On Wednesday, the Minnesota Vikings announced the hiring of former Indianapolis Colts' defensive backs coach, Alan Williams. Willams' addition all but ensures that the Vikings will retain their 4-3 and Cover-2 schemes of 2011. More unsettling, continuing cronyism in hiring notwithstanding, are Williams' initial suggestions that personnel was not the problem for the Vikings' defense in 2011.
Williams' hire means that the worst possible scenario--the promotion of the lightly regarded Mike Singletary to defensive coordinator--did not transpire. Because of the manner in which the Vikings' dealt with their defensive coordinator search, however, the result is, at best, unclear.
Williams arrives in Minnesota after having served a decade as defensive backs coach for the Colts. Williams' resume thus raises two significant questions. The first is why he languished so long as a position coach? That's an important question in a State recently divorced of a significant mistaken hire of a long-time position coach.
The second and related issue is why Williams should be viewed as any more capable than Fred Pagac to coordinate the defense? Hopefully, the Vikings were relying on something more than the intuition that nobody could do worse in 2012--because somebody surely can do worse than what the Vikings did in 2011.
Who might do worse? Why not somebody associated with a team that actually yielded more yards in 2011 than did the Vikings or somebody who oversaw a secondary saved from being as putrid as the Vikings' secondary only through the grace of the Colts' even more susceptible rush "defense"? Against the pass in the 2011, the Colts ranked 15th in yards allowed and 20th in touchdowns. Those numbers appear better than the Vikings' 2011 comparables of 26 and 32, but, when factoring in opposing pass attempts, the numbers are very comparable on a pro-rated basis.
It's important to note, as well, that, although teams ran more against the Colts than they passed against them in 2011, they certainly did not eschew the pass out of fear of failure. Rather, what most opponents appeared to do against the Colts in 2011 was run until they got tired of running and then pass until they got tired of passing. Teams also passed on the pass late in games more often than they did so against the rest of the league because, by the third quarter, most Colts' games were already in the books as lopsided losses. As such, the Colts' 2011 opponents had great success with both the rush and the pass, just better success rushing because they rushed more often.
If you are prone to being skeptical about the current Vikings' organization's handling of personnel matters, Williams' hire certainly offers no reason to alter that disposition. In his first press conference following his hiring, Williams committed to the Cover-2 and "Leslie's vision." He also suggested that the players were not the primary problem, contending that an overhaul of the defense was not necessary. If by that, Williams meant that no overhaul of the defensive line is required, he probably is correct; anything more than that, however, suggests that Williams either is unfamiliar with what he is stepping into in Minnesota or that he does not have a grasp of despair when he sees it.
One of the hopes for the off-season was that the Vikings would take seriously their 2011 issues. Instead, the team elected to jettison their one bright spot on the coaching staff while taking steps to reinforce a vision on defense that, at least in terms of the passing game, has never been much better than average since Leslie Frazier's arrival. Average is certainly preferable to bottom of the league, but, at a time when the Vikings are transitioning anyway, there seems little meaningful reason to merely attempt to hold the fort when innovation is both called for and more appropriate.
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