The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 3, 2014

In lieu of Les, Vikings have some familiar options


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Leslie Frazier should still be the coach of the Minnesota Vikings next season ... but he isn’t.

Frazier was caught in the rollercoaster, decision-making process involving the starting quarterback, which probably cost the team at least a couple victories. And the defense got old about a year sooner than anyone could have predicted.

The Vikings’ hierarchy seems more of a mess than the coaching staff, but teams are far more likely to make change on the field than in the front office.

While maintaining that Frazier is a better coach than whomever is chosen as his replacement, here’s a look at a few of the early candidates that might be able to hasten a major rebuilding project.

Jack Del Rio, the former Vikings linebacker, might be one of those coaches who got hired young and will work out better in his next head-coaching stint. He lasted nine seasons as the head coach with Jacksonville, with a 68-71 record and three playoff games.

He’s a defensive-minded coach, and that unit needed some life after surrendering so many late leads. But his previous experience will likely show him that hiring competent coordinators is a key to NFL success, and being involved on one side of the ball too much rarely works out. He has valuable experience, yet he’s really not a tired, recycled coach, either.

Darrell Bevell also has ties to the organization, having served as offensive coordinator from 2006-09. He wasn’t given much credit for offensive creativity while on staff here, but he coached with Brad Childress, who tended to be somewhat controlling.

This season at Seattle, the Seahawks were 11th in total offense, with a strong emphasis on rushing. That should mesh with the use of Adrian Peterson, but Bevell has never shown the large personality it takes to be an NFL head coach. Maybe it’s in there, somewhere.

Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is another hot assistant, though you normally don’t consider the Bengals to be a top defense. Maybe away from Marvin Lewis, Zimmer would be a good choice.

Other coordinators will pop up as candidates, as the Vikings are clearly waiting until next week to interview some of those from playoff teams. Choosing a coordinator is always risky, making it tough to predict how they react when they get more control. Choosing a college coach, without professional experience, often is a disaster.

It’s amazing how much energy is burned discussing the job status of professional coaches. Last fall, a lot of folks wanted Ron Gardenhire fired as the manager of the Twins, and as soon as that didn’t happen, the topic became Frazier.

Now that Frazier is done here, Wild coach Mike Yeo will get the scrutiny. Fans are too fickle when it comes to coaches.

It would have been nice if Frazier were still in charge when the Vikings return to Mankato for summer training camp, given that he’s the most honest coach the team has had since Jerry Burns. But that isn’t happening.

Frazier was the perfect coach for the Vikings in 2012, and now he’s looking for a job. In 2014, he would have again been a good coach.

As we saw when Childress went control-freak on the 2006 camp, the right coach can make those three weeks go a lot smoother.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.