The search is over. Head coach Mike Tice has announced his final coaching hire for the 2002 season, special teams coach Jay Hayes.
Hayes comes to the Vikings after being fired from the Pittsburgh Steelers after their ouster from the playoffs in the AFC Championship. Hayes coached the Steelers special teams from 1999-2001. While the coverage units may have caused his demise in Pittsburgh this year, Hayes has had success with the return teams and kicking teams.
Kicker Kris Brown was tied for second in the AFC with 124 points, and Troy Edwards ranked fifth in the AFC with a kickoff return average of 23.1 yards. Certain other units in Hayes' special teams have had similar success in 2000 and 1999.
After the press conference last week announcing the hiring of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Tice told VU his search for a special teams coach would center on finding an aggressive coach to match the rest of what is considered an aggressive coaching staff. However, he stressed that he wasn't interested in a "kicking coach." Hayes appears to be a little of both, as Brown had early and continued success as a field goal kicker in Pittsburgh in his early career. Hayes also has the experience that Tice emphasized was needed for what he was looking for in this hire.
Hayes has also coached other positions in college, including outside linebackers at the University of Wisconsin in 1997-98 and an assistant with the University of California and Notre Dame in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Hayes' hiring comes after Tice interviewed 13 candidates for the position.
* Former special teams coach Gary Zauner, who was released after Red McCombs imposed a coaching salary cap and Zauner refused a paycut and signed with Baltimore, inked a three-year deal with the Ravens.
* A record 254 players in the NFL have been allocated to NFL Europe for developmental spring league. Former Vikings QB/WR/DB Billy Cockerham, who was allocated by the San Francisco 49ers, was among them. Another former Viking in Europe this spring will be linebacker Antico Dalton, playing for Berlin, who was allocated by Atlanta.
* Former Vikings QB Jay Fiedler re-signed with Miami today in a five-year deal. He joined the Dolphins prior to the 2000 season (coming from Jacksonville) and started all 31 regular-season games in which he has played and led them to consecutive playoff berths. Overall, Fiedler is 22-10 as an NFL starter, the second-best mark among active NFL quarterbacks after 32 starts. Kurt Warner was 26-6 in St. Louis after 32 starts.
*While the near-sighted focus will be on Monday's expansion draft, only a few weeks out is the Indianapolis Combine, February 28 through March 3, where teams get the chance to work out players entering the 2002 NFL draft.
* March 1 also represents the date that NFL teams can start negotiating with other teams' free agents.
Hayes Is Hired
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