Tomlin Hired on ‘Mutual Respect'

Vikings head coach Brad Childress and new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin don't appear to have had a close relationship before they were brought together this week, but their history together – or against each other – seems to have facilitated the hire. The Vikings also have received permission to interview several offensive coaches.

Brad Childress is in his first week as a head coach in the National Football League, but he leaves the impression that he has been thinking about his potential assistant coaches for years while preparing for this moment.

Childress' first hire was defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who assumes that job title for the first time after spending the last five years as the defensive backs coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, surprisingly, Tomlin and Childress don't go way back. In fact, it's almost like they first met – at least personally. They have, however, coached against each other numerous times.

"We probably had a chance to play Tampa Bay where I came from as much as anybody the last five years, and I've come to know the defense that he puts on the field," Childress said. "It's an aggressive defense. If you check the numbers, you'll see where they finished. Mike is a great teacher, and I think that's important first and foremost with free agency and people moving in and out."

The numbers from Tomlin's days in Tampa are impressive.

In Tomlin's five years there, the Bucs finished with a top-five defense four times, including the league's top-rated defense in 2005, when it was sixth against the pass. The Bucs defense also ranked first in yardage in 2002 and 2004. They have the longest current streak in the league with nine consecutive seasons with a top-10 defense.

In 2004, the Bucs were first in pass defense, allowing only 123.3 yards per game. He coached the top-ranked pass defense in 2002, when the Bucs surrendered 155,6 yards per game in the air and had 31 interceptions. That same year, the Bucs limited opposing QBs to only 10 TDs and a passer rating of 48.4.

In Super Bowl XXXVII, Tomlin's secondary recorded four out of the five interceptions by Tampa Bay, including two that were returned for touchdowns, in a 48-21 win over Oakland.

In Tomlin's first season with Tampa Bay, the Eagles, with Childress as their offensive coordinator, beat Tomlin's Bucs 31-9 in their playoff matchup. The next season, the Bucs beat the Eagles 27-10 in the NFC Championship game. It was during those matchups that the scouting of Tomlin by Childress began to grow.

"From my standpoint, it was just a mutual respect, seeing those Eagles during this time of year every year. Most of the time they sent us home," said Tomlin, whose Bucs beat Childress' Eagles following the 2002 season and won the Super Bowl.

"We've had some epic battles here in the last five years, so you come to know what style he's coaching and how those guys are playing back there," Childress said.

Childress said he sought out players under Tomlin, like Pro Bowl cornerback Rhonde Barber and Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, to get their impressions of Tomlin. Tomlin earned their respect in short order after replacing Herm Edwards at Tampa Bay, Childress said.

Now the two are joined in purple.

"You know the history of defense in this organization and that's exciting," Tomlin said. "When we do what we do, the tradition is something that makes it special."

Tomlin called the Vikings defensive personnel young, aggressive and impressive, and the challenge before them will be to learn Tomlin's Tampa-2 defense.

"It's a player-friendly scheme, but at the same time the expectation level is very high and the attention to detail if very high," Tomlin said. "From the outside looking in, there doesn't appear to be a lot of volume. But the expectation level and the attention to detail is going to make it difficult."

But, Tomlin, 33, will first have to earn the respect of the players in Minnesota. One player that might be able to help that transition is safety Darren Sharper, who was teammates with Tomlin at William and Mary.

Tomlin called his transition from receivers coach to defensive backs coach "a long time ago" back in 1997. "It was kind of an interest of mine and it became a very serious passion and I was able to make that transition back in Jonesboro, Ark."

From Jonesboro to Eden Prairie, Minn., Tomlin will now be joined by a former Philly coach in leading the Vikings into the next era.

THE OTHERS

The Vikings have received permission to interview several coaches from the pro and college ranks to help fill out the coaching staff, according to published reports, including Packers quarterback coach Darrell Bevell for the position of offensive coordinator, UCLA running backs coach Eric Bieniemy for the same position with the Vikings and Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers for another vacancy. Childress coached Bevell when the two were at the University of Wisconsin, Rogers and Childress are friends, and Childress and Bieniemy have worked together at summer clinics.

The Vikings also seem close to signing Wisconsin's Jim Hueber and the Detroit Lions' Pat Morris as offensive line coaches.


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