Just when Vikings' fans were settling in for another off-season of promising rebuilding, it appears that one of the primary bright spots of the 2006 team will be leaving--possibly as soon as Monday. On Saturday evening, reports began circulating that Vikings' defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin had been offered the head coaching position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Predictably, given the league's desire to showcase its championship games, the Steelers, on Sunday, denied the reports, going so far as to post an ambiguous statement on their official site.
With the Steelers stating that they would have no statement on their head coaching vacancy until at least Monday and Tomlin denying that he had accepted or even been offered the position, more telling was Tomlin's seeming uneasiness that all of the media attention might somehow give the Pittsburgh management team cause to reassess their offer. Clearly, Pittsburgh has made an offer. And, just as clearly, Tomlin already has agreed, at least in principle.
If Tomlin does leave, he will leave behind a defense that was greatly improved last season. But with that improvement seemingly the result not only of coaching but of an additional year of experience for several players, increased continuity at certain positions, and an influx of young, ready-for-the-NFL talent, whomever replaces Tomlin will be in an eviable position.
And Tomlin's departure might just give the Vikings the push they need to bring in a seasoned coordinator or defensive specialist who is able to control both the running and passing game. To be certain, the Vikings' difficulties stopping the pass in 2006 were not all attributable to coaching. But, as coaches accept blame at all other positions when things fall apart, so, too, must Tomlin accept some blame for the Vikings' seeming inability to adjust to opponents' passing games. Tomlin never did make the adjustment and never was able to come up with any semblance of a pass rush. And, in that respect, and perhaps only in that respect, Tomlin came up a bit short as a defensive coordinator--still a nice showing for a first-year coordinator, however.
The only obstacle to the Vikings' search for a seasoned defensive mind to replace Tomlin--somebody like Mike Singletary, for example--is head coach Brad Childress' ego. Already clearly disturbed by the plaudits that Tomlin received for his work with the defense, Childress might very well pull a Bevell in his hiring of the Vikings' new defensive coordinator. If that happens, Vikings' fans not only will regret that the Vikings opted for Childress over Tomlin but also that next year wasn't as good as last year.
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