Assessing Vikings' latest coaching candidates

The Vikings' tour of interviewing coordinators around the NFL continues. We assess the latest half-dozen to emerge as candidates, from their history to their in-depth rankings this year.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman continues to cast a wide net over the team's search for the next head coach.

With interviews reportedly already conducted over the weekend with Seattle's coordinators – Darrell Bevell on offense and Dan Quinn on defense – as well as an interview with Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday, Speilman has been busy.

The Vikings had also expressed interested in Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gases, who said he won't interview for other coaching opportunities until the Broncos' postseason run is done.

VikingUpdate.com already previewed those coaches and their 2013 rankings in an earlier article.

Since then, others have publicly popped up on the Vikings' radar. They are scheduled to interview Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Tuesday and the team has expressed interest in both of Cincinnati's coordinators – Jay Gruden on offense and Mike Zimmer on defense – along with the offensive coordinators of the Baltimore Ravens (Jim Caldwell), San Diego Chargers (Ken Whisenhunt) and San Francisco 49ers (Greg Roman).

Here is the latest on, well, the latest Vikings interests, according to various media reports:

Ray Horton, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator

The scoop: After two seasons as the Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator, Horton was shipped out with the coaching change there and took over in the same capacity for the Browns in 2013. They, too, fired their head coach and Horton is looking for work once again. He's a 19-year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks, which was preceded by a 10-year playing career as a defensive back.

Prior to the Browns: Before becoming a defensive coordinator with the Cardinals and then the Browns, Horton was a defensive backs coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-10), Detroit Lions (2002-03), Cincinnati Bengals (1997-2001) and Washington Redskins (1994-96).

The rankings: The Browns defense ranked ninth in total yards per game, but third in total yards per play on defense. They were also fourth in passing average and eighth in both rushing average and pass yards per game. The big downfall was third-down efficiency, where they ranked 31st, one slot worse than the Vikings. Previously with the Cardinals, Horton's defense was second in third-down efficiency and led the NFL in passer rating allowed (71.2) and interception percentage (4.4).

Jay Gruden, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator

The scoop: Like many coordinators on the rise, the Vikings could have competition for Gruden. The Redskins, Tennessee Titans and Lions have also expressed an interest. Now that the Bengals season is over, their coordinators can interview freely with teams interested in them as head coaches. While he has had three good seasons with the Bengals, they have also been one-and-done in the playoffs each of the last three years. Gruden is credited with helping simplify the Bengals offense and allowing QB Andy Dalton more freedom in that offense, but Dalton hasn't played well in the playoffs. Gruden interviewed with four teams after the 2012 season.

Prior to the Bengals: Before joining the Bengals, Gruden spent most of the years from 1991 to 2001 coaching and playing quarterback in the AFL and UFL. He won four league championships as a quarterback and two as a head coach there. From 2002-2008 he was an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The rankings: The Bengals ranked 10th in yards per game on offense, eighth in passing yards per game and ninth in passing average and third in sacks per pass play. But they were also 28th in rushing average and 24th in the percentage of passes they had intercepted.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator

The scoop: Zimmer just completed his 20th season as an NFL coach and his sixth as defensive coordinator of the Bengals. He has been a defensive coordinator for 14 years. The Bengals have consistently been a top-10 defense under Zimmer, finishing third in 2013, making it four of the last five years in the top 10. He has interviewed for head coaching positions the previous two offseasons, as well. He has succeeded with 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. According to NFL reporter Adam Caplan, Zimmer could target Hue Jackson on offense and Paul Guenther on defense as his coordinators.

Prior to the Bengals: Before joining the Bengals in 2008, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and Dallas Cowboys from 2000-06 (four of those seasons under Bill Parcells). Previously, he held different coaching duties with the Cowboys, Washington State, Weber State and Missouri after playing quarterback and linebacker for Illinois State.

The rankings: The Bengals ranked third on defense in 2013, second in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards, were tied for third in first downs per game, were second in third-down efficiency and fifth in fourth-down efficiency.

Jim Caldwell, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator

The scoop: Caldwell took over offensive coordinator duties for the Ravens in December 2012 on their run to a Super Bowl win. QB Joe Flacco threw for 1,140 yards in the playoffs for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions (117.2 rating). His extensive work with successful quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco could be a selling point for the Vikings.

Prior to the Ravens: Before becoming quarterbacks coach of the Ravens in 2012, Caldwell spent the previous decade with the Indianapolis Colts, including three years as their head coach. The Colts went to the Super Bowl his first season there. Had also coached with the Buccaneers (2001, with Brad Johnson), Wake Forest (1993-2000), Penn State (1986-92), Louisville (1985), Colorado (1982-84), Northwestern (1981), Southern Illinois (1978-80) and Iowa (1977).

The rankings: Despite all his previous success, the Ravens ranked 29th in in total offense in 2013, 32nd in passing yards and 30th in rushing yards in a down year.

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator

The scoop: The former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals became the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers in 2013 and is reportedly drawing interest from the Redskins, Lions and Titans in addition to the Vikings. The Cardinals were .500 or better in each of his six seasons there, amassing a 33-18 record at home, including 3-0 in home playoff games. After his playing career, he spent a year playing golf extensively and competed in the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

Prior to the Chargers: In addition to his head-coaching stint with the Cardinals, Whisenhunt spent 10 years as an assistant coach – tight ends with the Ravens from 1997-98, New York Jets in 2000 and Pittsburgh Steelers from 2001-03, and special teams with the Browns in 1999 and offensive coordinator with the Steelers from 2004-2006, where he won a Super Bowl following the 2005 season.

The rankings: The Chargers finished with the fifth-ranked offense, fifth in passing yards and 13th in rushing yards, eighth in percentage of passes intercepted, sixth in sacks per pass play, third in first downs per game, first in third-down efficiency and second fourth-down efficiency.

Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator

The scoop: In his third year as the 49ers offensive coordinator, Roman reportedly is also garnering interest from the Redskins, Lions and Titans. He would have to interview this week or wait until the 49ers are out of the playoffs. He has coached 15 years in the NFL.

Prior to the 49ers: Roman followed Jim Harbaugh from Stanford (2009-10) to the 49ers. Prior to that, he was with the Ravens (2006-07), Houston Texans (2002-03) and Carolina Panthers (1995-2001).

The rankings: The 49ers, who are still in the playoffs, finished the regular season 24th in total offense and third in rushing yards per game, seventh in the percentage of passes intercepted and seventh in third-down efficiency.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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