Holler: Vikings need coaching stability

While the rest of the NFC North has nearly entire coaching staffs back intact, the Vikings will experience turnover at several key positions. In a year with no real offseason, that's another hurdle to overcome.

While this week promises to be a frenzy of activity with the signing of players that could tip the balance of power among the eight NFL divisions, fans haven't put a lot of focus on the aspect of continuity in the coaching staffs – which may be more critical than any offensive or defensive signings made in the next few days.

It is rare when an entire coaching staff comes back intact. Either an aspect of the team struggles and a head coach, a coordinator or a position coach are fired, or, to the other extreme, a team is so successful, the lesser teams in the league raid their assistant coaches in hopes of capturing that magic. The longer a coaching staff remains intact, the odds are markedly better for team success. However, there are very few (VERY few) teams that will come into the 2011 season with their head coach, offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators and the position coaches (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, LB and DB) returning.

How few are there? Try four – the New York Jets, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

What makes it worse for the Vikings is that the NFC North is about as static as any division in the league, which means the other three teams know their personnel inside and out and vice versa with the players. The Lions made no coaching changes, the only change the Bears made was to replace defensive line coach Eric Washington with Mike Phair, who spent the last six years as an assistant D-line coach in Seattle, and the only moves the Packers made were moving running backs coach Edgar Bennett to wide receivers coach to replace Jimmy Robinson (who took the receivers coach job with Dallas) and promoting assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot to running backs coach.

In each instance, almost the entire coaching staff is in place from last year. Given that the Packers won the Super Bowl, the Bears won the NFC North and the Lions were one of the most improved teams in 2010, it isn't surprising but it has to be troubling for the Vikings and their fans that the other three teams will hit the ground running.

Not only do the Vikings have a rookie quarterback who, depending on Donovan McNabb's willingness to take a significant pay cut, could be starting at some point this season, but they have an offensive coaching staff that hasn't had a chance to incorporate the new offense in with the players.

The defensive coaching staff is almost entirely intact – the only change from last year was that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is now the head coach, linebackers coach Fred Pagac is the defensive coordinator and Mike Singletary is new linebackers coach. From the defensive side, even with a lockout, it would be a win-win situation on the defensive side of the ball. Offense? That's another story.

The "Brad Childress guys" on the coaching staff are gone, as is running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who took a position with the University of Colorado. Bill Musgrave replaced Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator and, while he has big changes planned from the West Coast offense Bevell ran (and the terminology all of his players were familiar with), he has yet to work with any of the offensive players he is coordinating. Craig Johnson is the new QB coach, but it looks like he will have nothing but new QBs (save Joe Webb) to work with. James Saxon replaces Bieniemy as the running backs coach. Jeff Davidson takes over as offensive line coach and Mike Priefer is new as the special teams coordinator.

All of them are important, but the last two of those names may well be the most important. O-line cohesion is needed for any offense to succeed and, as the Vikings proved three years ago, multiple games can be lost by gaffes from the special teams. Considering that many of the final half-dozen players on the 53-man roster have been kept because of their acumen on special teams, not having a full body of work to deal with could make matters pretty dicey for any team with a new special teams coach.

Everyone else in the NFC North has the same cast of coaching characters. The only surviving offensive coaches for the Vikings from the Chilly Administration are wide receivers coach George Stewart and tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson. Everybody else is new on the job and it takes time for players to "buy in" to a coach's personal philosophy. While the Packers, Bears and Lions players (in all three aspects of the game) are all intimately familiar with their coaches, the Vikings are starting fresh – almost like the three other teams running a relay race in which they can start running before they get the baton and the Vikings with a hand in the dirt having to begin from a dead stop.

The Vikings know coming into the season that they are facing long odds to go from worst to first in the NFC North, but it isn't just with personnel on the field. It's also with the coaches on the sideline.

WEDNESDAY NOTES

  • It shouldn't shock Vikings fans that the team is interested in Donovan McNabb. It's in their blood. Since Tommy Kramer faded out, the Vikings began a carousel of quarterbacks, including Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. Then Denny Green drafted Daunte Culpepper. When he got injured and his career went in the dumper, the revolving door included Johnson for a second run, Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre and Joe Webb. Given their track record, bringing in McNabb doesn't break from tradition – it adds to it.

  • The deal on the table that Tarvaris Jackson is expected to sign Friday with the Seattle Seahawks is reported to be a two-year, $8 million deal.

  • While Seattle won't be bringing Matt Hasselbeck back – he agreed to terms with the Titans –T-Jack May have another Matt to deal with in his quest to become a starter again. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll may be looking to reunite with former USC standout and current NFL bust quarterback Matt Leinart. If the two of them play equally well in the preseason, who will have the final word – the offensive coordinator (Bevell) or the head coach (Carroll)? History says bet on the head coach.

  • FOXSports.com reports that the Vikings and Redskins have agreed on compensation for Donovan McNabb – a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2013 – and all that stands in the way is restructuring McNabb's contract.

  • If the Vikings want to roll the dice, they may want to wait a week and hope they can work their own deal with McNabb without compensation. It seems absurd (but, with Daniel Snyder, absurd is a relative term). On Nov. 18, 2010, McNabb signed a five-year contract extension worth anywhere between $70 million and $88.5 million. But, if he was to be released, somehow the Redskins would only be on the hook for $3.75 million. If McNabb is still on the Redskins roster in two weeks, the first of several crippling bonuses kick in – to the tune of about $6.5 million. That's a little spendy for a guy who isn't coming back. Clearly, the Vikings need to get McNabb to back off those salary numbers, but, if he doesn't, he will become an unrestricted free agent able to sign with anyone – which could increase his price depending on what teams are in need of a veteran QB.


    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.



  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" While this week promises to be a frenzy of activity with the signing of players that could tip the balance of power among the eight NFL divisions, fans haven't put a lot of focus on the aspect of continuity in the coaching staffs – which may be more critical than any offensive or defensive signings made in the next few days. It is rare when an entire coaching staff comes back intact. Either an aspect of the team struggles and a head coach, a coordinator or a position coach are fired, or, to the other extreme, a team is so successful, the lesser teams in the league raid their assistant coaches in hopes of capturing that magic. The longer a coaching staff remains intact, the odds are markedly better for team success. However, there are very few (VERY few) teams that will come into the 2011 season with their head coach, offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators and the position coaches (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL, LB and DB) returning. How few are there? Try four – the New York Jets, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh and Detroit. What makes it worse for the Vikings is that the NFC North is about as static as any division in the league, which means the other three teams know their personnel inside and out and vice versa with the players. The Lions made no coaching changes, the only change the Bears made was to replace defensive line coach Eric Washington with Mike Phair, who spent the last six years as an assistant D-line coach in Seattle, and the only moves the Packers made were moving running backs coach Edgar Bennett to wide receivers coach to replace Jimmy Robinson (who took the receivers coach job with Dallas) and promoting assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot to running backs coach. In each instance, almost the entire coaching staff is in place from last year. Given that the Packers won the Super Bowl, the Bears won the NFC North and the Lions were one of the most improved teams in 2010, it isn't surprising but it has to be troubling for the Vikings and their fans that the other three teams will hit the ground running. Not only do the Vikings have a rookie quarterback who, depending on Donovan McNabb's willingness to take a significant pay cut, could be starting at some point this season, but they have an offensive coaching staff that hasn't had a chance to incorporate the new offense in with the players. The defensive coaching staff is almost entirely intact – the only change from last year was that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is now the head coach, linebackers coach Fred Pagac is the defensive coordinator and Mike Singletary is new linebackers coach. From the defensive side, even with a lockout, it would be a win-win situation on the defensive side of the ball. Offense? That's another story. The \"Brad Childress guys\" on the coaching staff are gone, as is running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who took a position with the University of Colorado. Bill Musgrave replaced Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator and, while he has big changes planned from the West Coast offense Bevell ran (and the terminology all of his players were familiar with), he has yet to work with any of the offensive players he is coordinating. Craig Johnson is the new QB coach, but it looks like he will have nothing but new QBs (save Joe Webb) to work with. James Saxon replaces Bieniemy as the running backs coach. Jeff Davidson takes over as offensive line coach and Mike Priefer is new as the special teams coordinator. All of them are important, but the last two of those names may well be the most important. O-line cohesion is needed for any offense to succeed and, as the Vikings proved three years ago, multiple games can be lost by gaffes from the special teams. Considering that many of the final half-dozen players on the 53-man roster have been kept because of their acumen on special teams, not having a full body of work to deal with could make matters pretty dicey for any team with a new special teams coach. Everyone else in the NFC North has the same cast of coaching characters. The only surviving offensive coaches for the Vikings from the Chilly Administration are wide receivers coach George Stewart and tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson. Everybody else is new on the job and it takes time for players to \"buy in\" to a coach's personal philosophy. While the Packers, Bears and Lions players (in all three aspects of the game) are all intimately familiar with their coaches, the Vikings are starting fresh – almost like the three other teams running a relay race in which they can start running before they get the baton and the Vikings with a hand in the dirt having to begin from a dead stop. The Vikings know coming into the season that they are facing long odds to go from worst to first in the NFC North, but it isn't just with personnel on the field. It's also with the coaches on the sideline.
  • It shouldn't shock Vikings fans that the team is interested in Donovan McNabb. It's in their blood. Since Tommy Kramer faded out, the Vikings began a carousel of quarterbacks, including Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. Then Denny Green drafted Daunte Culpepper. When he got injured and his career went in the dumper, the revolving door included Johnson for a second run, Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre and Joe Webb. Given their track record, bringing in McNabb doesn't break from tradition – it adds to it.
  • The deal on the table that Tarvaris Jackson is expected to sign Friday with the Seattle Seahawks is reported to be a two-year, $8 million deal.
  • While Seattle won't be bringing Matt Hasselbeck back – he agreed to terms with the Titans –T-Jack May have another Matt to deal with in his quest to become a starter again. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll may be looking to reunite with former USC standout and current NFL bust quarterback Matt Leinart. If the two of them play equally well in the preseason, who will have the final word – the offensive coordinator (Bevell) or the head coach (Carroll)? History says bet on the head coach.
  • FOXSports.com reports that the Vikings and Redskins have agreed on compensation for Donovan McNabb – a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2013 – and all that stands in the way is restructuring McNabb's contract.
  • If the Vikings want to roll the dice, they may want to wait a week and hope they can work their own deal with McNabb without compensation. It seems absurd (but, with Daniel Snyder, absurd is a relative term). On Nov. 18, 2010, McNabb signed a five-year contract extension worth anywhere between $70 million and $88.5 million. But, if he was to be released, somehow the Redskins would only be on the hook for $3.75 million. If McNabb is still on the Redskins roster in two weeks, the first of several crippling bonuses kick in – to the tune of about $6.5 million. That's a little spendy for a guy who isn't coming back. Clearly, the Vikings need to get McNabb to back off those salary numbers, but, if he doesn't, he will become an unrestricted free agent able to sign with anyone – which could increase his price depending on what teams are in need of a veteran QB.
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