Barring a dramatic turnaround that would be akin to the Titanic not actually sinking, the Minnesota Vikings are going to be looking for a new head coach at the end of the 2013 season, if not before. The quarterback and coach are the two biggest decisions a franchise can make, and it will be essential...critical, even...for GM Rick Spielman (assuming he doesn't get the axe, too) to get this next one right.
The Minnesota Vikings need to hire Jim Tressel as their next coach. There, I said it. And I won't apologize for it, either.
Tress would be a perfect fit for this team, for a number of reasons. Now, you guys are going to accuse me of being a HUGE OSU homer on this one, and I admittedly am, but hear me out, because Tressel makes a ton of sense for this team.
Reason Number 1: Tressel wins. Jim Tressel took an Ohio State program that was headed in the wrong direction, and in two years won a national championship, beating a Miami Hurricanes team many people thought were unbeatable. In 10 years at Ohio State, Tressel amassed a 106-22 record, a 9-1 record against OSU's main rival Michigan, was 6-4 in bowl games (to include 5-3 in BCS games), and won or shared the Big Ten title seven times. Tressel knows how to win football games, and he knows how to win big, important football games.
Reason #2: Tresselball. Tresselball is a philosophy, an ethos, a way of life. It's a foundation of tough defense, field position, and the punt being 'the most important play in football'. Essentially, it's the way the vast majority of the NFL still thinks. Tressel built teams with powerful defenses, good offenses, and stellar special teams. He was a pretty conservative coach, but his philosophy works, and it works well. When you watch a Jim Tressel coached team, you see a disciplined, mistake free team that knows how to win close games, and in ten years, I can count on one hand the number of times Jim Tressel was out coached. Of Tressel's 22 losses at OSU, only seven were by 10 or more points. Tressel coached teams are almost always in position to win the game in the fourth quarter, and they almost always win said games.
And there is a foundation to run Tresselball here in Minnesota. The special teams are already pretty good, for the most part. The offense needs a quarterback, but they already have the best running back in football, and a line that can be good, although Heaven knows they're struggling this year. And as bad as the defense is, there's talent on the line, at linebacker, and in the secondary. They need help, to be sure, but there are pieces you can work with and build on. It's a roster that, minus the QB position, I would think be intriguing for a guy like Tressel.
Reason #3: Tressel knows how to evaluate quarterbacks. Often overlooked is that Jim Tressel is an offensive coach, and he knows how to adjust his offense to the players he has on the roster. He also knows quarterbacks, having recruited guys like Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor, and Braxton Miller. Smith won the Heisman trophy in 2006, Terrelle Pryor went 31-4 with two BCS wins as a starter at OSU, and Miller is currently lighting it up for new coach Urban Meyer.
But he also knows how to win with guys like Craig Krenzel and Todd Boeckman, because Tressel does a good job of adapting his offense to his quarterback's skill set. Tressel won a national championship and went to a national championship with guys that were a lot more limited skillset-wise than Smith and Pryor, because Tressel knows what his guys can and can't do, and adjusts accordingly. When he has dynamic guys at quarterback, he also opens up the playbook and lets it rip. It's almost instinctive, and although it was frustrating to see him dial back the offense at times, when he did it was warranted, and it worked.
The next coach will need to pick the right quarterback, and they cannot whiff on this one. I would trust Tressel to make the right choice, and then adapt his offense to the talent of the person selected.
But it's not all unicorns and rainbows, and every coach has some drawbacks. Let's look at those.
Con #1: Low success rate of college coaches making transition to NFL. The list of successful coaches who made the transition from major college football to the NFL is a relatively small list, and the list of failures is notable. College coaches who experienced as much, if not more success in the NCAA than Tressel have been remarkable failures. Steve Spurrier bombed at Washington, Nick Saban bombed at Miami, and Bobby Petrino quit on Atlanta before their season was even over. Current college wunderkind Chip Kelly is struggling to find success with Philadelphia right now, but it's still way too early to call him a bust. But I think we can call Greg Schiano a colossal failure, can't we?
Con #2: You can't choose your team. One of the most difficult transitions is the way an NFL coach has to put his roster together as opposed to a college coach. At a place like Ohio State, Tressel had, for the most part, the ability to pick the guys he wanted, and he had final control over who would come to Columbus. With 85 scholarships, he also had 32 more bodies to plug in for depth.
But this is where I think Tressel might have an edge. Like I mentioned before, he didn't really do a whole lot of the 'square peg in a round hole' in terms of trying to fit guys into systems they didn't fit into until they were ready, and his overall coaching philosophy runs very parallel to the NFL groupthink. Steve Spurrier tried to run his Florida offense at Washington...with former Florida quarterbacks that had failed in the NFL...and not surprisingly, it didn't work. Kelly is trying to run his Oregon offense in Philly, and he's struggling. Saban tried to be the college authoritarian to a bunch of grown men, and lost the locker room. And no one really knows what the Hell Greg Schiano is trying to do. And Bobby Petrinolololol.
Con #3: Too emotionless. One of the...oddest...knocks I see on DN and in the Vikings blogosphere is that Leslie Frazier isn't emotional enough, whatever that means. And Tressel's detractors are quick to point out he's fairly robotic on the sidelines. But that's not actually true. Take a gander at this video, which is the halftime speech he gave to the Buckeyes at the last game he coached, the 2011 [REDACTED] Bowl.
Yeah, that Jim Tressel. Robot.
Admittedly, this is a long shot. Tressel won a national championship, but he's more remembered for losing two in a row, both in blowout fashion. And let's face it, no one wants that to happen to the Vikings. Losing a fifth Super Bowl...no, I can't even...just no.
He was also unceremoniously fired after the WORST SCANDAL EVER IN THE WORLD OH MY GOD LET'S BURN OSU TO THE GROUND...which really wasn't, but yeah, whatever. His name and reputation really got dragged through the mud during the Tatgate scandal, and the Wilf's don't want to be associated with anyone like that.
And if rumors are to be believed, Tressel is more interested in getting back in to coaching at the college level, so getting him to bite on an NFL job might be a bridge too far.
But Jim Tressel is worth looking into, and if they can do it, I hope the Vikings can find a way to land him.