Paint Ken Irvin excited about the Vikings' newest member, defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Irvin, who would be the Vikings' most veteran member of the defense if linebacker Greg Biekert retires this offseason, played for Cottrell in Buffalo — three seasons with Cottrell as his defensive coordintor and another three with Cottrell as the linebackers coach and Irvin playing cornerback.
It doesn't take Irvin long to heap praise on the Vikings' replacement for George O'Leary, who accepted the head coaching job the University of Central Florida in December.
"(Cottrell's hiring) is really great for me, and I'm excited because there is not a more perfect coach for a team than Cottrell. We were in the top five in the years we were under his control (in Buffalo)," Irvin told VU. "We have such a great relationship, it's exciting to hear the news. I'm glad Coach (Mike) Tice did that. … We lost a great defensive coordinator in Coach O'Leary, and it's hard to replace him, but Coach Cottrell is the guy for the job.
"Me and my wife have been praying for it. Coach Cottrell makes you feel responsible as a player, because he's going to accept his job to be the best coach he can. When that happens, you want to do your best for that coach. We became a better football team today because of Coach Cottrell."
Cottrell did make a difference in Buffalo, where Irvin played for him. In his three seasons as defensive coordinator, the Bills ranked sixth (1998), first (1999) and third (2000) in overall defense.
"We're going to be as well-prepared as we were under Coach O'Leary, and No. 2 he'll put the players in position to have us make plays," Irvin said. "Everybody tries to say we had a bend-but-don't-break defense in Buffalo, but you know what? If the bend-but-don't-break defense allows you to be No. 1 in passing and among the top five overall, I'll take that every time."
"He listens to his players. He lets his guys go make plays."
It took a few games with the New York Jets for Cottrell's philosophy to really show improvement in their defense in 2002, but once his defenders got used to his style, the stats bore out Cottrell's savvy. The Jets began 2002 by allowing 32.4 points per game in his first five games as defensive coordinator, but over the next 11 games that unit only allowed 15.8 points per game.
Irvin isn't worried about the changes.
"Once (the players) meet him and get to know him as a person, they'll really get a sense of urgency about what he's going to bring," he said.
"If we had a whole bunch of different personnel changes, it would take time. You can't play Cover 1 any different than Cover 1, you can't play Cover 3 any different than Cover 3 — it's just the terminology that changes. Communication and making adjustments will be the key."
Cottrell's defense didn't fare as well in 2003 with the Jets. They finished middle of the pack in the AFC with 20 takeaways (compared to the Vikings' 35) and 11th in the conference in total defense, but the Jets did finished fifth in the AFC in points allowed per game (18.7).
Dan Leberfeld, editor of Jets Confidential, told VU last week that any problems Cottrell had with his defense in 2003 were due mostly to injuries.
"Ted Cottrell is a solid defensive coordinator who got a raw deal in New York," Leberfeld said. "The Jets' horrendous run defense this season was due to bad personnel, not Cottrell's schemes."
After naming a litany of injuries on the Jets defense in 2003, Leberfeld said "you can see Cottrell was dealt a terrible hand. However, he was scapegoated nonetheless."
Cottrell not only has the praise of the some of the New York and national media, but he has a big backer in Irvin. Between Irvin's nine years as a player in the NFL and Cottrell's 20 years as an NFL coach, the Vikings defense is indeed getting more veteran — and hopefully better.
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