Now that it is blatantly obvious that Leslie Frazier is about to walk with no extension once this miserable season expires, the rumors and speculation are beginning to swirl about who will be the next man to lead the Purple. I just want to discuss some of the names I’ve heard thrown around in recent weeks, and break down some of the pros and cons of each.
Let’s start with the name we know the team has actually shown interest in. That of course is Penn State head coach, Bill O’Brien. The man has proven himself to be more than able to rebuild a program from shambles, boasting a 15-9 record with a team that faced more adversity than any other in recent history. Of course getting college kids to rally around you is much easier to do than with a locker room full of seasoned veterans, one would assume. He has also shown the capability of drawing up, and calling plays at the NFL level. O’Brien was at the helm of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history during his time with the Patriots. (2008-2012) If indeed Matt Cassel were to return next season than it must also be taken into consideration that O’Brien was the QB coach in New England in 2008, which was Cassel’s best year as a pro by far. It’s also worth mentioning that he also has a history with the two rookie linebackers out of Penn State in Mauti and Hodges. To be honest, the only thing I can nit-pick about this guy is that his NFL experience is rather limited, and just as a matter of personal preference I would like to see a head coach with a defensive background. That said, I think he is a very interesting, very capable candidate.
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Another name I’ve heard tossed around is Jack Del Rio. Unlike O’Brien, Del Rio has quite a bit of coaching experience at the NFL level. He was the head coach of the Jaguars from 2003-2011. He has also spent some time as defensive coordinator in Carolina, and currently with the Denver Broncos. It’s also worth noting that he was the linebackers coach for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, from what I’ve heard that defense was kind of good. It’s a safe bet that Del Rio will be given another head coaching opportunity, I just hope It’s not in Minnesota. Don’t get me wrong I think Del Rio is a great coach and has shown enormous success in the capacity of defensive coordinator, but as a head coach he is a model of mediocrity. That’s what got him canned in Jacksonville. I think the guy is a class act, but his 68-71 record as head coach (1-2 playoff) speaks for itself. Of course I could be way off here. Tom Coughlin was also fired in Jacksonville and has gone on to enjoy a little bit of success since then.
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A popular name in all the Vikings message boards is Brian Billick. Billick earned a place in the hearts of most Viking fans as the offensive coordinator of the record setting, high flying Viking teams of the 90’s. The success he manufactured during his time in Baltimore also speaks for itself. He would be a great candidate for the position if not for one little problem. I don’t think he wants the job. I’m guessing he makes comparable money putting in a couple hours of work each week on TV. Why would he give up his cushy part-time gig that provides him the forum to be heard on any subject he chooses for the sleepless nights and grueling non-stop schedule of a head coach in the NFL? I think we can also file other names like Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Etc… under “not interested” as well.
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I have not heard mention of this next name yet so I want to get fans talking about him, as the man I would most like to see coaching the Vikings next year is current Bengals defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, in my opinion, should have been a head coach years ago. He has a boat-load of experience behind him as he has been coaching at the pro level since 1994. Since he landed his first defensive coordinator gig in 2000 with the Cowboys he has never led a defense ranked less than 10th overall. He has successfully coached 4-3 defenses, and 3-4 defenses. He has had much success with players with “character issues”, see Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict for proof of that. Just this year, despite losing two of his best players in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, his defense remains successful, ranked 6th overall, and holding opponents to less than 20 points a game. Success seems to be a common theme with this guy. Normally the lack of head coaching experience would be a red flag to me, but Zimmer has been around long enough that I’m sure he could easily make the transition.
All that aside, the main reason I want to see Zimmer in purple is the change in culture that would come with him. Going all the way back to Mike Tice the Vikings have had coaches, and subsequently players, that are perceived to be soft. Zimmer is tough as nails and would bring a nasty, in your face swagger to a team that could use nothing more. Another thing he brings with him is a history with the 3-4 defense. While he currently runs a 4-3 in Cincy, he has run a 3-4 in Dallas in the past. I would love to see packages from both sets used frequently, that would completely disrupt any QB’s flow. Just imagine watching Everson Griffen blasting QB’s from the OLB position. I think O’Brien is a great option, but in my ideal Viking-land Zimmer is the Coach that will take this team to the promised land.
I will return to this topic later this week and discuss some of the established Coaching free agents we will see next season, such as Lovie Smith, Gary Kubiak, Etc…