Will the state of the Denver defense lead Broncos officials to hire Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier? He is still involved in a narrowing landscape of candidates.
The Vikings may be one step closer to losing Leslie Frazier.
On Saturday, word out of Denver surfaced that Frazier and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are the current frontrunners to replace Mike Shanahan as the new head coach of the Broncos. Frazier was impressive in his interview in Denver Wednesday and, given the sorry state of the Broncos defense – 29th overall, 27th vs. the run and 26th vs. the pass – he would make a logical choice.
On Jan. 3, while the Giants were on their bye week, the Broncos interviewed defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. However, the buzz out of Denver is that, if the Giants win today and advance to the Super Bowl, Denver will likely go with one of the other candidates. By league rule, assistant coaches still in the playoffs can't be interviewed until their team is defeated. If that happens to the Giants today, Spagnuolo could be interviewed as early as Sunday night, although the talk in Denver is that the team has already done a ton of background work on Spagnuolo already and have a pretty good idea what he brings to the table. The Broncos apparently have reduced their possible coaching candidates from seven down to five – with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett of the Cowboys and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Raheem Mooris joining Frazier, McDaniels and Spagnuolo.
In an interesting twist in the McDaniels angle, team officials went to Providence, Rhode Island to interview him, but the team had a second interview with McDaniels Saturday – leading many to believe that he might be the frontunner.
Whether Denver decides to go with offense or defense with their head coaching decision, expect to see the Broncos organization move quickly. With free agency looming Feb. 27, a lot of work needs to be done between now and then to assemble a coaching staff and have fresh evaluations of the current talent (or lack thereof at certain positions) on the current roster. While hiring Frazier, a disciple of the Tampa-2 defense, would likely force changes to the schemes and the types of players that would fit best in the Denver system, it would seem the biggest changes will need to be made on the defensive side of the ball. McDaniels may be the current frontrunner, but that may not last long, considering the pathetic shape of the Denver defense.
It probably didn't help the bitter taste in the Vikings' mouths following their loss to the Eagles last weekend to see Carolina, who would have been their opponent had the Vikings won last Sunday, get completely worked by the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings were the only team in the league to post wins over three division champions from their own conference, and seeing how poorly Jake Delhomme responded to pressure Saturday, it is hard to imagine that the Vikings wouldn't have fared well if they had played the Panthers.
In his postgame press conference Saturday, Vikings fans had to get a chuckle out of rookie Ravens QB Joe Flacco. In the second half of the Ravens' 13-10 win over Tennessee, Flacco came dangerously close to stepping out the back of the end zone on a pass play. When asked about it after the game, he said, "I almost pulled an Orlovsky" – a reference to Lions QB Dan Orlovsky, who was chased out of the end zone by Jared Allen in the Vikings' 12-10 win over Detroit at the Metrodome.
There is a strange twist in the ongoing lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, by Kelci Stringer, the widow of former Viking Korey Stringer. Her suit against sports manufacturer Riddell Inc. (based in Chicago) claims that the equipment (helmet and pads) should have come with warnings about wearing the equipment on excessively hot days. Her case was bolstered by a study from the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research, which said that heatstroke deaths are almost always preventable and that helmets are not designed to address heat retention. Mrs. Stringer included the NFL in the most recent lawsuit, which was filed in late December. In 2005, she attempted to sue the Vikings and several employees, but that case was thrown out of Minnesota court.
Rod Marinelli wasn't unemployed for long. The head coach of the first 0-16 team in NFL history, was hired Saturday by the Bears and named assistant head coach/defensive line. Despite his dismal 10-38 record in three years as the coach of the Lions, Marinelli was also being pursued by the Texans and Seahawks.