In the last two weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have cut ties with now-former head coach Leslie Frazier, and fended off a questionable scandal involving former punter Chris Kluwe.
The Vikings are one of the three openings left after the Washington Redskins got their man in Jay Gruden on Thursday, and with the Detroit Lions likely waiting out Ken Whisenhunt but covering their bases with several other interviews. The Tennessee Titans are the last vacancy.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and owners Zygi and Mark Wilf have cut their top choices down to two names: Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Arizona defensive mastermind Todd Bowles.
Minnesota did reportedly have an interview scheduled with Gruden, but Washington snatched him up.
The Vikings have also requested or were interested in speaking with currently postseason-pre-occupied Whisenhunt, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and Denver’s Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase.
As for now the four best names the Vikings should seriously consider are Roman, Bowles, Del Rio, and Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
The 41-year-old New Jersey native would be a perfect fit if Minnesota is thinking of selecting a quarterback with the eighth overall pick in May’s draft. An NFL assistant beginning in 1995 before a move down to high school and then a two-year stint as offensive coordinator at Stanford, Roman provided some stability and solid guidance to quarterback Alex Smith for two years. Smith posted the best years of his career with Roman’s help.
Roman also aided San Francisco’s transition from Smith to Colin Kaepernick, and the third-year passer flourished.
One of the two front runners, Bowles met with Vikings officials in Phoenix earlier this week. The Star-Tribune reported Bowles “blew away” his would-be bosses.
A safety in the league for eight seasons, Bowles has nearly twenty years of coaching experience and was elevated to the coordinator level last year in Philadelphia. That gave him the shot in Arizona, and the Cardinals were sixth overall in total defense, six spots better than last season, and posted the league’s best rushing defense.
His understanding of what it’s like to play in the league likely outweighs his lack of experience on offense.
Bevell’s been linked to plenty of jobs, but so far hasn’t advanced past the first round of interviews. Minnesota might know everything it needs to with Bevell being the squad’s offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2010.
It’s important to note the quarterbacks under center during Bevell’s tenure: Brad Johnson, Tavaris Jackson, an on the downswing Daunte Culpepper, Gus Frerotte, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Joe Webb, and Brett Favre.
In Favre’s first year the Vikings posted the NFL’s sixth best total offense, and were one play away from making the fifth Super Bowl in franchise history. Clearly with the right personnel, Bevell’s offense can thrive.
Like Roman, Bevell also has the distinction of developing young quarterback Russell Wilson in Seattle, while helping Marshawn Lynch record three straight 1,000-yard seasons. All would be to the betterment of keeping Adrian Peterson happy.
Jack Del Rio
Nearly swiped by USC before Denver head coach John Fox’s sudden heart surgery, Del Rio is the only one on this list with head coaching experience. Del Rio also had a top rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew during his nine-year run with Jacksonville.
The Jaguars were consistently one of the better defensive teams in the league under Del Rio, and he could certainly turn around Minnesota’s 31st ranked secondary.
Del Rio snapped Jacksonville’s seven year playoff drought and picked up their first postseason victory in almost a decade back in 2007.