The Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Situation And How To Rebuild The Struggling Vikings.
Many things have happened to the Minnesota Vikings this season from bad coaching to the team all-out quitting. Even though this season has turned out as a huge disappointment, one thing more than any other should be remembered. And that is the fact that the Minnesota Vikings are still a team with a huge amount of talent on both sides of the football. It is now clear that the Vikings, as an organization, will have to rebuild, but that should be easier for this team than it would be for others.
The head coaching position has been and continues to be a huge talking point regarding the Vikings and the position will need to be addressed soon before the situation gets more embarrassing for the Vikings.
If firing the head coach after the horrific start is what the owner Zygi Wilf chooses to do, he could go about it in a few different ways. The first way being to fire Childress now and replace him with Leslie Frazier for the remainder of the season. If Frazier fails to impress, then nothing has really been lost. If he does impress, the Vikings will have a much better idea of what direction to send the team. Another way to go would be to hang tight for a couple months and fire Childress in the offseason. While this may make more sense to some people, not a lot of Vikings fans would approve of this approach as they want to see action taken now.
Zygi may also just decide to clear house regarding the coaching staff and appoint a President similar to Mike Holmgren for the Browns. Who would then in turn hire his own head coach and staff. A possible name to throw out their would be Tony Dungy who has strong ties with Minnesota being an ex-coach of both the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. He also went to college at Minnesota. Another option for Mr. Wilf with him being a life-long New York Giants fan could be for him to try to bring in Bill Parcels to turn the team around. Either move would be extremely popular with Vikings fans given the track record of both men.
Of course Zygi could just stick with the man (Childress) he gave a huge contract extension to just last offseason until things either begin to improve or grow so bad there is little choice than to make changes. This is unlikely to happen as with the Vikings still having tough games on their schedule if Brad Childress were to somehow keep his job after a horrendous display against the Packers. There are still a lot of games the Vikings can lose with them still having to play the Redskins, Bears, the Eagles and the Giants in the coming weeks.
I cant see Childress keeping his job with the Vikings winning less than 7 games. And seeing the display they put out against the Packers a 7-9 season looks out of the Vikings reach at the moment. A statement that would have been met with both amazement and ridicule before Week 1 of the season.
With the Vikings looking more and more desperate each passing week it is now essential that they rebuild from what has been a somewhat dire season. Childress may not be as bad of a head coach as some people are saying, he does have a pretty decent record as a head coach but he has lost the team and more importantly he has lost the fans and when that happens it's almost impossible to recover.
The team under Childress also seems to be deflated; there seems to be no form of winning mentality, no sort of collective goals and without that there is no reason for a team to even take the field. Childress is a walking PR disaster and has no communication skills what so ever.
An example of this would be the release of Randy Moss which went about as smoothly as a hurricane. His relationships with his players have seen him come up short, as well. The players were never going to react well with him throwing Brett Favre under a bus with his comments after the first Packers game and his confrontation with Percy Harvin that ended with the pair needing to be separated.
The Vikings season has quickly descended into despair and even the most die hard of Vikings fans would realize that if something isn’t done soon, there is a real threat of the Vikings spending the next few seasons in the shadows.
Another factor that has to be taken into account are the Vikings plans for a new stadium. As of yet, the Minnesota public has been less than willing to use public money to finance part of the stadium costs. And with the Vikings lease at the Mall of America Field running out fast, the play of the Vikings will not persuade the public to help finance the new stadium.
Zygi Wilf has gone on record saying that if public money is not made available to help finance a new stadium for the Vikings, he will consider relocating the franchise. Whether this is a scare tactic or a genuine threat remains to be seen, but what happens with the team over the coming seasons will greatly affect any Vikings stadium proposal. This factor could play a huge part in the moves that the owner will make over the coming weeks and during the offseason.
The one thing the Vikings have going for them is the fact that the team is full of quality football players. That being said there are areas of the organization that need to be addressed. If the right steps are made during the coming weeks and during the offseason, the Vikings can be put back on track and look back at this season as a small blip, but that is a huge if.
Step one of any plan to rebuild the Vikings should almost definitely be to fire the head coach, Childress (that is unless you want to get rid of the entire playing staff instead). By firing Childress, the owner will be showing the fans that he will not stand for what has happened this season and also show that he is committed to making the Vikings a better team. While firing Childress may not have a great affect on results for the rest of the season it surely cannot hurt as the Vikings have no real chance at the postseason. It would also give Vikings Defensive Coordinator / Assistant Head Coach Leslie Frazier six games to stake his claim to become an NFL head coach.
Once the season is done, Wilf can go about the coaching structure however he likes, whether he elects to hire a president or just appoint a new head coach. If Leslie Frazier is appointed interim Head Coach and does well he should definitely be considered for the role fulltime. He has shown during his time as the defensive coordinator that he is a good coach and makes good decisions. That being said, no matter how well Frazier may perform, the ownership should interview more candidates for the job as there is no harm in trying to find the best fit for a football team.
Once the head coach has sorted that out, things begin to fall into place. Whether the new head coach elects to keep some or all of the current staff or bring in his own, the team will begin to take shape. Once all staff positions are filled and a winning mentality is restored there aren’t too many steps to turn turn this team around.
Before any trades or free agent signings are made to improve the team, a major step in rebuilding the team is retaining their own upcoming free agents. Assuming that there will be a season next year and the new CBA contains a franchise tag, the Vikings should be able to resign their major free agents. Zygi Wilf has shown that he is not a cost cutter (despite the Vikings rating 31st in the league for income) and is prepared to spend when needed. And Zygi will need to open up his check book quite a bit this offseason.
The players whose contracts are up at the end of the season are:
I don’t have to tell you how important these players are to the team. The Vikings can't afford to let many of them go. Given the fact that Sidney Rice will be one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in up-and-coming free agency he may be the hardest player to resign due to the fact that he may want to test free agency to find a better deal. If that is the case, look for Sidney to be franchise-tagged and eventually signed to a long-term deal.
The next most important player to resign is Chad Greenway. An unsung hero in the Vikings defense, he currently leads the Vikings in tackles. He is highly productive and plays with a great engine and should be resigned at all costs.
Ryan Longwell has now become one of the best kickers in the league. Not only does he have great accuracy, he also has a longer range than people give him credit for. Although kickers are a dime a dozen in the NFL, Ryan Longwell should be resigned as he is a very consistent player.
The other three players about to hit free agency all play a major role in the teams' defense. Pat Williams is a superb run blocker and an excellent influence in the locker room. Ben Leber does a fantastic job in coverage for a linebacker and also contributes a lot of tackles. Ray Edwards has also come on strong over the last season or so. It may be hard to resign Edwards, because last offseason he was looking for a long-term contract and was not the happiest when he didn’t get one.
If the Vikings are able to resign their upcoming free agents or at least their most important free agents (Rice and Greenway), the team would be in a good position to strengthen the rest of the squad. Adrian Peterson's contract situation should also be remembered at this stage. He is likely to get a big contract extension soon as the last thing the Vikings will want is to have their best player getting to the end of next season without a commitment.
A major need for the Vikings this offseason will be a new quarterback. With the way the Vikings have performed this season, I don’t think anyone would believe Brett Favre would come back even if the Vikings win out the rest of the season. Tavaris Jackson has shown that he is not a player that can improve the Vikings. He has the ability to play well from time to time, but often falls short of what is required. His leadership skills are also not the best due to his reserved demeanour. Jackson is also a free agent this offseason and has said he will move on if he isn’t going to be the starter in Minnesota. That leaves the Vikings looking for a new quarterback.
The Vikings will likely have a high top 10 draft pick in the upcoming draft, which they could always use on trying to find their quarterback of the future. With a good quarterback class about to enter the NFL draft, the Vikings could use their pick on a player like Andrew Luck or Ryan Mallett, both of which could become very successful NFL quarterbacks. But with the offensive line playing the way they have and the aging Steve Hutchinson and Bryant Mckinnie starting to slip, it's likely the Vikings will play safe and take a lineman. The Vikings could always see a player they like in the lower rounds but that is unlikely as they already have an QB project in Joe Webb. Minnesota is also missing its third round pick (Randy Moss trade), so drafting a quarterback lower than the first or second round is extremely unlikely.
The Vikings will likely try to fix their quarterback situation either through trade or free agency. A trade is the most likely as there aren’t too many big name quarterbacks expected to hit free agency. Kevin Kolb's name has been in the media since his benching and many expect him to be available for trade this coming offseason. He has been highly productive when he has played for the Eagles and if the Vikings can get him for a second round pick, expect them to make that deal. Michael Vick is also coming to the end of his contract, but with the way he has been playing, it would be a real surprise to see him hit free agency, but stranger things have happened. A Vick-Peterson Combination would have the entire NFL running in fear, but again, it would take a huge contract to get Vick as their QB would be a lot of other teams in the race to sign him.
Whether the Vikings decide on drafting, trading or signing a quarterback off free agency, they will need someone who can play there for seasons to come as that position needs stability more than any other.
If the quarterback situation can be sorted, there is only one other area that needs a lot of concern and that is the Vikings secondary. The Vikings have been unlucky over the last two seasons with injury's to their cornerbacks. Antoine Winfield was injured last season with a persistent ankle injury and Cedric Griffin has torn the same ACL twice in the last year. Both players are consistent and are good quality starters but as you go further down the depth chart there is little to no real depth.
The Vikings drafted Chris Cook in the 2010 draft and so far he has been inconsistent to say the least. He will eventually become a good nickel corner, but not much else. Asher Allen is also destined to be not much more than a decent back up, and considering both players have started multiple games this season it is easy to see why the Vikings secondary has struggled.
In the offseason, Minnesota will need to address this situation. Players like Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker should be let go and more capable players replacing them. The safeties are inconsistent but there is a lot of talent there. If they can step it up a gear, they should have no problems with loosing their positions.
With the glaring holes now fixed all the Vikings would really have to do is upgrade on some of their backups. The depth chart of the Vikings shows that they lack effective back ups at offensive line, wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback. Ryan Cook is the only back up offensive lineman that has ever really played consistently in the team which won't help much if players start going down. The backup situation should be the easiest to handle due to all the changes NFL team make during the offseason and training camp.
If the following changes are made, the Vikings should have no problems making the playoffs over the coming seasons and maybe making a run at the Super Bowl. After all, they still have players like Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Steve Hutchinson. This team is to good and to talented to stay in the shadows.
Update: The Minnesota Vikings have now made the first step towards rebuilding the team by firing Brad Childress and appointing Leslie Frazier interim Head Coach. More To Follow.........