Head Coach: Leslie Frazier. One reason why Leslie Frazier is a great leader is his style. He is a quiet man who makes his points, and commands respect. There is much more to it than that, however. You can take his words to the bank because they are as good as gold. I can't really compare the eighth head coach of the Minnesota Vikings to Bud Grant, but many of the qualities that made and make Bud Grant great, such as character and guts, are ones that Leslie Frazier enjoys. The Vikings are lucky to have Coach Frazier at the helm. Enjoying his first full offseason as a head coach in 2012, Frazier made the most of the opportunity and readied the team for a playoff run. While Frazier has more work to do, good signs were in abundance. For example, penalties and turnovers were down significantly. The Vikings lost only one close game in 2012, to Indianapolis. The Vikings might have won a few more if they had been lucky, or better, but for the most part the Vikings maxed out their opportunities in 2012. Frazier made the call to stick with Ponder and the investment paid dividends with Ponder's performance in Week 17. Frazier has more to work on. He needs to get the Vikings shifted to an outdoor-mentality for road victories on grass. He needs better play from all the positions. The Vikings will have coaching continuity in 2013, and the fanbase will be excited about this upcoming year thanks to Frazier's coaching and leadership in 2012. Frazier deserves an extension, and I believe he will get one soon.
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Musgrave. It's hard to criticize an offensive coordinator whose offense includes a running back with 2,097 yards, a young quarterback starting to flourish, and a group that improved and played with heart for the whole season. It is clear that the Vikings should keep Musgrave. There is no doubt that Musgrave learned a valuable lesson in the Seahawks loss in 2012. The lesson was simple, keep going to your hot player, especially if he hasn't been stopped, and especially if he is Adrian Peterson. Furthermore, Musgrave learned the hard way, like we all did in the playoff game, that the Vikings need a legitimate backup quarterback in place, or a plan to use the one we have the right way. Musgrave needs to insist that his receivers and tight ends learn to run the route tree, and actually run it in games. It is not explained why Musgrave completely went away from the run-option after the first series in the playoff game. It actually makes sense to run a different offense when the backup quarterback is in the game, especially with the contrast of styles between Ponder and Webb, because that will catch the defense completely off-guard. Yet, Musgrave went away from what was working early on in Lambeau. The Vikings offense took a big leap in 2012, and I have a feeling that Musgrave learned a lot in 2012 that he will put to good use in 2013.
Defensive Coordinator: Alan Williams. WIth his first year as Vikings defensive coordinator, Williams introduced a number of wrinkles to the coverage schemes. He made the most of his personnel, and the Vikings defense showed dominance at times. Williams will be back and Vikings fans ought to be excited about the defense in 2013.
Special Teams Coordinator: Mike Priefer. He did many things right in 2012. I don't want to belabor the improvements to the coverage and return units. It wasn't perfect, however. I'd like to see more backups get experience in coverage and return units. Losing a player from the special teams has hurt the Vikings, and it would be an advantage if backup players had some game experience before being asked to step up on special teams. Maybe players could be rotated in to some extent. Priefer worked his magic with Blair Walsh, It will be interesting to see how Chris Kluwe will be punting after he comes back from surgery. Priefer was an unsung hero of the Vikings in 2012. We will see if he can continue his progress toward making Vikings' special teams elite in the NFL.
Offensive Line Coach: Jeff Davidson. He did a tremendous job. Despite consistent 8- or 9-man defensive fronts, Davidson's offensive linemen did all they could and more. Now they can bask in the glory of paving the way for Adrian Peterson and the NFL's 2nd-best all-time rushing year. The Vikings have a lot to think about with the guard positions and right tackle. Regardless of what the evaluations say about talent on the field, we saw a demonstration of very good offensive line coaching in 2012.
Running Backs Coach: James Saxon. An unsung hero of the Vikings is James Saxon. Not only did he coach Peterson, he also coached Jerome Felton, Vikings fullback, to the Pro Bowl. There's not much to say except how lucky the Vikings are to have him.
Quarterbacks Coach: Craig Johnson. When Johnson moved from the booth to the sideline during games, Ponder settled down and his game production became better. It's very hard for us fans to evaluate a quarterbacks coach in the middle of the starting quarterback's development, but signs look very good for Ponder's future. Thus, I am inclined to say that Craig Johnson did a good job in 2012. Fans will be eager to see Ponder in action next year after another full offseason with his coach.
Assistant Quarterbacks Coach: Kevin Stefanski. First, I think it is very important to have an "assistant quarterbacks coach." The quarterbacks coach rarely gets to work with the second and third-string QBs, so there needs to be someone who gets them ready to step in when needed. In the end, Joe Webb wasn't close enough to ready and the Vikings lost the playoff game. I don't know if blame falls on Stefanski or Webb or Musgrave or Frazier or some combination, but that situation didn't make Stefanski look good.
Wide Receivers Coach: George Stewart. Sadly, I think it is time for the Vikings to part ways with George Stewart, who is a good coach. Despite many good years and several accomplishments as Vikings WR coach over the years, including getting credit from Greg Lewis after he made the miracle catch in 2009, and all the great blocking that Vikings receivers have done during his tenure, it isn't enough anymore. We can list many other things that Vikings' receivers have consistently done under Stewart -- like not fumbling the ball very often, and knocking balls away from being intercepted. We still don't see receivers who have learned the route tree and run it consistently in games, unless the receiver learned that skill from another coach (Jarius Wright, Sidney Rice, etc). The main reason to let Stewart go, however, is that he hasn't been able to coach Percy Harvin to be a better NFL player than he was when he arrived in the league. While Vikings receivers showed some route running toward the end of the year, I wouldn't bring George Stewart back as wide receivers coach. It's time to part ways. Percy Harvin and the Vikings' receiving corps need a new coach.
Tight Ends Coach: Jimmie Johnson. Like the wide receivers, Vikings tight ends simply have not learned to run routes. While Jimmie Johnson has them blocking very well, the receiving aspect still needs work. As a fan, I am thinking that Johnson needs to go as well, but I am not as sure as I am with Stewart.
Defensive line coach: Brendan Daly: This needs close evaluation by the Vikings as it isn't clear why the run defense would part like the Red Sea from time to time. Was it the defensive tackle giving too much ground, or was it the linebackers? One thing I would love to see is our defensive ends (and defensive tackles for that matter) working differently depending on the quarterback. For a slow-footed quarterback like Tom Brady, it doesn't matter much if a big gap is created and there is room to run. When playing RGIII, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, or Aaron Rodgers, however, those gaps can be killers. They run out to the flat, buy time, and find a receiver. They scramble for big chunks of yardage and get easy first downs. Even Jay Cutler jogged for a first down this year against the Vikings. The creation of a pocket, without gaps, and the hemming in of a mobile quarterback is bound to work better than allowing the mobile quarterback time to roam around in the backfield or to charge up the middle for a first down. Contain the quarterback. I think Daly did all right, based on what I can see. While sack production was down, Jared Allen was not 100%. Everson Griffen has started to shine under Daly.
Linebacker Coaches: Fred Pagac, Mike Singletary (Assistant Head Coach), and Jeff Imamura. I don't know why the Vikings have three linebacker coaches, but it is a very important unit. While the Vikings often gave up generous chunks of yardage to both the run and pass, and some of the blame goes on the linebackers, I don't know how much if any the linebacker coaches are to blame. My feeling is that Chad Greenway had a standout year and made the Pro Bowl, which indicates that the linebacker coaches are doing their job right. Maybe the linebacker coaches did everything they could with the talent on the field.
Defensive Backs Coach: Joe Woods. Last but certainly not least is Joe Woods. Despite getting criticized every once in a while, he seems to have proven the doubters wrong and with his work in 2012. If the Vikings can keep up the general trend, things will go well and when Antoine Winfield retires, the Vikings will be closer to ready. The keys in 2013 will be continuing to develop the young DBs, keeping them healthy, and keeping them working hard. To reach the next level, Woods has to put his men into position to get more interceptions while still playing effective Vikings defense.
Summary: Extend Leslie Frazier. Let George Stewart go. Closely evaluate Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Stefanski, and Brendan Daly.
UPDATE: The Vikings picked up the option on Leslie Frazier's contract. Now he is under contract through the 2014 season. It seems reasonable as there is every reason to keep him, and no big reason to negotiate a long-term deal with him at this point.