Minnesota Vikings Part Ways with Leslie Frazier, a Look at Possible Replacements
On Black Monday, the first day following the end of the NFL regular season, the Minnesota Vikings' official website reported that the team relieved head coach Leslie Frazier of his coaching duties—that's a fancy way of saying they fired him.
Frazier's dismissal should not come as any surprise. The team had more than indicated that this would be a defining season for Frazier when they failed to sign him to a contract extension at the end of last season.
Following the 2012 season, the team exercised its option for the 2014 season—a season that they will now have to pay Frazier.
A 1-7 start to the season sealed Frazier's fate, after making an improbable trip to the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2012. The Vikings played better the second half of the season, but a 4-3-1 record was not enough to offset his 21-32-1 mark—including a franchise worst 3-13 record two seasons ago.
Who will the Vikings be looking to hire as the team's ninth head coach?
There is plenty of speculation as to who will take over for the 2014 season. The Vikings would be wise to make a decision sooner than later in order to give whoever takes over plenty of time to assemble a staff and get ready for the 2014 NFL draft. The Vikings will pick eighth next April.
Here's a look as some of the candidates who could be on the Vikings short list.
Jack Del Rio, Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator
Del Rio, a linebacker with the Vikings from 1992 to 1995, played for head coach Dennis Green and defensive coordinator Tony Dungy. From 1992 to 1994, the Vikings defense finished no lower than eighth in yards allowed and was the NFL's top defense in 1993.
Del Rio's playing career spanned 11 seasons with four teams, finishing up with the Vikings in 1995. It only took him two years to get into coaching. The following table breaks down Del Rio's coaching history in the NFL.
|1997||New Orleans||Strength and Conditioning||12||20|
This season, Del Rio stepped in for head coach John Fox while he was recovering from an aortic valve replacement. Del Rio was 3-1 as the Broncos' interim head coach.
In his single season as the Panthers' defensive coordinator, Carolina improved dramatically. In 2001, the Panthers ranked 28th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. In 2002, they finished fifth and second, respectively.
The Vikings desperately need someone to shake up the defense that finished near the bottom in almost every category.
One concern might be the drop that Denver's defense had this season. In his first year as the Broncos' defensive coordinator, they finished with the fourth-best scoring defense, allowing an average of 18 points per game. This season, they allowed 24.9 points—falling to 22nd in the league.
Adam Gase, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator
In that same tweet, Adam Schefter indicated the Minnesota Vikings were also interested in Denver's offensive coordinator, Adam Gase.
According to the Denver Broncos website, at 34 years old, Gase is the youngest coordinator in the NFL.
In his first season as the Broncos' offensive coordinator, he took over an offense that ranked second in points and fourth in yards in 2012 and improved it. This season, the Broncos offense scored 7.8 points and gained 59.4 yards more per game than last year. They had the NFL's top-ranked offense in points and yards.
Of course, having quarterback Peyton Manning as your quarterback certainly helps.
Gase also spent two seasons as the Broncos' quarterback coach and two seasons as their wide receiver coach.
He might be exactly what the Vikings need, as they continue to look for their franchise quarterback. Perhaps, he could be the offensive version of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who took over as their head coach in 2007 at the age of 35.
Bill O'Brien, Penn State Head Coach
One of the hottest names being tossed out there as an NFL head coach is Penn State's Bill O'Brien.
According to CBS Sports, the key to the coaching carousel is O'Brien. Almost every team that fired their head coach on Monday is rumored to be interested in O'Brien.
O'Brien has coached the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record the past two seasons. He has done a tremendous job taking over a program that was devastated only a few years ago with the dismissal of Joe Paterno, who had coached Penn State from 1966 to 2011.
Prior to coaching Penn State, O'Brien served as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2011. Before that, he called the offensive plays as the team's quarterback coach in 2009.
Since joining the Patriots in 2007 as an offensive assistant coach, New England's offense has been ranked no lower than eighth in points scored or yards gained. The Patriots have an 88-24 record since 2007.
O'Brien is a proven commodity, and he knows how a winning organization is run. The problem is the Vikings may be a little too late to be able to sign him.
Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator
Another name being mentioned frequently as one of the next head coaches in the NFL is a former head coach, Ken Whisenhunt.
A tweet from Ann Carroll from Vikings Weekly included Whisenhunt as a potential coaching candidate for the Minnesota Vikings.
His coaching career started in 1997 as the tight ends coach for the Ravens. He moved from the Ravens to the Browns and then the Jets before becoming the Steelers' tight end coach in 2011. In 2004, under head coach Bill Cowher, he was promoted to offensive coordinator. From 2004 to 2006, the Steelers were 34-14.
In 2007, Whisenhunt became the Cardinals head coach. In six seasons with the Cardinals, he had a 45-51 record. In 2008, after winning the NFC West with a 9-7 record, he shocked the NFL and guided the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII, where he faced his former team.
With Kurt Warner at quarterback, the Cardinals lost a close game to the Steelers, falling 27-23.
He was fired following a 5-11 record in 2012 and took over as the Chargers' offensive coordinator in 2013.
This past season, the Chargers offense improved dramatically, increasing their offensive production by 96.1 yards per game. That improved the Chargers' offensive ranking from 31st in 2012 to fifth in 2013. Quarterback Philip Rivers rebounded from a mediocre performance in 2012 to have one of his best seasons in 2013. He finished with 32 touchdowns and a passer rating of 105.5, matching his best rating in 2008, when he led the NFL in passing.
Whisenhunt is another candidate the Vikings desperately need to help groom a franchise quarterback. The key will be for him to make sure he finds a capable defensive coordinator to help on the other side of the ball. During his six seasons as the Arizona head coach, the defense was never ranked higher than 14th in scoring.
Other Names Being Tossed Around
I have no idea who the Minnesota Vikings have on their shortlist of coaching candidates. With a scan of the Twitterverse, there are plenty of names being tossed out by fans.
Former coaches Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Mike Singletary are mentioned, as well as some recent fired coaches like Mike Shanahan, Jim Schwartz and Jason Garrett (if he's fired).
All I know is until the Vikings announce their next head coach, the speculation will be wide and varied. Whoever takes over will have plenty of opportunities to improve the Vikings on both sides of the ball.