This comes after 34-year-old Mike Tomlin departed following one season to become head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a big loss for a Vikings defense that improved to eighth overall in the NFL last season after being 21st in 2005 under former coordinator Ted Cottrell.
Tomlin, who installed a version of the Tampa-2 scheme with the Vikings, oversaw a unit that ranked first in the NFL against the run. The only downside was that the Vikings tied for last in the league with Cincinnati in pass defense.
Vikings coach Brad Childress undoubtedly began to look at candidates to replace Tomlin while attending the Senior Bowl workouts this week in Mobile, Ala.
The internal options will include defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and linebackers coach Fred Pagac. Neither has been a coordinator in the NFL, but Pagac was in charge of the defense at Ohio State from 1996 to 1999.
Childress lost one potential outside candidate when Eagles linebackers coach Steve Spagnuolo was hired by the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator. Eagles assistant Sean McDermott also has been mentioned but he was promoted to linebackers coach, so there is a good chance Philadelphia wouldn't grant the Vikings permission to speak to him.
Childress coached with both during his time in Philadelphia as the Eagles offensive coordinator.
Another name that has emerged is Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove. Cosgrove was Childress' first choice to become linebackers coach when the Vikings were assembling their staff last off-season but Cosgrove said no thanks.
Losing Tomlin is a blow in more ways than one. Not only was he popular with the players but he also was essentially the head coach of the Vikings defense last season as Childress focused on the offense.
Tomlin's personality was such that he had brought an air of intensity while never acting panicked.
"I loved the things he brought from the day when I first met him," defensive end Kenechi Udeze said. "We talked about the upcoming season and what he wanted to get done. To hear about this, I'm very upset that we won't have him as our coordinator next year. But at the same time, I'm very happy for him and feel blessed to have been with him. I'm proud of him for getting the job."
Said Childress in a statement: "I'm really happy for Mike. He is a class guy and a good football coach and deserves to have this opportunity. ... I know he will be successful in Pittsburgh."