Friday, January 07, 2011

Out With The Old, In With the Gold

With this week's naming of Leslie Frazier as the new Minnesota Vikings' head football coach, the Vikings' organization has signaled two things. One is that it is at least reasonably satisfied with the direction of the defense. The other is that it will not mind and probably would prefer a change of offensive philosophy. For Vikings' fans, one out of two is better than zero out two.

Although Frazier has yet to relieve current offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell of his duties, something that the new head coach already has done with three of his coaches, rumors are circulating that Bevell is not long for his current role and may be given the choice of either accepting a tremendous pay cut and demotion to quarterback coach or moving on with his career with another team.

The early leader to fill Bevell's role appears to be former Denver Bronco head coach Josh Daniels. If you like a-holish type coaches who fail to live up to their own hype, Daniel's is perfect. If not, there are more worthy options.

Until last week, there appeared to be a range of very good options to fill Bevell's role. That was before Charlie Weiss left KC for Florida, Houston retained Gary Kubiak, San Diego retained Norv Turner, Dallas retained Jason Garrett, and the New York Giants retained Tom Coughlin. All but Coughlin stand out as far better offensive coordinators than head coaches, and all would have looked good standing beside Leslie Frazier next season.

While the list is greatly paired down, there are still two A-list or near-A list coaches in the system who would make good offensive coordinators. The clear leader in that category is Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. Philbin has an extensive coaching resume, having coached for nineteen years, with the past seven years serving as an assistant to or offensive coordinator. Over the past four seasons, the Packers have averaged more points than any Packer team over a similar stretch. Philbin accomplished this feat despite having no running back on whom he could rely and despite transitioning to a new quarterback.

The catch with Philbin is two-fold. First, he is unlikely to want to leave a good situation in Green Bay that should only get better with the maturation of the offensive line and the discovery of a running back. Second, to even discuss the role with the Philbin, the Vikings must offer him a step up in title. That means that the Vikings would have to offer Philbin an Assistant/Associate Head Coach position. That might be too close for Frazier, who will be working on a short contract, and will certainly be easy for the Packers to meet, thereby taking Philbin off of the assistant coach's market.

A near-A list possibility is former Oakland Raiders' head coach Tom Cable. Cable has made the Raiders' offense relevant despite having no true quarterback and no established wide-receiver. Cable has had the benefit of a good running game and a good offensive line, but he has made strides in areas considered outside of his offensive line expertise.

What keeps Cable off of the A-list is his propensity toward violence against those around him. For that reason alone, he is probably an animal around which the Vikings will not even sniff.

That leaves Daniels and a host of unknowns. In Daniels, the Vikings would get a coach who made Denver's offense look impressive, at least when Denver was playing the weaker teams in the league. Alas, Daniels also brings his unwarranted arrogance and difficulties dealing with players into the mix. That ought to be too great a concern for a team looking to establish offensive harmony after a season of dysfunction. And that should eliminate Daniels from consideration.

A dark horse for consideration could be Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Like Philbin, Olson would have to be offered an Assistant/Associate Head Coach position for the Vikings even to approach him. And, like Philbin, Olson might prefer to stay with an up-and-coming offense over an offense that currently is rudderless. If, however, Olson views Minnesota as a better franchise long-term, he might be willing to make the move.

The rest of the lot are coaches about whom we currently know too little to make much of an evaluation at the NFL level. Unquestionably, several coaches will emerge from this pool over the next several years, leaving fans from teams not benefiting from their services wondering why their teams did not identify the talent when the talent was still available. With the legacy of the Childress offense still weighing down the franchise and the organization still trying to curry public support for a new stadium, however, the Vikings are virtually assured of not going the route of the unknown.

Up Next: Changes on Defense?

4 comments:

Cabrito said...

Quick question for you, VG. The 49ers just signed Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Whatever happened to the NFL regulation that teams had to interview at least one minority (i.e., African-American) candidate as part of their search procedures? Has that stipulation been dumped? Just wondering -- I haven't heard anything about it recently.

vikes geek said...

Cabrito,

The Rooney Rule still exists in the NFL. I'm not sure who the 49ers interviewed other than Harbaugh. It certainly was a quick decision. The lone exception to the rule is when a team is hiring from within. If the hiring is internal, the rule does not apply. Clearly, however, Harbaugh was an external hire.

VG

Adam said...

VG, with the labor unrest threatening the 2011 season, an extended lockout would likely mean that many of the quality assistants around the NFL jump ship to the college game. After all, only head coaches are really protected in a lockout or strike. Does the fact that MCDaniels and Singletary are still being pad by their previous employers in 2011 impact the value of these moves... making them less likely to leave the team?

Also, remember that both McDaniels and Singletary were fired for their antics as head coaches. The only reason they were head coaches in the first place is becuase of the success they had at their previous positions, which are what the Vikes are interviewing them for.

McDaniels made some obvious mistakes in Denver, but most were personell related, something which will have less importance in the Vikings organization.

Also, while we dog on McDaniels for the Cutler/Marshall drama, don't forget that Randy Moss had his best years and was on his best behavior when working under McDaniels.

vikes geek said...

Adam,

Good points. I don't know what McDaniels' or Singletary's contract terms were, but I suspect that they both would receive much more money in the short term if they waited at least a year to return to the NFL. That issue notwithstanding, both coaches need to get back into the NFL as soon as possible to avoid becoming an afterthought and irrelevant, thus giving both some incentive to return even if it means losing money. It is also possible that they will lose nothing if they return to the NFL below the head coach level--that would seem to make more sense, but I don't know the terms of the buy-outs.

McDaniels had issues with players on roster and generally wasn't a very likable person. He really would have to be spectacular to overcome that baggage. Moss did flourish in New England, but I suspect that had far more to do with Belichick than it did with McDaniels. At least, however, there was no known friction between McDaniels and Belichick.

My concern with Singletary is that he led a team with a putrid defense. The only teams that the 49ers held under 300 yards this year were Arizona (twice), Seattle, and Oakland (early in the year)(TB had 299 yards). The numbers put them in the middle of the pack in the NFL, but against the weakest division in football history, that's rather unimpressive. If Singletary's calling card is defense, he has quite a bit to prove. Of course, as linebacker coach, he'll be taking orders from Pagac (will Singletary adjust to that?).

VG