The time for regret or second-guessing (or, for some of you, rejoicing) the terminations of Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer is behind us. We must move on and move into the future. As my wife pointed out, they are millionaires anyway and we should save our pity for the homeless, the victims of crime, the needy, and so on. Also, I'm sure they'll both land on their feet.
Whether you admired them (as I did) or hated them (like Packers fans did) the truth is that replacing them could be a success or could be a disaster. Both outcomes are possible no matter what you or I thought about Spielman and Zimmer.
A new GM and a new coach is like a shiny new toy seen from a distance. Oh, it's perfect! Oh, it is the greatest ever! Oh, this one, these ones, will never be terminated! Oh, we shall win the Super Bowl every single year always and always and forever.
But then the weak points are revealed, the blemishes are seen in clearer light, the flaws all over them. Shocked, betrayed, we will mutter, "What is this? What is going on here? The new GM and the new Head Coach are... human? That sucks! We want perfect!"
The new Head Coach loses games? Like Zimmer did?
The new GM does not select on rookie year pro bowler with every draft pick? My God, he's as bad as Spielman at that!
I'm making fun of some of the spoiled perfectionist self-deceivers out there. If you're one of them, laugh along with the rest of us. I'm sure you can take it in stride.
I think some flaws can be detected before hiring them. So do the Wilfs. So does everyone. That's why they have the interviews after researching the candidate's careers. An interview can't make a candidate but it can break a candidate. No composed and coached up wordage should cause a hire.
I find the selection process fascinating and try to read the tea leaves. From the group of candidates interviewed, some conclusions can be guessed at.
I'm not going to pretend to know GM candidates. I know very little about these 8 people. What I do know is superficial.
Two are from the Browns, two are from the Eagles. I find that interesting. The Browns were widely considered one of the most talented teams coming into the year. The performance of the team is less a concern than the talent level when it comes to hiring away the talent who helped obtain that team's talent.
The Eagles are often known for strength in the trenches, on both D and O lines. They constantly put draft capital into those positions. If you look at the Vikings, you see our current weak points (possibly) as the O and D lines. If Hunter will return and will return healthy and can stay healthy, maybe D line is a lesser concern.
There are two more reasons why the Eagles candidates are interesting. One is that one of them is a woman. I'm perfectly happy to have a female GM. That would be unique and make history to some extent.
The other reason is that a couple of the head coaching candidates are from the Eagles -- Jonathan Gannon and Doug Pederson. More on them in the next section. I wonder how much the Wilfs have used the interviews as a way to also obtain information on Gannon and Pederson. The Wilfs know Gannon and he is in good standing in Philly. Mostly, I wonder if they try to find out more about Pederson. There are concerns. More on him later.
I understand the Wilfs are doing 2nd interviews on 2 of the 8 GM candidates, at least so far. They are Kwesi Odofo-Mensah of the Browns and Ryan Poles of the Chiefs. While both teams are good at adding talent, the Chiefs have forged the talent into many more wins. As well, Poles is Executive Director of Player Personnel and Odofo-Mensah was Vice President of Football Operations. Odofo-Mensah has a wall street financial history rather than a football talent history.
From the outside, and without knowing or meeting these two men, I greatly prefer the background of Poles. Odofo-Mensah seems more like a guy who figures out ticket prices and how many seats can be added to the stadium and what advertisements can be fit all over the place to make more money. Poles seems like a guy who understands football talent. That's my impression of these guys from way out in the cheap seats (with a nose bleed).
A quick note to the Wilf family. As many of you know, the Wilfs read all my posts and use what I write as a directive as to what they will do. Wilfs, here is my newest input. Obey, Wilfs, obey:
Word got out the Vikings were starting their coaching search several weeks before the season ended. Word from talking heads. Word also got out that the Wilfs really liked Poles and that Poles was impressive in his interview. From the talking heads football media. Since the Wilfs did term Zimmer and hit the ground running in the hiring process and now the Wilfs are having Poles in for a second interview, it seems the talking heads were not guessing or making this stuff up.
What does that mean? It means one of the Wilfs is calling these people, or taking their calls, and yapping. This is a combination of rude -- it is humiliating for a current coach to hear from the media that the owners are looking for a new head coach -- and stupid. Letting the world know that Poles impressed them could cause other teams to consider him more intensely or to hurry up their offer and to scoop him.
So, my direction to the Wilfs is, as follows: Shut your dumb mouths and stop yapping like a grade school gossip girl to the media. That's it. It should be easy to obey me, Wilfs, but, then again, it already was easy to obey common sense and one or more of you failed at that.
8 officially and 2 more unofficially. The two who are not official are Aaron Glenn of the Detroit Lions and Doug Pederson formerly of the Eagles. I'll include them.
First, the overview. It is a good number, not too narrow, not too wide. I'm sure they'll wait until after a GM is hired so maybe we should think of these HC interviews as preliminary interviews. This was the Wilfs getting to know them a little and then the GM is involved or maybe picks between the ones the Wilfs like.
The process is all good (other then leaking word of it to the press weeks before the season was over. Shame, Wilfs, SHAME!) But, see, even rich people are flawed. Many would argue they are even more flawed than the average citizen.
We can draw some preliminary conclusions from the field of candidates -- or we can see what conclusions the Wilfs want us to draw.
If we include all 10 candidates, even the unconfirmed, we see 6 "defensive" coaches and 4 "offensive" coaches. This tells us the Wilfs are not zeroed in on getting a head coach from either side of the ball. This is a good thing because, if you only consider offensive coaches or vice versa, you just cut the field in half and reduced your odds of a good hire.
People say it is an offensive league but a team that is all offense is just as bad as a team that is all defense. Both are on the field at the same time (not from the same team, of course, but if an offense is on the field playing then so is a defense).
I was a proponent of a defensive coach during the season but that was to point out that the offense was doing well under Zimmer and our main current weakness is defense. Some were claiming Zimmer (who, again, was a winning head coach for the Vikings) was a failure because he was not an offensive coach. Just not true. Double not true. He was not a failure and defensive coaches make fine head coaches. Ever hear of Bill Belichick?
Offense is trendy and our biggest star player (arguably) is on offense. Defense is a current weakness. However, if you look at the D honestly, you will see the weakness is not one of coaching. It was one of injury loss and lack of talent. It does not need new coaching so much as it needs an infusion of talent.
Arguing over whether offense or defense it more important is like arguing over whether the head or the tail of a coin is more important.
I'm open to whoever the best candidate is, offense or defense. It looks like the Wilfs also are and that is a good thing in my opinion.
The next thing I notice from the list of HC candidates is that no college coaches are on it. Thank God! College coaches have a poor history going to the NFL. They can work out but have a much higher failure percentage than pro coaches. Avoiding college coaches falls under common sense. Harbaugh would be an exception for obvious reasons -- he is a pro coach disguised as a college coach.
It appears the Wilfs are willing to hire former head coaches, i.e. "previously failed" head coaches, as well as offensive and defensive coordinators. This looks just right to me. Special teams coach? Another Joe Judge? No, thank you. A previously failed head coach is not as bad as it sounds. For instance, Mike Zimmer now falls into that category and he is a great coach. Bill Belichick fell into that category as did Andy Reid and Pete Carroll (twice-failed). I do not have the stats but it may well be that a previously failed head coach has higher odds of success than a "never before" head coach.
The Wilfs are exactly right to include previously failed head coaches. A HC is only one piece of many required for success and, missing another piece or two, can look like a schmuck while doing everything right. Also, people learn and improve from previous experiences.
Finally, a look at the list shows something that needs mentioning. Four of the 10 candidates are black. I'm all for it, of course. One of my two current favorite candidates happen to be from among the 4 black candidates. (You'll see who) However... I do wonder.
This is probably not fair to the Wilfs. But. After the riots, it is important to look a certain way... even if you are not that way. The NFL requires minority candidates to be considered so at least one must be included. But one out of ten would be too obviously a token so... why not four to make it really convincing?
And... why not have them all be from the defensive side of the ball (Raheem Morris, Todd Bowles, Demeco Ryans, and Aaron Glenn) so that ownership can later hide behind "we wanted an offensive head coach" (adding under their breath, "...who is not black....").
Yeah, probably not fair of me, but I wanted to point it out as a possibility and not a certainty. Also, Jim Caldwell has interviewed to be HC at a few places and supposedly the Vikings invited him to interview and he refused. He interviewed with the Jaguars, so he'd willing to work with the worst of organizations. He interviewed with the Bears so he's willing to live in cold weather in a windy city full of nasty people and high crime. So, why not the Minnesota Vikings, who are clearly better than either of those opportunities? The only reason I can think of is that he's heard or knows that the interview would be a waste of time and that the Wilfs would not seriously consider him.
Instead of dividing the coaches into groups by coloration or by offense or defense, I'll group them differently:
"PREVIOUSLY FAILED" HEAD COACHES
Former HC of the Jets where all HCs fail. All of them. Even Pete Carroll! Bowles' previous failure then should not count against him. However, it is worth noting that he is a defensive coach whose defenses on the Jets got worse and worse under his leadership until his last year they allowed the second most points of any Jets team ever -- which is REALLY saying something. Those of you who thought Zimmer should be terminated for ever having a poor defense -- despite Zimmer taking over the worst of Ds and leading it to #1 during his time here -- should immediately cross Bowles off your list as a candidate you want to see hired. Bowles is also DC on a great D-squad, made great by him, and a key to the Bucs winning the Super Bowl last year. So, all in all, Bowles is not a bad candidate at all. Todd Bowles is 58.
One-time HC of the Buccaneers and for a brief lame duck stint with the Falcons. The Rams had the #1 defense in 2020 -- easy to forget for some reason. They beat the #2 defense by almost 23 yards! Amazing! This year they are at #17 and I am not sure what caused the drop. 63 more yards allowed per game! #17 is almost the definition of average. This is Morris' 1st year as Rams DC. So, think about that. He took over the #1 D and brought them all the way down to #17 in just one year. Not good! From 2016-2018 Morris was wide receivers coach with the Falcons and they went to the Super Bowl in 2016. Morris is a rare coaching candidate with direct experience coaching offense and defense. That is a big selling point. He is 45.
He took the Falcons to the Super Bowl. The Falcons. That's the equal to taking the Browns to the Super Bowl! So, imagine, if we hired Quinn, the more foolish commenters could no longer say the Vikings ahead coach cannot take the team to the Super Bowl because the HC has not already gone to a Super Bowl. A silly argument, but one that crops up from time to time. However, they could still claim Quinn cannot win a Super Bowl because he has not already won one so we may not be completely spared such silliness. Quinn is renowned for his marble white complexion only achievable through ones blood being drained nightly by a vampiric visitor. Keep your windows closed, Dan! Pull in the welcome mat. That allows those vampires to come on in. It invites them and gives them permission: "WELCOME (suck up my blood)." Quinn was HC for the Falcons a little over 5 years and, despite his defensive background, the Falcons regularly fielded poor defenses. I'm not saying that is all his fault but, again, for those that thought Zimmer should be terminated for recent poor defenses -- lacking talent and riddled by critical injuries -- then you should not want Quinn because the same thing happened to Quinn. Worse actually. Speaking of worse, Quinn had a win percentage as a head coach of .506 even including the Super Bowl season. Zimmer was terminated with a win percentage of .556. So, replacing Zimmer with Quinn would be a clear downgrade. This year, Quinn has gotten a lot of credit for the Cowboys defense turning around. However, they are not as good as they seem. He took over from a really bad DC who was easy to improve upon and they only achieved 19th in the league. So, several spots worse than Morris who is also a year one DC. As well, is Dallas D made it to #19 with lots of turnovers, which is not a constant for any D. Meaning? Without some of those turnovers, when they fall back to norm, they might be more like the #25 defense. Quinn is 51.
Now this guy no one can write silly comments that he can never win the Super Bowl because he never has. Why not? Because he has! He did it against Bill Belichick! He won it in Minnesota! Super Bowl LII !!! All good, all that. His career win percentage as HC is .541 so he is quite nearly as good as Mike Zimmer! It certainly does appear he is a valued candidate sought by other teams. There are rumors of a rift with previous ownership and communication issues. His rumored weaknesses are the very reason the Wilfs moved on from Zimmer and Spielman supposedly. They are the opposite of what the Wilfs claim to be looking for. Also, Pederson lost credibility on his team because he intentionally lost the final game last year to improve draft slotting. Which, to me, is cheating. Do we want a cheating head coach? I don't but, to be fair, Belichick is also a cheater and the Patriots have done quite well with his cheating. Heck, the Packers thrive on cheating pretty much every game, with the refs on their team and a free pass for all their offensive linemen to hold as much as they want on every play. (Get this: This year, again, the Packers had the fewest penalties called against them and had some of the highest frequency of pass interference called against the opposing team!) Maybe we need some cheating to level the playing field? Naw. Win right or why even do it. That's what I say. I wonder what Catherine Raiche and Brandon Brown had to say about Pederson. Who knows what else he did there that did not make the news? Pederson has an offensive background from the Reid tree and is a former player, a QB! Pederson is 53.
"YET TO FAIL" HEAD COACHING CANDIDATES
He is known to the Wilfs and knows Minnesota having coached here under Zimmer for 4 seasons. That's right, Zimmer haters, he's a Zimmer acolyte from the Zimmer coaching tree! "Oh, no!" to you but of "Oh, yes!" to me. He then did a great job with the Colts for several years, leaving them as the #8 defense (he was DB and Cornerbacks coach which, to me, is a title straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. I thought CBs were DBs!). The year before he arrived in Philly the Eagles were #19 in defense. This year they were #10. He did it nearly devoid of play-making talent on D. So we see that upward curve of improvement we love to see!!! He succeeds everywhere and in every capacity. So far. The Peter Principle gets almost everyone in the end. The negatives on Gannon are that he only has one year as a DC and he is only 39 yet looks only 29.
As an added bonus, I invite you to read this article, go down to the part about Gannon. Read it and you will want him to be the Vikings next head coach:
Those specially wanting an offensive mind will want Hackett. However. First, he has the Packers taint on him, like how mold grows on cheese. You've got to ask yourself, if we bring this guy in the building, will the mold fall away or will it spread to others, infect the players? We know the NFL can't keep Covid out of the buildings and we also know they do what they can to help the spread of cheese mold by not calling penalties on the Packers. But I digress! Hackett may or may not be good at what he does. However, his HC is an offensive "mind" supposedly. So, who gets the credit? And, wait, hasn't Hackett been supplied with a pretty good QB? Yeah, I think so. What's the name of that guy? (Tries to recall, trying, trying, trying) I remember now! His name is Aaron Rodgers! One of the best 50 QBs of all time. Might even make it up to the 30s or so. Hackett has been with GB for two years and always with Lafleur and Rodgers. Before that, he was with the Jaguars and led the team to the best rushing attack in the NFL in 2017 but was run out of town in 2018 with the 27th ranked offense. So, for those who want a high powered passing attack, Hackett is not your man. If you admired the run game under Zimmer, than maybe Hackett is your guy. But remember, he will not bring Aaron Rodgers with him from GB (nor would we want him to). Also, even with Rodgers and preferential treatment by the refs including all-you-can-hold holding not called, the GB offense has not been as good as rumored. Behind the Vikings in 2020 and 10th this year, less than 3 yards more per game than the Vikings. With Rodgers and with unlimited holding! Hackett is the reverse of Gannon when it comes to the aging process. He is 42 but looks like he is 55.
Moore, on the other hand, has the Cowboys taint on him. Do we want to win a Super Bowl and have Jerry Jones raving about how it was a Cowboys win at the heart of it, essentially, and all because of him the greatest owner ever? Alright, that isn't Moore's fault so, let's be fair. The Cowboys had the #1 offense in the NFL this year. However, a chunk of that was running up points vs. the second string Eagles in the final game (another selling point for Gannon: his D was #10 overall with the 17th game distorting it downward, back-ups vs. the Cowboys). Moore had two pro bowlers on the offensive line, Elliott, Prescott, and four starting to pro bowl caliber wide receivers on the team. He had the benefit of overwhelming talent on O., whereas, as a for instance, Gannon made the Eagles D successful with almost nothing in the cupboard. #10 with little is better than #1 with all the best -- as per coaching ability. Moore also had the #1 O in 2019, his first year as an OC, but that dropped to #14 last year though with a slew of injuries. I accept injuries as a factor in performance but many Zimmer detractors do not. Those individuals should be against the hire of Moore as HC. There are two more concerns about Moore. One, after two years he qualifies as coming from the Mike McCarthy coaching tree. Nasty! Also, he was in the coaching thick of it having the most penalized team in the NFL with horrific repetitive unfixed stupid pre-snap penalties all year long. Moore is a former QB and that is cool and useful. Moore is only 33.
O'Connell is also a former QB, like Moore. Are you wondering about their Wonderlic scores? I did. Hey, we want a smart head coach, right? Moore scored a 26 and O'Connell scored a 24 so Moore wins there. That is a good score for most people but nothing to brag about either. Kirk Cousins scored a 33. Aaron Rodgers thinks he is the smartest man on the planet but scored a 35... same as Christian Ponder! Also, Fitzmagic scored a 48 and many other players scored higher than Rodgers. Hey, Cooper Kupp and Calvin Johnson also outscored Rodgers. So did Blaine Gabbert, Carson Wentz, and even Alex Smith. Just saying! Back to O'Connell: He has 2 years as OC of the Rams. In 2020 his offense was #11, well behind the Zimmer Vikings. In 2021, they are slightly ahead of the Zimmer Vikings at 9th. O'Connell, like Hackett, suffers from the idea that we do not really know how much credit to give him for the Rams offense. Is it all him? 30%? It is Sean McVay coaching who is lauded, right or wrong, as an offensive mastermind. Hiring O'Connell would be a lot like hiring Eric Bienemy. How much is due to Bienemy and how much is due to Andy Reid? There is truly no way of telling. O'Connell is 36 and looks like he could suit up and play tomorrow.
Ryans is an interesting coaching prospect situationally. He has only been a DC for one year. That is extremely limited. Before that he did fine work with the 49ers linebackers as linebacker coach. He made those linebackers blossom and made Fred Warner into a pro bowler. As a DC he took over the #5 defense from 2020 and elevated them to #3 this year. When you take over the #5 D there isn't that much room for improvement but, by golly, he did it. Both run defense and pass defense slightly improved in yards allowed. The #3 ranking is also noteworthy as his team faced the Rams twice, the Cardinals twice, and Russel Wilson twice. I can't recall, Russell may have brought some other players to play football with him or maybe they were just mannequins. They sure played like mannequins! Anyway, the #3 ranking was an uphill battle though perhaps assisted by the 49ers constant running. An interesting feature of the 49ers defense under Ryans is that, while overall they were #3, they were #7 vs. the run and #6 vs. the pass. Most Ds have a weaker side or cheat to fight the pass (Paul) by robbing from the run defense (Peter). In the case of the 49ers, they had no weakness, run or pass. As a player -- and Ryan looks buff like he could still play -- Ryans was defensive rookie of the year, had two pro bowl years, played 10 years, 7 of them for all 16 games, had 939 tackles and 41 passes defensed, and many other stats of course. He was not a QB as many people like their former players to be, but was a MUCH more successful player than Moore or O'Connell. The one year as defensive coordinator is reminiscent of Mike Tomlin who did the same before becoming a head coach. Ryans is 37 years old.
Glenn played 15 years -- 50% more than Ryans! -- and made 3 pro bowls -- 50% more than Ryans! Although I think players coached are just aware, really, if the coach ever walked in their shoes and succeeded and was ever at the top of the game rather than doling out respect only according to the exact number of pro bowls. Glenn was DB coach for years with the Saints and DC one year with the Lions. His career arc is truly quite similar to Ryans'. Here is the thing: The Vikings had the 30th ranked defense this year and the Lions had the 29th ranked defense. Do you change head coaches to theoretically raise the defense a single notch amid 32 teams? That thinking is a little simplisitic, but, still. The Lions were 32nd on D in 2020 so he did upgrade them a lofty 3 spots but, still. The fact Glenn is being considered for HC, if true, certainly leads me to believe that the Wilfs are stuffing the ranks of the candidates with black candidates to make it look like they would hire a black coach while never seriously considering it. Glenn is 49.
You may ask why I list the age of every candidate and why I put the age as the final comment on them, at the crucial end of their synopsis. There is a reason for it!
As previously covered, the vast majority of head coaches are failures if your definition is the requirement that they have a winning record. If your definition is that they must win a Super Bowl (i.e. if you think Mike Zimmer was a bad coach) then the number of successful head coaches shrinks to a tiny percent.
So making a coaching change means likely failure, over 80% at best, even if you are only looking for a winning HC and not requiring a Super Bowl winning HC.
Hear me out.
If you hire an older coach, then, if you hit gold, it is like Cinderella and the whole turning back into pumpkins thing. But at age 65 or whatever instead of at midnight. Yes, coaches may coach past 65 but you know what I mean. With an older coach, you are closer to their expiration date.
So, if you must gamble and hire a new coach, you may as well get a young one. That way, if you hit on them, it is like hitting on two or three head coaches all at once, in a row. Also, it isn't like older coaches are more successful in the NFL. You are not trading years for a higher percent at success.
In this time of Covid, an older coach is also more likely to retire earlier (I'm assuming this one), more likely to miss greater time from having Covid, and more likely to die from Covid. Hey, this is all true, just not happy stuff to talk about.
I don't care about white or black or about an offensive or defensive background. I do care about longevity. In the unlikely event our coaching hire works out, I want it to work out for a long time. That said, there is such a thing as too young. For instance, when players on the field are older than the coach. Maybe that is just a me thing.
Too young? Kellen Moore.
Too old? Todd Bowles. Doug Pederson? Arguable.
I don't think any of these candidates is truly bad. I think the worst one is Nathanial Hackett.
Among the "previously failed" HC candidates I think Doug Pederson and Raheem Morris are the best. I'd be happy with them as HC of the Vikings.
I think the two best ones, falling under catching a rising star before they've reached their zenith and before they get scooped up by another team are....
Who do you guys like for GM and/or HC? Is there someone not interviewed you think should be considered?