Monday's firing of Leslie Frazier has led to a lot of speculation as to what changes the new coaching staff will bring to the Vikings. The conventional wisdom is that rules changes in the game and innovations in the passing game have made the old-school schemes – the West Coast Offense and the Tampa-2 defense – antiquated since teams have had decades to learn how to attack both systems.
On Monday, general manager Rick Spielman was asked specifically if the new coaching staff would make changes defensively. He said the team will conduct its due diligence to determine which scheme is the best for them.
"We'll look at all that," Spielman said. "It will be interesting when you talk to a lot of these coaches, whether it's a 3-4 or a 4-3 – some teams run a 4-3 with a hybrid 3-4. There are so many different things going out there. I am very excited about the process, just to learn and to talk to a lot of different people to see their philosophies. The question that comes up now is the college (philosophies). It's usually trickled down where the NFL systems kind of went down to college. Now it seems with the type of athletes coming out in the draft that it's trickling up to the NFL, like the Philadelphia Eagles, which is a little bit of a spread offense, yet they had the leading rusher in the league. So it will be interesting as we go through this process because I'm looking forward to getting educated as well about a lot of different philosophies and how you approach this."
The reaction from players, still stinging from the loss of the coach who had been a part of the Vikings defense just about as long as any of them had been on the team, centered on the amount of work that will be included in a new defensive system. For one, rookie Sharrif Floyd knows all too well about the amount of extra work that goes into incorporating a new coaching philosophy.
"For me, it was a learning process this year picking up the system that we were running," Floyd said. "It's difficult when you have a coaching change because you have a relationship with those people and you work hard on learning the defense they're teaching. We had a couple of coaching changes while I was in college and each coach has his own way of doing things. It will be a learning process for all of us. It's never easy, but I've had experience with it."
Safety Harrison Smith echoed the sentiment, saying that change in the NFL is inevitable and that players have to roll with the new system.
"Nothing ever stays the same too long in the NFL," Smith said. "You see it all the time. You lose coaches if you don't win. You lose coaches if you're too successful and coordinators and position coaches get jobs with other teams looking to copy that level of success. How many times has New England lost a coach? It seems like almost every year. I don't know if we're going to have a different style of defense, but it seems like whatever that coach has run before he will run here, too."
A pair of names that have already surfaced as defensive-minded coaches as potential head coaching candidates are Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Considering the Seahawks run a 4-3 defense and Arizona runs a 3-4, the Vikings are clearly doing their due diligence in reviewing the options that will be available to them, but it's looking more like the Tampa-2 defense will leave with Frazier.
When it comes to offense, however, it appears as though the selling point if the Vikings hire an offensive-minded head coach will be someone that will develop a young quarterback. That process, whether it's with a new offensive coordinator or the head coach, will be made somewhat easier because the team will have the game's most dominant running back as the centerpiece of the offense.
"I think that will depend on what we hear from these head coaches as we interview," Spielman said. "We're going into this very open-minded. I also know what Adrian Peterson is as a running back. I know we've been successful running the ball. But I'm anxious to hear the philosophies of some of these potential coaches that we're going to interview."
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson knows that there will be an adjustment period for him once again if a dramatically different offensive scheme is employed. It will be his fourth new offense in four years – going from junior college to one year at Tennessee to the Bill Musgrave-directed offense to the new coaching regime coming in. He's learned the hard way that changes come quickly and players need to adjust.
"It's going to be difficult," Patterson said. "Coming in as a rookie, learning an offense and the next year your head coach gets fired. Maybe other guys will get fired, so it's going to be a whole new offense. It's going to be different, but it's my job. I'm going to pick it up."
While the names will change, the philosophy likely will be the same. There are only a handful of truly dominant running backs in the new-look NFL and Peterson heads that list. Guard Charlie Johnson declined to speculate on whether the new head coach will bring in a different system because, as a free agent, he isn't sure whether he's part of the Vikings' future plans, but, even if he is gone, he expects the offense will include steady doses of Peterson.
"It's going to be different for me because I don't even know if I'm going to be here," Johnson said. "I can't really comment on what I think is going to happen here, but I think it's going to predominantly feature Adrian. I don't see that changing."
While there was a somber vibe in the Vikings locker room Monday, the plans for 2014 are already underway in the offices at Winter Park. Coaches will be interviewed and the Vikings will weigh their options. Whether the team implodes the current core of veteran players for yet another youth movement or not will unfold in the coming months, but Brian Robison believes in the end, the Vikings will make the most of the new situation and come out with a different outlook heading into 2014.
"Change can always be good," Robison said. "It obviously makes things a little more interesting. But it's one of those deals where you've got to take it in stride. You've just got to make the best of it, and hopefully it's one of those deals that will turn our season around next year. You look at teams with what they did last year, like Philadelphia and Kansas City, and things they've been able to do under new staffs. Hopefully we'll be able to do that next year."
Whether the Vikings make dramatic changes that will require different personnel or not, it would appear change is on the horizon and the days of the old-school West Coast Offense that Joe Montana once ran and a Tampa-2 defense that had its genesis with Tony Dungy when he was with the Vikings are going the way of the dinosaur and the Vikings will enter 2014 with a very different look on both sides of the ball.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings keep options open for new schemes
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