I think that we can all agree, at least to some degree, that the Minnesota Vikings’ hiring of Mike Zimmer to replace the fired Leslie Frazier after the 2013 season was a pretty good move. Zimmer has turned the team around, particularly on the defensive side of the football, and is rapidly ascending the ranks of the best head coaches in the National Football League.
It’s easy to forget that Zimmer almost didn’t give the Vikings an opportunity to hire him.
Zimmer had been interviewed for a number of head coaching jobs over the years, but was never given the opportunity to be the guy. Early in January of 2014, after being passed over for yet another head coaching job, Zimmer almost didn’t get on the plane to come to Minnesota for his second interview with the Vikings.
When yet another team picked another candidate instead of him this winter, Zimmer was discouraged enough to consider skipping a second interview with Minnesota and giving up on his goal altogether.
’’I felt like it was a perfect fit. Since the day I’ve walked in, I don’t think it could have been a better situation for me,’’ Zimmer said. ‘’Thank God that I did do that. I think what it does show you, though, is you’ve got to keep persevering all the time, no matter how despondent you get at certain times.
’’When I was thinking about not going on the visit, it had nothing to do with the Vikings. It was just kind of the feeling of a loss until you get over it and then you go about your business.’’
But, as we all know, Zimmer did get on that plane, and was ultimately hired by the Vikings to be their head coach.
But what if he hadn’t?
The Vikings weren’t the only team that made a coaching change before the 2014 season started. Here are all the coaches that were hired in 2014 and where they are now.
- Tennessee Titans: Ken Whisenhunt - Was fired by the Titans after a season and a half where the Titans won just three of the 23 games that he coached. Currently the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers.
- Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien - Still the Texans’ head coach, compiling a 31-33 record over four seasons along with two divisional championships.
- Detroit Lions: Jim Caldwell - Was fired by the Lions following the 2017 season, despite a 36-28 record and two playoff appearances.
- Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine - Was fired by the Browns after two seasons and a 10-22 record. He is now the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.
- Washington Redskins: Jay Gruden - Still the Redskins’ head coach, having compiled a 28-35-1 record in four seasons, along with one division title.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lovie Smith - Was fired by the Buccaneers after two seasons of finishing in last place in the NFC South and a record of 8-24. He is currently the head coach at the University of Illinois.
So, I think we can safely say that the Vikings made the best head coaching hire of 2014 by a significant margin. However, unless my memory is failing me, Mike Zimmer was the last head coach hired in the NFL that offseason. Had he not gotten on the plane, who would the Vikings have been looking at?
Well, from going back and looking at our archives to see who the team was interested in and/or had interviewed. . .it probably wouldn’t have been pretty. The Vikings reportedly interviewed Jay Gruden, but as you can see above, he ultimately went to the nation’s capital. Who were some of the other names that the Vikings brought in? Here’s who we did stories about them interviewing or having interest in.
- Dan Quinn - Then the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, Quinn went on to become the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach prior to the start of the 2015 season. He led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI in 2016.
- Todd Bowles - Bowles was coming off of a solid first season as the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals when the Vikings interviewed him. He was also hired prior to the start of the 2015 season, taking the job with the New York Jets. He’s compiled a 20-28 record in three seasons in New York, and is on the hot seat after consecutive 5-11 finishes.
- Darrell Bevell - The Seahawks’ offensive coordinator was apparently drawing the Vikings’ interest, but they decided not to bring him back to Minnesota. He held the position of OC for Seattle until he was fired at the end of last season.
- Ray Horton - Horton had been the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator in 2013, and upon not getting hired for a head coaching job, moved on to become the defensive coordinator for Whisenhunt in Tennessee. He went back to Cleveland in 2016, after which he was fired. He is apparently out of coaching as of now.
- Greg Roman - Roman was the offensive coordinator in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh, and the Vikings reportedly reached out to him as a potential candidate. He has moved on to several jobs since then, but has not been hired as a head coach anywhere.
- Jim Tomsula - Tomsula was Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in San Francisco, and ultimately succeeded him when Harbaugh departed for the University of Michigan. He lasted just one season as the Niners’ head coach, going 5-11, and is currently the defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins.
Yeah. . .that’s not a great list, with the exception of Quinn.
Now, I’m not saying that any of those other coaches couldn’t have potentially been successful in Minnesota. The Vikings have done very well when it comes to bringing in talent since Zimmer was hired in 2014. However, I think we can all be relatively happy that Mike Zimmer decided to get on that plane for that second interview after all.