Barring a complete turnaround in the Vikings’ fortunes, Leslie Frazier is almost certainly going to be fired after the 2013 season. Does he deserve to be fired? I’ll leave that up to you. I’m operating on the assumption that, fairly or unfairly, he will be gone after the season and Rick Spielman will be bringing in a whole new staff.
Spielman has never been a GM before, just a player-personnel guy, so this will be his first actual coaching hire. What kind of guy will Spielman be looking for? It’s impossible to know for sure what Spielman has in mind, but based on what we’ve seen from Rick over the years, and also based on general trends in head coach hiring, I think we can make some educated guesses.
I have concocted a little list of the attributes I think we can look for in an ideal Rick Spielman head coaching candidate. Some of these may just be wishful thinking on my part.
1. He will be an offensive coach.
Right off the bat I think Spielman will look for an offensive guru to be the next Vikings head coach, someone who can come in and mold the current personnel into a formidable unit. A lot of people wanted Chip Kelly in Minnesota before this year, that kind of innovative offensive mind. Things haven’t gone well for Kelly in Philadelphia but that might be as much about the quarterback situation as anything. The Vikes will be drafting a QB in all likelihood, and if you’re bringing in a new young QB, you want great offensive minds around to help maximize his talents.
2. He will NOT be a guy who demands personnel authority.
No way in heck does Spielman give up his absolute authority to pick the personnel. Spielman is a player-personnel guy through and through. That’s his area of expertise (at least in his own mind). He isn’t letting anyone else buy the groceries. Whoever comes in here will have to understand that Spielman does the shopping. The new coach will have to be content doing the cooking.
3. He will NOT be a big name former NFL coach.
This relates directly to #2. If you go out and pursue a guy like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or one of those big name former coaches, assuming those guys even want to get back into coaching, you’re doing so on the understanding that they will want at least partial say in the personnel decisions if not complete control from top to bottom. And like I said, there’s no way Spielman gives that up. Spielman has no interest in sharing those responsibilities with anyone. So you can cross Gruden, Cowher and all those guys off the list.
4. He will NOT be a players’ coach like Leslie Frazier.
Leslie Frazier may be liked and respected by his players, especially the veteran guys, but where has that actually gotten him? It’s fine to be liked and respected but you also have to convey a little sense of authority out there. Frazier sometimes seems a little too deferential, especially toward his veterans. And I really can’t stand the wishy-washy tendencies he has when making lineup decisions. I think that goes directly back to his players’ coach mentality. It’s hard for Frazier to bench guys because I think he still thinks too much like a player, he still sympathizes too much with what it’s like to be a player. It’s nice to have that connection but at some point you have to be able to stand back and make the tough choices. You can’t keep putting guys on the field just out of loyalty. I’m not saying the Vikes should over-adjust and hire a Greg Schiano-type tyrant, but I think they need to stay away from hiring a former player.
5. He will be someone who knows how to develop young talent.
The Vikes have a lot of young guys who aren’t developing the way we had hoped. And they are set to become even younger as vets like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are phased out. Plus they will almost certainly be drafting a QB and possibly throwing him into the fire right off the bat. You’re going to want a head coach who understands how to grow that young talent and nurture it. You don’t want a coach who undermines the confidence of young players by refusing to show trust and confidence in them. I’m not saying you need some rah-rah cheerleader guy, but you need a coach who is able to quickly infuse young players with the sense that they can succeed in the NFL. All due respect but I think Leslie Frazier and his staff have failed miserably in that area. It only makes sense to prioritize the player development side of it, if you’re going to go with that “build through the draft” philosophy. Frazier might be a good coach for a team loaded with veterans but the younger the Vikes have gotten, the less effective he’s become.
6. He will be good with the media.
Rick Spielman is a very PR-conscious general manager. In fact sometimes I think he puts too much emphasis on conveying a uniform top-to-bottom organizational image and comes across like a bit of a puppet-master. I’m not saying Spielman is looking for a brainless shill who will just parrot his PR baloney, but I do believe Spielman will factor media savvy into the whole equation when he begins hunting for a coach. Watching Leslie Frazier squirm in front of cameras every week has become painful and has not helped sell the Vikings as a top-drawer organization. We likely won’t get a stand-up comedian type like Mike Tice but I do think we’ll get someone who is more comfortable in front of the press than Frazier.
Given the above attributes, is there anyone who leaps to mind as a potential coaching candidate?