It was confirmed on Friday that the Minnesota Vikings had fired defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.
He is the first of what will likely be a massive overhaul on the defensive coaching staff. A lot has been made since the announcement from fans that Dunbar was the only defensive coach worth keeping—in reality he was nothing special.
Dunbar was hired in 2006 under former head coach Brad Childress and was part of the coaching staff that allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league between 2006 and '08 and the second fewest in 2009. However, as good as the unit's numbers were, Dunbar was unable to really develop any young players.
The story every season has basically been the same. A great rush defense with little in the way of a pass rush outside of Jared Allen, who was brought to the Vikings in a 2008 trade with Kansas City. The great players on the defensive line, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Jared Allen, were all very good prior to being coached by Dunbar.
Kevin Williams was drafted in 2003 by the Vikings and posted two 10+ sack seasons before Dunbar arrived in 2006. Pat Williams was a four-year starter for the Bills before joining the Vikings in 2005. Jared Allen was already an All-Pro who led the league in sacks prior to the trade. Dunbar did not turn these players into stars, they were stars prior to Dunbar arriving.
Development-wise, Dunbar failed to really develop any other linemen outside of the pre-made stars. In 2006 there were two first round DEs, Kenechi Udeze (2004) and Erasmus James (2005), a 2004 third-round pick Darrion Scott, 2006 fourth-round pick Ray Edwards and Jayme Mitchell to develop. Udeze's career was ended by leukemia after the 2007 season, but none of the others truly developed. James ended up being a complete bust.
There was some success with Ray Edwards, but with three All-Pro linemen along side him, getting only 26.5 sacks in 56 starts over four seasons was disappointing.
More recently, in 2010 and 2011, the once elite rush defense declined dramatically. In 2010, Pat Williams was in large decline and Dunbar was unable to develop an adequate backup. When Pat was not re-signed for 2011, Dunbar was charged with developing a tackle to replace him.
The Vikings signed Remi Ayodele from the New Orleans Saints drafted Christian Ballard in the fourth round and still had 2008 fifth-round pick Letroy Guion. None of these players were able to adequately fill in and there was a huge hole in the line now.
On a defense that had nearly no help in the secondary, it was imperative that the defensive line step up and stop the run and create a solid pass rush. This season, the line was unable to make the big stop in clutch-time.
In the first game of the season they were unable to stop the San Diego Chargers at the end of the game and the Chargers were able to run out the clock. The following week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran for a touchdown with 30 seconds left to win the game. In Week 4, the Chiefs were able to run for a first down and run out the clock.
Dunbar was given a great set of stars to work with and they played to their potential, I will not dispute that. However, the mark of a great coach is how they develop their players and Dunbar did not develop any players into anything better than they were when he got them.
While Dunbar certainly was not the one to blame for the disaster that was the 2011 Vikings, his inability to truly develop any players was one of the reason that the Vikings defense struggled both against the run and pass.
Dunbar is a perfect example of the players making the coach rather than the coach making the players. It's hard to look bad when you are given multiple All-Pros like Dunbar had in 2006 through 2009, but when it was necessary to develop anything outside of those players, Dunbar was unable to do so and this is the reason that he was dismissed.