Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles on the sidelines during the game against Texas Tech Red Raiders safety Kennon Ward (15) in the third quarter at AT

Could Art Briles Become a Coaching Candidate In Minnesota?


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.

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  • Daniel Laxen

    1st off this secondary is 2-3 players away from being good, not the defense. They also lack LBs and a NT. Then there is the depth factor. This defense is no where near what you say it is as of today. Then there is the probability of the defense losing players to free agency in the off season. Kevin Williams may stay? I don’t see Allen being in the Vikings organization next year, and if I was Griffen I might want to move to a contender or to a team that MAY pay more money. (the Vikings are cheap right now) The Vikings will play run 1st as long as AP is in Minnesota and that doesn’t bode well for this type college coach. Lacking a QB to go along with.
    This team requires a coach with experience similar to what the Chiefs did in KC. When they brought in Andy Reid. The Vikings, with Spielman at the helm, believe that Freeman is the guy moving forward. Wait and see. Rick wants to be cheap, as we have seen in the past. Expect the Vikings to resign Freeman and keep Ponder as the backup. If I haven’t missed completely? Then again if the Wilfs fire the whole lot many things will change…look for the Vikings to draft heavily on defense this offseason!

  • 3kolu

    I believe the secondary needs another CB and they will compete. With Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson(jury’s still out) they have a young strong core. They could move Chris Cook to nickel or even the dime. At LB, with the emergence of Audie Cole, I believe Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges will come in next year ready to make a splash. And Greenway is still solid. They’ve resigned Robison, and hopefully Griffen as well. I look for Sharif Floyd to come on next year like gangbusters. Fred Evans and Letroy Guion are serviceable, however, if they could pick up a big, strong run stopper later in the draft or FA, they will have a top 10 defense.

    • Daniel Laxen

      Cook will not be back next season. Audie Cole was on the street 3 weeks ago. Josh Robinson, might as well be Mrs. Robinson. The 2 often injured LBs that the Vikings drafted haven’t shown out all that well, in my opinion. (Limited special teams) Greenway is over rated. Evans and Guion are BARELY serviceable. Floyd isn’t nearly as good as an ancient Kevin Williams. The Vikings have no NT, SS, LCB, WLB, and perhaps need a MLB. Griffen is a free agent and could well leave in the off season via large offer. Then there is the whole depth issue! I just don’t see how you feel that the Vikings are in that strong a position. Have you watched this defense play? They are terrible right now!

      • 3kolu

        You have no idea whose going to be back next season because you have no idea who’ll be coaching. Cook is still a big, fast, athletic corner who would be a more than decent nickel or dime. It doesn’t matter where Audie Cole was 3 weeks ago, what matters is that he is playing at a high level in just his 2nd start. As far as Josh Robinson is concerned, CB’s just don’t always get in their 1st or 2nd seasons. You can’t teach speed which J Rob has plaenty of along with athleticism and he is very strong. It’s his ball skills that are suspect, he just nneds to find his niche. You just don’t give up on a 3rd round talent after their 1st real season as a starter. Greenway overrated? Leading the team with 3int’s this year and he has been in the the top 5 in tackles in the league for the past 5 years. Mauti has the potential to become an All-pro if he can stay healthy, which he did for the most part. Hodges is still youn, but loade with potential. The Vikings are fine at LB. Evans and Guion are serviceable, Guion is till young 26 years old and would be a great backup at the NT position. Kevin Williams contract is up and he had a great career. The best 3 technique of his generation, so wise-up. He still could get some quality reps next should he and the Vikings sign him in the off-season. And the Vikings should make a concerted effort to sign the diverse Griffen who may not command a high price. The defense as a whole is just a 2-3 players away from respectability, you have to give your youg players time to develop and that’s exactly what Rhodes, Smith and Cole have done however, it may be the coordinating that needs to be replaced.

        • Daniel Laxen

          You are correct that we don’t know who will be coaching in Minnesota next year. 1 thing is for sure. It will not include Chris Cook. Have you even considered his statistics as a Viking? He’s NOT played in nearly half of all games because of injury or off field issues. His latest gaff came when he put his hands on an official and was ejected. Let’s not forget that in his entire career as a Viking CB he has NEVER had a single INT. That’s pathetic for a 2nd round draft pick, that has now been deemed the side to throw against. Rhodes is the better CB in his rookie season. Speaking of Rhodes he need to stay on the field too. He misses a bunch of plays and it costs the Vikings. Cook will not be a Viking next year!
          Josh Robinson has been shown to be not of starting quality ilk. Sure he has speed, but everyone in the NFL does. he is terrible in coverage and now it’s been shown his coverage skills are average at best. His closing speed may keep him a Viking for a couple years, but don’t expect the moon on him. His best attribute may well come as a punt returner, if Sherels is released? he is still a better return man and their coverage skills are nearly equal. Robinson was the de facto starter this season. Another error by Spielman and the coaching staff…
          Every player has the potential to be a very good player. The ones that develop into those are the ones that get on the field and make plays. The rookies you are referring to are NOT making plays with any regularity. That’s how you get on the field.
          You’re right about the big cat Kevin Williams. Even in his decline he can take over games. He will not go to NT for any length of time. Possibly to protect what he has left on his knees and feet? Floyd has made plays and usually because of Williams at the NT position. That position need to be addressed in the off season too. Evans and Guion are average at best.
          If you were Griffen would you stay if an offer from another team was quite a bit more than the cheap Vikings will offer? Perhaps to go to a contender as of today? Last years climate on DEs was soft, so he may be better served staying in Minnesota. We will see…
          What you said earlier was that this team was a top 10 defense except for a few players. Now you say respectable. Those are 2 entirely different animals. Going down the line on defense what is the defense. Robison, a good player going into year 9 I believe. An open NT position. A transition at the 3 technique, and a DE position that is completely up in the air. Both Allen and Griffen could go elsewhere, or stay. Moving to LBs. An aging better than good OLB in Greenway. At the MLB an unproven talent that may or may not be the long term answer that was released 3-4 weeks ago and now is the starter. At WLB a player that is average at best and wouldn’t start for any other team at that position. In the horrible secondary there are 2 solidified positions right now. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. That leaves SS, LCB and NCB to be addressed.
          If you look at it honestly there are many more questions than answers on defense. Coaching has been under fire for sure, but players make plays and the Vikings players haven’t been making any. Watching them crumble vs. the Ravens should show that. The field condition were bad, but so is this defense and teams have driven in the final minute vs. the Vikings all season…SKOL Brother!
          Greenway IS over rated! he is a good player in this league, but NOT great! What he is, is a great guy.Sure he makes tackles and leads the team in INTs. He has 3 and that may tell you more about how bad the secondary is.. Every LB makes tackles. Most teams will have a LB leading the team. Henderson was leading the team prior to his transgressions. Audie Cole is making tackles. This guy was on the street 3-4 weeks ago. There’s a reason and it wasn’t because the Vikings are deep at the position. I hope the kid continues to preform, but Frazier and Spielman released him for a roster spot. Now he’s the starter.

          • 3kolu

            Hey Daniel are you a coach, and if you are at what level because you come across as though you think you are a professional. Well, Ive been a football fan since the late 60′s. I played the sport since I was 7 years old right to the Varsity level. I’ve also coached football as well. The problem I see with armchair QB’s is that it easy to criticize with nothing at stake. Let me teach you a few things son. Where Chris Cook lands is nothing but speculation. He would make a decent nickel or dime IMAO. I never said he’d make a great starter. There’s a big difference between a starting CB and a nickel or a dime. He would match up well against a TE because of his size and speed. Remember he ran a 4.4/40 with at 6’2″ 212 lbs. You just don’t find a lot of CB’s with those measurables. Last year he had some great games especially the 1st meeting with the Lions. His problem is staying healthy, ball skills and progression. The Vikings need to create competition at all spots.

            You criticize the young LB’s. Mauti has been exceptional on special teams and Hodges hasn’t been given an opportunity so we just don’t know yet. They have to be given an opportunity. Mauti, should he be able to stay on the field is a stud. He is a serious play-maker and he is very good in pass coverage as is Audie Cole. But, where Cole has progressed is in the ground game. He also looks great in blitz packages.
            The Vikings need a second CB, whether that is Josh Robinson remains to be seen. He’s not only fast, but he has some serious athletic attributes. With nearly a 40″ vertical and above average strength, with a little nastiness ask Titus Young who got slammed right out of the league by J Rob. We need to see where he’s at next season. He ‘s at worst a serviceable nickel or dimer. You just don’t strt dismantling your defense because players aren’t producing. You try to find their strengths and place them in position to succeed, that’s on the coaching staff, period.
            I’m not going to pretend to know Griffen, but if I were him, I’d see opportunity. The Vikings have a lot of talent, the great Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings’ Matt Kalil, John Sullivan, Raymond Felton, Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Chad Greenway, and BrIan Robison. That’s a ton of talent! It’s not everyday you have the opportunity to play with the best players of a generatio The Vikes won’t be bringing back Allen we all know that. So that leaves the LDE wide open, unless the Vikes grab Jadeveon Clowney. However, Griffen’s versatility is what makes him extraordinary. He has the ability to play almost every position along the line except the 0 or the 1 techniques. He’s already acclimated to Minnesota and has shown some growth and maturity since those incidences after his rookie season. So with the departure of Jared Alllen, I believe the Vikings could make the pot sweet enough to bring back Griffen and target other positions of need in the draft and via FA. Will the vikings be able to bring back Griff, only time will tell, but I like their chances eliminating 17 million off the cap and having a possible top 5 pick, they are just 1 great draft and couple free agents away from competing, and as we found out this year in our division, that’s all we have to do. In today’s league, even the 6th seeds can rise to Supremacy. Getting better every day is the key. You don’t have to dismantle a team to have success, the smart thing is to create competition at every position. The Vikings most pressing need is to find their franchise QB, that’s their most pressing need. The can make their secondary better by producing a better pass rush. I look for Robison to step into the double-digit sack club possibly this year. I’m also looking for Sharif Floyd to make a huge stride, he’s only 21. And, I’m confident the Vikes will make a play for Griffen and our pass rush will be much improved. The good thing about Griff is that he hasn’t had a statistically satisfying season, so we stand a good chance to resign him. So you I’ll just take a wait and see attitude. The worst case scenario is that we make some changes, and that’s all right too, as long as we turn things around.

          • Daniel Laxen

            Don’t you talk down to me sir! I’m not your son! I know well what I refer to here. Playing at the varsity level is great. I went a bit farther, but that’s neither here nor there. I have coached at the high school level, again neither here nor there. I regularly attend the combine here in Indianapolis. I speak with pro level coaches and scouts quite often. So your intention of schooling is neither in order nor needed.

            Point 1…Chris Cook. The guy has had a few good games. He doesn’t have an INT and has missed nearly as many games as he has played in. He has had off field incidents and now has put his hands on a referee. Playing nickel CB in the NFL makes you have to tackle well as you may or may not know? Him playing dime makes him a depth DB at best. he was a 2nd round pick that went the wrong way and now is the weakest starting CB on this team. That’s exactly why the Bears went after him and stayed away from Rhodes, the rookie. we all speculate on the Vikings and which way they will go. Mark my words. he is NOT a Viking next year!

            Point 2. LBs. They are dreadful. The only one that would start anywhere else is Greenway. He’s not great and his coverage skills are less than stellar even though Chad leads this team in INTs. This past week the Vikings had 3 picks. Before that you had to go back tot he Cowboy game and before that all the way back to the Steeler game in London. Their pass coverage is abysmal. Audie Cole may be the starter, but by Fraizer’s own admission it was not by choice…LBs make tackles. Look at any other team in the league and you will soon see that a LB leads nearly every team in the league for his respective team. The exceptions, Major Wright, SS Bears. Barry Church, FS Cowboys. Antrel Rolle, SS Giants. JJ Watt, DT Texans. Bernard Pollard, SS Titans. Eric Weddle, FS Chargers. 6 teams out of 32 do NOT have a LB that leads in tackles. When a safety leads it’s usually a sign of poor tackling and plenty of passes vs. that team. JJ Watt is the odd one here. He is so solid in the center of that defense though. So needless to say Tackles by a LB don’t impress all that much. They are supposed to make those plays! The Vikings problems come in coverage where in a cover 2 has to be disciplined and be in position. It simply hasn’t happened and when it doesn’t in this base defense the defense breaks down considerably. Perhaps you know that?

            Point 3. Vikings CBs. Are you kidding me? You believe that Josh Robinson has shown the ability to cover at this level? he’s fast and that’s it. Titus Young is out of the league because he’s a WACK JOB! You aren’t watching very much of the secondary then. The Vikings CBs are possibly the worst in all of the league? Maybe that’s why the Vikings currently rank (a good term for their play) 30th in pass defense. It’s been an EPIC failure even considering how bad recent Vikings teams have been vs. the pass. The Cover 2 doesn’t just simply quit working after years of success. What happens is undisciplined players are out of position because they don’t buy in. That shows all that involved in the building of a team exactly what type of player these guys are. The fact that they haven’t quit and play hard are a testament to coaching. The fact is they aren’t talented enough. The exceptions are Rhodes and Smith, and beyond that there is no quality depth in this defensive back field. Next man up depth, as they say.

            The rest…The talent you mention is mostly on the offensive side of the ball. On defense Robison is getting up there as is Greenway. They move into their 9th and 10th years respectively next season. Again, you are right. We don’t know which way Griffen will fall, but he hasn’t been what he was supposed to be anyway. We consistently heard how he does this and is a great athlete, but more often than not Jared Allen still gets the run for his play on the line. They even tried to play Griffen at OLB and that failed! he’s over rated and time will tell for sure. as of today he isn’t a star in the league and doubt he ever will be. My opinion. Depending on who the Vikings bring in at the head coach you just don’t know. For that matter we don’t know if Spielman will be back. I’d imagine he will even though I feel he’s done less than well in the draft outside round 1. If you believe that this team is better than it was 4 years ago then you think Spielman is doing well. I do not!
            Being one great draft away is every team in the leagues excuse! 6 seeds rise to supremacy when they are built on a solid foundation, not smoke and mirrors. Today the Vikings lack all of these starting positions, and or quality depth at each and it’s not even debatable. QB,RG, LG, NT, SS, LCB, MLB, WLB…Then when injuries come to other more fortified positions what happens then? That cap space can only go so far…

            Spielman was the builder and he will probably get the coach of his choosing? There are just way more questions than answers on the Minnesota Vikings. Teams that make the playoffs drop out every year. Last years NFC #1 seed is the worst team in the league this year. There’s a reason why. They lost their depth via free agency this past year. I’m sure there was a spirited competition for that team as well. The sank like a stone when injuries usurped their starters and depth wasn’t there. That’s what you have in Minnesota also.

            I really don’t want the Vikings to be 1 year wonders like they have been in the recent past. I want them to be a dynasty and that comes through the draft! Rounds 3-7 and UFA are where it’s ALAWYS done. Spielman has failed. Look at those picks. I’ll save you time. 2 starters from those rounds the last 3 years. Fusco, and Cole. That’s it! “You don’t have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows!”

          • 3kolu

            Hey Daniel, I’m really passionate about my Vikings as well. I don’t want to be a one and done organization, But, 1 Superbowl win is all that I need, after all I’ve witnessed all 4 losses. You can’t tell me Chris Cook wouldn’t make a good nickel or a great dime? If Frazier stays, Cook probably stays. And, Henderson was one of the leaders in tackles before the incident, Greenway has lead the Vikings in tackles the past 5 years, and he has 3 int’s and your telling me he’s mediocre, get a grip. Most LB’s struggle in coverage. You making a final decision on 1st and 2nd year LB’s. Cole has looked nothing short of excellent. Mauti has fought thru 3 knee injuries and has become one of our best special teamers, while the team brings him along slow. Watch his tape in college, he’s a vicious, tackling, playmaking machine and if he stays healthy he’s going to be solid. If your one of the league leaders in tackles that means your making plays, period.

            Spielman has made a couple mistakes, but he’s made some nice picks for the most part. You can’t just judge a draft on the lower rounds that’s an oversimplified observation. The lower the round the less chance of success and that’s a fact. We got Blair Walsh in the 6th, Locke in the 5th, Mauti in the 7th, Griffen in the 4th. Last years class you have to be excited that we have 3-1st rounders who should come back next year with a vengeance. I see Mauti starting at either MLB or the WIL, I’m high on him a high motor, high character player. He has scheme versatility, I’ve seen him attacking from every place on the field. I agree that we need a QB, RG and an NT. However, we just need to create competition. But if we go with your plan, we will be getting rid of Cook, Robinson, Guion, Evans, Henderson, Cole, Greenway. Too dismantle our team like that would not be beneficial. Downgrading puts us in a much better position and you never know when a player is going to get it. We have to give the young players a lot of grace. Create competition, get better every day, and most importantly develop your younger players. Think Cameron Wake, Kurt Warner, Warren Moon etc.
            Not every team is 1 great draft, but when you have superstars like Peterson Patterson, Rudolph, Kalil, Smith, Rhodes and yes Greenway who is 6th in tackles and one of the league leading LB’s with 3 int’s., while leading our team in int’s it’s hard to argue that. He is still performing at a high level. Except for a scheme change we’d be fools to disseminate our team in a mass exodus. Spielman isn’t quite Ozzie Newsome. But, with players like Mauti, Cole, Griffen, Hodges, Rhodes and Smith making a scheme change is also a slight possibility, we just don’t know. We need to keep as much of our talent as possible.