‘Final four' of Vikings' best candidates?

The Vikings aren't in a hurry to make a decision on their next head coach, but GM Rick Spielman continues to interview coordinators and will eventually narrow the list to "two or three." Here are our top four among 10 already connected to the Vikings, why they rank there and the latest with them.

Rick Spielman made it clear the hiring of a new head coach would be "thorough," not hurried. That's becoming clear as reported interest and interviews have taken place and are scheduled to take place.

The ideal timeframe for the Minnesota Vikings general manager to have a new head coach in place is by the Senior Bowl, or more likely by the start of Senior Bowl week on Jan. 20 so the head coach can talk to potential candidates for coordinator and position-coach jobs during that annual job fair in Mobile, Ala., in two weeks.

Spielman also made it clear he is heading up the coaching search and will narrow it down to "two or three" leading candidates to meet with the Wilf ownership group before a hire is made.

"Our ownership will be involved, along with myself, through the interview process and we will work collectively to get the decision the right way," Spielman said after the Vikings fired Leslie Frazier.

"We don't have ‘a guy.' I think there's a lot of potential candidates out there. I don't think everybody needs to panic (and say), ‘This team already hired a guy. This team already hired a guy. What are the Vikings doing?' We are going to go through our process and do our due diligence and I think there is enough potential candidates out there that we will be able to get the guy that we want."

With their known interests reportedly reaching double digits, we filter that down to the final four we think are most qualified in that group:

Todd Bowles, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator

The latest: Bowles interviewed on Monday, with NFL Network reporting that the interview went "incredibly well" and FOX Sports saying it was an extensive interview. The Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions have also reportedly requested permission to interview Bowles.

Why Bowles: Learning from Bill Parcells – Bowles worked under Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005-06 and the Miami Dolphins in 2008-10 – doesn't hurt. But Bowles has created his own legacy since then, taking over as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator seven games into the 2012 season. The Vikings' biggest weakness on defense is pass defense, and after he took over the Eagles defense, it finished the season ranked ninth in pass defense. He also had a brief, three-game window as the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins at the end of the 2011 season and had a 2-1 record. In 2013, the Cardinals finished in the top 10 in several defensive categories, including seventh in points while the Vikings were last in the league there.

Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator

The latest: Interviewed on Saturday during the Seahawks' bye week.

Why Quinn: Anyone who watched the Seattle Seahawks this year knows they were much more than Russell Wilson and company on offense. Quinn led a defense that was physical and finished first in points surrendered, first in yards, first in passing yards, first in passing average and first in percentage of passes intercepted. It was his first year as Seattle's defensive coordinator after spending the previous two years as the University of Florida's defensive coordinator, where he coached 2013 first-round defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator

The latest: Zimmer is keeping his suitors closer to the vest, but admitted that three teams had contacted him within a day of the Bengals losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Why Zimmer: Like Bowles, Zimmer has experience working under Parcells. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys from 2000-06 and Parcells was the head coach there form 2003-2006. Zimmer has experience running both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and worked through injuries to DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall, two of his best defenders, and still had his defense ranked third overall in 2013, second in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards, tied for third in first downs per game, second in third-down efficiency and fifth in fourth-down efficiency. He has 20 years of experience as an NFL coach, including 14 as a defensive coordinator, but it will be interesting to see if his blunt way with people translates into a favorable interview. However, that same quality could also mean quick corrections on a week-to-week basis.

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator

The latest: With the Chargers still in the playoffs, they are in a one-week window to allow their coordinators to interview for head coaching opportunities. Understandably, the Chargers prefer to have Whisenhunt interview in San Diego, so with Spielman already in Phoenix on Monday and Tuesday and expected to also interview the Bengals coordinators later this week, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Spielman talk with Whisenhunt before Sunday.

Why Whisenhunt: He is in demand, reportedly also drawing interest from the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans, and he has head coaching experience with the Arizona Cardinals. He took that franchise on a ride of .500 or better for six straight seasons, including going 3-0 at home during the playoffs. 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. The drawback is that Whisenhunt reportedly prefers to go to a team with an established veteran quarterback, meaning the Lions could be at the top of his list.

The other reported interests for the Vikings include:

  • Ray Horton, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator, who interviewed on Tuesday.

  • Jay Gruden, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, who is expected to interview on Thursday.

  • Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator, who would have to be interviewed this week or wait until the 49ers' season is done.

  • Adam Gase, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, who told reporters he wouldn't interview for any jobs until the Broncos' season is done.

  • Jack Del Rio, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator

  • Darrell Bevell, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator, who is believed to have interviewed with the Vikings over the weekend.

    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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