When this idea to continue the 'By the Numbers' series first popped in my head a few days back, I wasn't quite sure how it would work. I had the basic premise of extending the series to include coaches and let the Daily Norsemen readers vote for the coach they believe is most deserving. The part I didn't have figured out was how to make it an objective decision for everyone, while sticking with the theme of 'numbers.' Well, after a little digging, I discovered some compelling offensive and defensive stats and viola, our "By the Numbers" series has marched on. Shout out to the people at vikingsmania.com for giving me a head start. And thanks to Christopher Gates for putting up the offensive and defensive coordinator articles, which you can find here and here, on the front page.
Today the 'By the Numbers' series takes us through the the list of head coaches in Minnesota Vikings history. Full disclosure: of the nine men on this list, I think maybe 3 should rightfully be in a discussion for best coach, but with only one being enshrined in Canton (as a coach) that probably seals the deal. I will start by listing the other 6 coaches in Vikings history-sort of an 'honorable mention-'first.
- Norm Van Brocklin (1961-1966). Nicknamed "The Dutchman," Van Brocklin was the first head coach in Vikings history. The former All-American and NFL MVP led the Eagles to the NFL championship in 1960 while serving as the team's quarterback. He coached the upstart Vikings for 84 games, compiling a record of 29-51-4. He went on to coach the Atlanta Falcons from 1968-73 winning another 37 games giving him a career .401 win percentage. Unfortunately, Van Brocklin coached teams never reached the playoffs. The Dutchman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 for his achievements as a quarterback.
- Les Steckel (1984). The shortest tenure on this list was turned in by Steckel. He had been an offensive assistant with the Vikings for the previous five seasons before being elevated to head coach at age 38, making him the youngest head coach in the NFL. The team finished with a 3-13 record in Steckel's lone season, after which he was promptly fired. The website the sportster ranked Steckel's season in Minny the 13th worst first season in NFL head coaching history:
Steckel was a Marine who served in Vietnam and was the personification of every stereotypical movie drill sergeant and Head Coach you’ve ever seen.
"I’ve led 210 Marines and 80 Vietnamese soldiers into combat, so don’t talk to me about being a head coach," was his famous quote entering the ’84 season. "My involvement in the Marine Corps made a lasting impression on me. So it’s immediately a great area to use analogies."
In his only season in charge, Steckel started three quarterbacks in a desperate attempt to find success, including Archie Manning. In the final six games of the season, the team fell apart,and the defense gave up 40 points per game and finished 3-13. After the season, Steckel was fired and even the owner admitted "Les may not have been ready for a job like this at the time."
- Mike Tice (2001*-2005) The former NFL tight end and Vikings assisant coach became the first former Viking player turned NFL head coach in team history. After taking over as the interim head coach for the final game of the 2001 season, Tice was officially hired on January 10, 2002. Tice-led teams certainly were entertaining. And with players like Randy Moss, Dante Culpepper, and Cris Carter, his teams did not lack personality. Tice compiled a 32-33 regular season record and went 1-1 in the playoffs. His one playoff win is arguably the most satisfying playoff win for Vikings fans. The "Moon over Lambeau" game was considered a major upset at the time as the Vikings entered the playoffs at 8-8. Despite this post season win over the rival Packers, Mike Tice's legacy in Minnesota is mired in controversy. Tice's Vikings became the first team in NFL history to miss the playoffs after a 5-0 start. Unfortunately it would not be the the last time our Vikes would hold that distinction (more on that later). No summary of Tice's career would be complete with mentioning 3 embarassing scandals that rocked the longboat (pun intended) during his tenure. The infamous "Love Boat," ticket scalping and Whizzinator ordeals forced Vikings ownership to go in the opposite direction for their next hire.
- Brad Childress (2006-2010) "Chilly" came to Vikings after spending the previous 4 seasons as the "offensive coordinator" in Philadelphia. Another personal disclosure: I thought this was a good hire at the time. The Eagles were the hottest team in the NFL and Childress had a reputation as a no-nonsense disciplinarian; something the Vikings sorely needed. Coach Childress brought the Tampa 2 defense and the self-proclaimed "Kick ass offense" to Minnesota. Childress got off to a good start by beating the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football to start his head coaching career. And despite the tumultuous "Triangle of Authority" Childress was able to lead the Vikings to back-to-back NFC North titles (2008-2009), something that hadn't been done in 28 years and hasn't happened since. The pinnacle of the Childress era came after he successfully wooed a then 39-year old Brett Favre out of retirement in 2009. The Vikings went 12-4 that season, and absolutely destroyed the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs. Unfortunately age, injury, questionable personnel decisions and a hot-cold relationship with his players eventually caught up with Childress and he was fired with 6 games remaining in the 2010 season. Childress amassed a 39-32 regular season record, and went 1-2 in the playoffs. He is currently the assistant head coach in Kansas City.
- Leslie Frazier (2010*-2013) If the Vikes made a 180 from Mike Tice when they hired Childress, then there aren't enough degrees left to describe the change in personality from Childress to Frazier. Often referred to as a "players coach" because of his laid-back, primarily positive approach, Frazier took over at the end of the 2010 season, going 3-3 in those games. That proved to be enough for the Wilf family as they quickly decided to hire him as the next head coach in Vikings history. Like Van Brocklin and Tice before him, Frazier was a former NFL player, best known for his role on the vaunted '85 Bears defense. Frazier was a 2-time Super Bowl champion (one as a player and one as an assistant coach). His coaching background included a head coaching stop at a small college, two stints as a defensive coordinator in the NFL and a couple seasons in Indy as a "special assistant" to Tony Dungy. The comparisons to his former boss were almost immediate and to many the hire was thought to be a good one. I don't know if this fanbase had ever experienced the rollercoaster ride that was the 2011-2012 seasons which saw the team's stadium collapse, lose it's future HOF running back for the season only to have that same running back rush for 2,000 yards, win league MVP and make an improbable run to the playoffs one year later. Unfortunately Frazier's legacy is mired with lackluster QB play and a losing record on the road, especially within the division. Frazier complied a regular season record of 21-32-1 while going 1 and done in the playoffs. He is the current defensive coordinator in Buffalo.
- Mike Zimmer (2014-current) About the only things Mike Zimmer had in common with his predecessor is that they both were former defensive coordinators before being tabbed as the head coach of the Vikings and GM Rick Spielman tried to set both men up with a young franchise quarterback. After several seasons with Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati Mike Zimmer landed his first head coaching job with the Vikings in 2014. Once hired, first order of business was to address the defense both through the draft and in free agency. His expertise on that side of the ball was apparent almost immediately. In his 3 seasons as head coach the Vikings have earned the reputation as one of the best units in the league. Zimmer led the Vikings to an NFC North crown in his second season, and they were one chip-shot field goal away from the franchise's first playoff victory since the aforementioned 2009 season. Last season Vikings fans endured a rollercoaster of emotions as Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season just days before the first game. The Vikings surprised everyone and rattled off 5 straight wins to begin the season, only to slump to a 3-8 finishing, failing to make the post season. Zimmer currently has a record of 26-22, while posting an 0-1 record in the playoffs.
- Bud Grant - Named Vikings Head Coach on March 10, 1967...Came to Minnesota following a successful coaching career in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, leading the team to 4 Grey Cup championships and playing in the game 6 times...Coached the Vikings in 281 total games, retiring after the 1983 season only to be coaxed back to coach the team again in 1985 before retiring for good...Led Vikings to Super Bowl IV, VIII, IX and XI...Won 11 Central Division titles and made 12 appearances in the playoffs...Member of both the CFL and Pro Football Halls of Fame...Born May 20, 1927 in Superior, WI...Resides in Bloomington, MN...An avid outdoorsman who travels the world hunting and fishing.
- Dennis Green - Named Vikings Head Coach on January 10, 1992...Came to Minnesota after reviving the Stanford University football program, serving as Head Coach from 1989-91, the only Vikings Head Coach to come directly from the college ranks...Coached 171 total games in 10 seasons with the Vikings, leading the team to 4 Central Division titles and the NFC Championship game twice...Vikings made the playoffs 8 of Green’s 10 seasons and the 1998 club set the NFL single-season scoring record at 556 points, averaging 34.8 points per game...An advocate of community involvement, Green initiated Community Tuesdays, which had players active in the Twin Cities on their day off, a concept that spread to the entire National Football League...Born February 17, 1949 in Harrisburg, PA...Named NFL Coach of the Year in 1992 by the Washington Touchdown Club and in 1998 by Sports Illustrated and the Maxwell Club.
- Jerry Burns - Named Vikings Head Coach on January 7, 1986...Served as Vikings offensive coordinator from 1968-85, guiding the team to 4 Super Bowl berths and 11 Central Division titles...Served as Vikings Head Coach 6 seasons, 1986-91...Coached the team in 101 total games, going 52-43 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs...Led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 1987, earning upset wins at New Orleans and San Francisco along the way before falling to the Redskins 17-10 in Washington...Won the NFC Central in 1989...Coached in 6 Super Bowls, 4 as Vikings offensive coordinator and 2 as the Green Bay Packers’ defensive backs coach in Super Bowls I and II...Played QB for Michigan on the 1950 Rose Bowl team...Began his coaching career in 1951 at University of Hawaii...Head Coach at the University of Iowa from 1961-65...Born January 24, 1927...Resides in Eden Prairie, MN.
Well there you have it folks, the head coaches in Minnesota Vikings history. Where's the fan poll you ask? I think you all know that there really only is one choice, but I will still include a poll for everyone to voice their opinion.