The Vikings were one of the rare instances in which a coaching roster is only partially gutted when a head coach is dismissed. When Childress was hired, the coaching staff of Mike Tice went summarily out the door with him. When Chilly was placed in front of the coaching firing squad following a humbling home loss to Green Bay Nov. 21, 2010, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was promoted to head coach and linebackers coach Fred Pagac ascended to defensive coordinator. Following the season, an overhaul was done, but it was only partial.
The big change on defense was the hiring of Mike Singletary as special assistant head coach/linebackers coach, filling in the void created by the Frazier and Pagac promotions. The special teams got an overhaul with the dismissal of coordinator Brian Murphy and the hiring of Mike Priefer. On the offensive side of the ball, however, there was significant change.
Once installed as head coach, Frazier brought in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson to replaced three fired coaches and added running backs coach James Saxon after Eric Bieniemy accepted the offensive coordinator job at the University of Colorado.
The coordinator and three position coaches are gone, but two of the five offensive position coaches remain from the old regime – wide receivers coach George Stewart and tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson.
In a backhanded way, the lockout has been a hastened bonding exercise for the offensive staff. They're still working 50 hours a week, despite being drill sergeants without a class of recruits to whip into shape. It has forced them to work markedly more together and has helped them form a bond and shared vision.
"With a new coaching staff, in some ways, it has really benefitted us to get so much work in together," Stewart said. "We've been able to get some game plans and things of that nature together. The chemistry of our coaching staff is starting to come, so everything is working well."
Stewart came to the Vikings in 2007, a year after Childress and Jimmie Johnson joined the Vikings staff. At the time, he was the new guy in a coaching group that had been together for a year and knew how each operated. He was the fish out of water. With the new coaches coming in, Stewart said that the lockout has been a chance for all of them – old and new – to get a feel for the vision the others bring to the table. If not for the lockout, they likely would be wearing coaching blinders, working almost exclusively with the young players fighting to earn a roster spot.
"There's no question this is a good group [of coaches]," Stewart said. "Bill Musgrave is going to be a super offensive coordinator for us. We hired Jeff Davidson from Carolina and Craig Johnson as our quarterbacks coach. [The lockout] has given us time to get together as a staff and give us a chance to mesh together."
All they need now is players to coach. The staff has been preparing at an offseason level like never before. They're like marksmen with rifles, but no bullets. Stewart said he hopes the current tide of momentum toward an agreement will continue, because, while the lockout has been an unintended opportunity for the staff to get acclimated to the styles of their fellow coaches, until they can return to their "real" jobs – coaching young talent – there is unfinished business.
"You can only do so much without having the players here," Stewart said. "Hopefully everything will get resolved soon and we'll be able to move forward. Fortunately for us, we'll be doing that with the coaches all on the same page."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.