I don’t want to go kicking dirt on Leslie Frazier before he’s dead, but at the same time there’s little question Frazier’s days as Vikings head coach are numbered regardless of what happens from here on out, clearing the way for a whole new regime to take over in 2013. Is that fair? Maybe not. But what did fairness ever have to do with the reality of life as an NFL head coach?
The reality for Frazier is this: he has one winning season under his belt since taking the reins as full-time head coach, and two dreadful trainwreck seasons sandwiched around that. That’s not going to get it done in the highly competitive big-money what-have-you-done-for-me-lately winning-is-everything-and-other-cliches world of the NFL.
Like I was saying, I don’t want to kick Frazier out the door before he’s actually gone, but dude is pretty much headed for the unemployment line, which means the Vikings will soon be casting around for a new head coach. In a recent post I speculated as to the kind of man Rick Spielman might have in mind, but didn’t actually throw out any names.
Now I’m going to throw out a name. A guy who fits the profile I suggested in my previous post (offensive guy, young, not a big-name retread, not a personnel guy). A guy who is very familiar to Viking fans – maybe too familiar. That man is Darrell Bevell.
Don’t look now but Darrell Bevell has become one of the hottest assistants in the whole league. He is the master craftsman behind a machine-like Seahawks offense, or at least that is the perception. The natural next step for Bevell is to interview for head coaching jobs around the league.
Seahawks HC Pete Carroll for his part thinks Bevell is a lock to one day be the top dog himself. “He’ll be a head coach somewhere,” Carroll said during a media conference call Wednesday, probably while beaming with pride (and chewing on a stick of Juicy Fruit).
Bevell of course has already had a stint with the Vikings, serving as offensive coordinator under Brad Childress from 2006 to 2010. Bevell was let go when Leslie Frazier became coach in 2011, but didn’t remain unemployed for very long, getting snapped up by Seattle. Since 2011, Bevell has grown the Seattle offense into one of the NFL’s more successful units. This year the Seahawks are averaging 26.5 PPG, sixth in the NFL, and are tops in rushing yards per game. Oh and they’re 9-1 and maybe headed for the Super Bowl.
When you list Bevell’s qualifications, a few things stand out as potential positives from the Vikings’ point of view. His feel for the running game, first off. The Seahawks are a run-first team with powerful Marshawn Lynch as their primary back. The Vikings have the same kind of player in Adrian Peterson, and indeed Bevell already has plenty of first-hand experience at working with Peterson.
Second off, Bevell has shown himself to be adept at working with a young, dynamic quarterback. Under Bevell, Russell Wilson has quickly developed into one of the league’s best QBs. Wilson isn’t a stat-monster like some other guys but he wins ball games. Bevell has been creative in using Wilson’s running ability while also helping Wilson grow as a downfield passer.
Bevell’s positive experience with Wilson I think is one of the biggest points in his favor. The Vikings this offseason will be looking to draft a quarterback, and they will want a head coach who knows how to work with a young QB. Leslie Frazier and the current regime, including OC Bill Musgrave, have not distinguished themselves in their handling of young players in general, and Christian Ponder specifically.
This failure to develop young talent has hampered the Vikings and I believe Spielman will want to find a head coach who reverses this. Bevell at least on the surface looks like a guy who gets it when it comes to young players. Of course it’s fair to ask how much of the Bevell-Wilson relationship is really Bevell’s coaching and how much is just Wilson’s natural ability shining through. Say this for Bevell at least: he hasn’t held Wilson back.
Of course with any head coaching candidate, especially a guy who has never held a head coaching position before, there is going to be uncertainty. The great thing for the Vikings is that they’ve already seen first-hand what kind of coach Bevell is. Does their knowledge of Bevell make him a better candidate in Minnesota or actually hurt his chances?
And what about the flip side? Bevell had somewhat of a bad experience at the end in Minnesota. He was left hanging for several weeks after the close of the 2010 season before finally being cut loose by Leslie Frazier in favor of Bill Musgrave. That treatment may have left a sour taste in his mouth. On the other hand, Frazier himself was responsible for picking his coaches at that time, so if Bevell bears any ill-will it may be more toward Frazier than Rick Spielman or Zygi Wilf.
Bevell will certainly get his opportunity, possibly at the end of the 2013 season. There will be multiple head coaching jobs opening up, and I would suspect Bevell will get interviewed for most if not all of them. If the Vikings do want him, they’ll have to compete with teams like Tampa Bay, Dallas, Oakland and Tennessee, and probably Miami too if things keep going south for Joe Philbin.
Obviously we’re a long way off from anyone having to make a decision. All we’re doing is slapping together a tentative list of possible candidates. I think Bevell has a place on the Vikings’ list, maybe not at the top or even near the top, but somewhere. He’s shown he is worthy of a chance, and I think he is actually a good fit for what the Vikings need as they continue their rebuilding. We’ll find out in a few months whether Rick Spielman agrees.