tedious and we will see the direction this team is going when interviews are aligned at the end of the week.

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