Leslie Frazier is calling an audible in the way the Vikings approach their coaching hires.
When Brad Childress was named head coach in 2006, he let the entire coaching staff go, as well as the head trainer and some of the support staff. The replacements on his first coaching staff were inexperienced in their newfound roles, especially the coordinators. Darrell Bevell had moved from coaching quarterback (or watching Brett Favre) with the Green Bay Packers to coordinating Childress' version of the West Coast offense. Mike Tomlin went from coaching defensive backs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to coordinating and installing the Tampa-2 defense in Minnesota in 2006. Paul Ferraro went from a one-year assistant on special teams with the Carolina Panthers after 23 years at the college level to coordinating the Vikings' special teams.
Although Tomlin (and Frazier after him) proved that inexperienced coordinators can have some success, Frazier is taking a different tact with interviews for offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator – his interviews so far have indicated a desire to find experienced, accomplished coaches for those positions.
The big name, of course, is former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who made a name for himself as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the New England Patriots from 2006-09.
With Tom Brady at quarterback and McDaniels at coordinator in 2007, the Patriots threw an NFL record 50 touchdowns and scored an NFL record 589 points as the Patriots' first loss of the season came in the Super Bowl. But McDaniels' bigger accomplishment may have come in 2008 when Brady's season ended in the opener with a knee injury and Matt Cassell, who hadn't started a regular-season football game since high school, led the Patriots to an 11-5 record and into the playoffs once again.
Despite some of Bill Belichick's coordinators leaving and creating an acrimonious relationship, he endorsed McDaniels' abilities.
"Josh McDaniels is one of the finest people and brightest, most talented coaches I have ever worked with," Belichick said in a statement when McDaniels was hired as head coach in Denver in 2009. "Since joining us eight years ago, Josh performed a variety of roles and excelled in every one of them."
McDaniels started on the defensive side of the ball for three years, then moved to quarterbacks coach in 2004 and finally to offensive coordinator in 2006. In eight seasons with the Patriots, McDaniels was part of three Super Bowl championships and his offensive success is obvious. As coordinator with the Patriots, his offense was seventh in points in 2006, first in yards and points in 2007, and fifth in yards and eighth in points in 2008 (with Cassell). As he tried to build a program in Denver, his offenses there the last two years were only average in yards and points.
Despite being only 32 years at the time he was hired by the Broncos, McDaniels took control, shipping out offensive stars Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall and still managing to be at about the league average on offense.
Clearly, McDaniels is in demand as several teams reportedly have interest in him if they end up with an opening at offensive coordinator. NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora reported that McDaniels could be in line for the Rams if offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur becomes Cleveland's head coach. Veteran St. Louis Rams reporter Howard Balzer says Childress should be a consideration for that position, and Childress has strong ties to Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, having coached together in Philadelphia.
McDaniels has also been rumored to be of interest in Kansas City since offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss is bolting for a similar position at the University of Florida. McDaniels would be reacquainting himself with Patriots ties in Kansas City, including Cassell and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
McDaniels has also been connected to the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator position if Mike Mullarkey leaves for the Browns.
All three of the other teams rumored to have a McDaniels interest have something in common – a young, established quarterback. The Chiefs have Cassell, who had his greatest success under McDaniels. The Rams have 2010 first overall draft pick Sam Bradford, who had an impressive rookie season. And the Falcons have one of the best young quarterbacks in the game with Matt Ryan.
The Vikings have Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar under contract, so the lack of a long-term, proven solution at the position might cost the Vikings a chance at a proven coordinator, just like at least one former free agent (T.J. Houshmandzadeh) eschewed the Vikings because they didn't have an established quarterback when he visited Minnesota in 2009, prior to Brett Favre's arrival.
But at least the Vikings are searching for established coordinators, and that holds true in the special teams area, which were Mike Priefer is being considered for the coordinator position.
Priefer worked under McDaniels in Denver, where the Broncos averaged 10.4 yards per punt return and 24.3 on kickoff returns. The Vikings averaged 8.6 and 22.3, respectively. The Broncos averaged giving up 11.0 yards on punt returns and 24.7 on kickoff returns under Priefer, while the Vikings had better averages there – 7.5 and 23.9 – in those two categories.
Priefer was also a special teams coach with Kansas City from 2006-08, the New York Giants (2003-05) and Jacksonville (2002).
As of Tuesday afternoon, no announcements about Vikings hires had been made, but this much is clear: They are targeting experienced coordinators this time around.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings target experienced coordinators
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