Baylor’s insanely high-scoring offense (let’s just throw out the Oklahoma State game) has been one of the stories of college football this season, and the man behind that offense, Art Briles, has naturally shot to the top of a lot of NFL head coaching wish lists. Viking fans have certainly had their eyes on him, with Leslie Frazier seemingly on his way out the door.
But all speculation about Briles becoming an NFL head man was immediately rendered null and void when Baylor signed him to a 10-year contract extension. Or was it?
You certainly wouldn’t expect a guy to bolt a rising program like Baylor just months after agreeing to a ten-year extension, but remember this is college football we’re talking about. Guys bail on long-term contracts all the time. Briles’ deal with Baylor absolutely does not close the door on him making the leap to the pros.
Knowing how mercenary coaches can be, it should come as no surprise that Briles’ name is being brought up in connection with NFL head coach openings and soon-to-be-made openings. On Sunday Jason La Canfora reported that Briles absolutely is in play for the Redskins who are believed to be on the verge of firing Mike Shanahan after a disappointing season.
On the surface this would seem a natural connection to make. Dan Snyder spends money freely, and would have no issue throwing around the big numbers necessary to lure Briles away from the Baylor contract. And of course there is the RG3 factor. Briles coached Robert Griffin III in college, and still has a great relationship with the quarterback.
Dan Snyder must be thinking Briles would be the perfect guy to rehabilitate Griffin, who appears to be suffering a crisis of confidence late in his sophomore season.
But if you’re Briles, do you necessarily look at Washington as an ideal pro landing spot? The RG3 connection is nice, but what about the rest of that roster? What about that mess of a defense? What about the presence of Snyder who is clearly not a fun guy to work for?
Don’t assume that if Briles does wish to make the leap to the NFL, the Redskins are necessarily the #1 team on his radar screen just because of the RG3 connection. There might be more attractive options out there.
Which brings us back to the soon-to-be-coachless Vikings.
Let’s look at the Minnesota situation from Briles’ point-of-view. What could make the Vikings attractive?
First off, you have some legit offensive talent on the roster. Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings form a solid core. An offensive guy like Briles would have to look at that talent and be intrigued.
But what about the most important of all offensive positions, the quarterback? The Vikings’ QB situation is highly unsettled right now, and superficially that would seem like a minus. But I think the Vikings’ lack of an obvious QB option for 2014 is actually a plus in this case.
A coach like Briles would not want to come in and be stuck with last year’s QB. He would want to bring in his own guy, a young guy he could groom in his scheme. Briles would be hired ahead of the draft and would have a hand in picking the new quarterback. The chance to hand-pick a young quarterback would be attractive to a new coach coming in.
Third, the defense. The Vikings defense has not been great statistically this season, but there is some young talent there to build around. The defense is two or three players away from being good enough to compete week-after-week, especially if the offense is significantly upgraded, taking some of the pressure off the D.
Fourth, the owner. Zygi Wilf is not a pain-in-the-butt to work for like Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones. Zygi will keep his hands off and let his GM and coaches do what they do.
Of course you can’t ignore the minuses in Minnesota. First off is money. Zygi Wilf is not going to offer Dan Snyder-type dollars. You can’t compete with crazy when it comes to money.
Second is the stadium situation. The new stadium might be a selling point to a guy looking to settle in long term, but you have to survive the two years in TCF Bank Stadium first. How would an offensive-minded coach like Briles, with his up-tempo, free-flying approach, feel about having to spend his first two seasons in less-than-idea circumstances?
Third is Rick Spielman. How would a coach like Briles feel coming in knowing he would have to work under a GM who has absolute final say in all personnel matters? Would Briles expect to have personnel authority? If that’s the case, Minnesota would have to come off the list.
It all comes down to priorities. If a coach wants money and East Coast glory and doesn’t mind working under a controlling individual like Dan Snyder, then Washington is a nice place. If he wants to go where there’s less pressure and a less-overbearing owner, and arguably a stronger roster, then Minnesota has to look like a better landing spot.
Or maybe Briles isn’t even looking to make the leap. That’s a possibility too. Maybe the guy wants to stay in Baylor and build a program. Maybe he’s more Barry Alvarez than Chip Kelly.
But after the report of Washington’s interest in Briles, you have to at least consider the possibility of Briles breaking away in spite of the extension. Maybe Washington is the only place he would consider going. Or maybe other teams, like the Vikings, are in play as well.