With each week, the hunt for new head coaches becomes more pronounced. The Vikings reportedly already have two interviews set up for today and tomorrow. The weather won't be a selling point for either, both of whom have recently or are currently serving as the defensive coordinators of the Arizona Cardinals.
Todd Bowles, the current Arizona defensive coordinator, is scheduled to meet with Vikings officials today. Ray Horton, who spent 2013 with Cleveland after being the defensive coordinator in Arizona, is scheduled to visit tomorrow. Both of those interviews could be taking place in Phoenix, but all it would take is a glance at a national weather map for those coaches see temperatures in the 20s below zero in Minnesota.
The Cardinals have been an interesting mix when it comes to defense. In 2012, Horton switched the base defense of the Cardinals at midseason and was able to get on a late-season run, despite a horrible offense. Last year, Bowles had six new starters, but helped push the Cardinals to 10 wins and an overtime loss to San Francisco from making the playoffs. Both are viewed as commodities for a team looking to build around a young defense with a new outlook.
However, two other names that have been rumor grist are Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, the coordinators for the three-time one-and-done playoff Bengals. With Cincinnati making a first-round exit for the third straight year Sunday, the Bengals season is over one week after the Vikings' season was done. Things can move quickly, as both coordinators could be the type of vision the Vikings are looking for – developing aggressive defenders (Zimmer) or bringing a high-octane offensive scheme to develop a young quarterback and receivers (Gruden).
A case can be made to hire a coach with a specialty on one side of the ball or the other. With Michael Vick (or so the original thought was), LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles' choice for a head coach was simple – go offense and hire Chip Kelly.
Many teams find themselves in the Super Bowl mix by loading up on one side of the ball. Tampa Bay and Baltimore proved you could win a title with a dominant defense and competent offense. New Orleans and Indianapolis proved you can have a prolific offense and an opportunistic defense that gave up yards, but made big plays. Seattle didn't get the No. 1 seed in the NFC by virtue of a high-octane offense. Denver certainly didn't get the AFC's No. 1 seed on the back of its defense. When the Vikings dominated in the 1970s, it was due largely to its defense. In the magical 1998 and 2009 seasons, it was offense that stirred the pot and the Vikings had offensive-minded coaches.
In a league that is getting more and more exotic on offense while defensive players are eventually going to be restricted to a hitting zone the size of a tough umpire's strike zone, it might be in the best interest to "pick a side." There are a lot of questions on defense, but you have the best running back in the league, exciting young receivers in Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph, a veteran leader in Greg Jennings and at least three foundation pieces on the offensive line (Matt Kalil, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt). That's a good starting point.
Quarterback remains the elephant in the room, but an aggressive offensive scheme instead of the ball control/field position game the Vikings played under Frazier could make the Vikings an imposing offense, especially in a division with a lot of defensive questions from top to bottom heading into 2014. They all have formidable offenses.
If you can't beat then, join them … or at least copy the blueprint.
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.
Vikings have variety with coaching interviews
Viking Update Top Stories
Zimmer will travel, coach; location uncertainMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will travel with his team on Saturday but says doctor’s orders are that he shouldn’t get hit.
Viking Update12:02 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer talks Jaguars, run game, moreMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talks about the running game, the Jaguars defense, Adam Thielen, his coaching status and more.
Viking Update11:34 AM
Vikings starters Berger, Smith ruled outThe Minnesota Vikings could be without starting center Joe Berger and starting safety Harrison Smith on Sunday.
Viking Update9:39 AM
Hard-core stats: Vikings vs. JaguarsA look at just how much and where Jacksonville has struggled this season and where the Minnesota Vikings might be able to take advantage.
Viking Update8:39 AM