Ranking the Vikings Head Coach Candidates

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Exciting news came out earlier today that the Vikings officially hired Kwesi Odofo-Mensah as their new General Manager. One of his first jobs as general manager will be to help the Vikings finish their head coaching search. The Vikings have already completed preliminary interviews with eight head coach candidates, but it remains to be seen which of those candidates will be brought in for a second interview, or who will ultimately be hired.

The Vikings should want first and foremost, a winning head coach, but also one who is experienced and has a proven track record. There are many ways to evaluate coaches, but for this ranking each candidate was evaluated on their win-loss record as a head coach, their total years of experience coaching in the NFL as well as their total years as a coordinator and head coach. Half of their evaluation score was dependent on their win/loss record as a head coach, and the other half was dependent on their years of experience, broken down further by years as a coordinator and head coach. So a candidate with a better win/loss record and with more years of experience as a head coach and coordinator was ranked ahead of someone with a worse win/loss record (or no record if they haven't served as a head coach yet) and less years of experience as a coach. This led to the following ranking.

1. Dan Quinn (current defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys) -staying with DALLAS

Dan Quinn tops the list for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he is the only candidate who has not only served as a head coach previously, but also has an overall winning record as a head coach, albeit barely at 43-42 overall. In his six years as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons he had two winning seasons and went a combined 5-3 in the playoffs, including blowing a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Aside from that infamous game, he has the second most years of experience in the NFL at 21 years and has served as a defensive coordinator for 6 years. Quinn is the 2nd oldest candidate on the list at age 51. If the Vikings are looking for a traditional head coaching candidate with the most experience and wins as a head coach, look no further than Dan Quinn. All that said, as an older coaching candidate who already had a shot as a head coach, that track record may be used against him as you know what you're getting with Quinn as a head coach.

2. Todd Bowles (current defensive coordinator, TB Buccaneers)

Todd Bowles is near the top of the ranking for many of the same reasons as Dan Quinn. He's the most experienced candidate on the list having worked in the NFL for 24 years, with 5 as a coordinator and 5 as a head coach. He is also the oldest candidate on the list at 58 years old. His win-loss record as a head coach is not impressive, only 26-41, but that previous experience is still worth a lot. Bowles was head coach of the Dolphins for only 3 games, going 2-1 before eventually finding himself as head coach of a very bad Jets team for four seasons from 2015-2018. During those 4 seasons he had only one winning season and no playoff appearances with a combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Sam Darnold as his quarterbacks.

3. Raheem Morris (current defensive coordinator, LA Rams)

Like Todd Bowles above, Raheem Morris' track record as a head coach is not impressive, with an overall record of 21-38. However, he is the 3rd most experienced coach on the list having worked in the NFL for 19 years, with 5 of those spent as a coordinator and 4 as a head coach. He was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 3 seasons from 2009-2011 having 1 winning season and no playoff appearances with Josh Freeman as his primary starting quarterback. He also spent the majority of the 2020 season as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons after Dan Quinn above was fired. As the least experienced and least winning head coach on the list, he finds himself ranked 3rd out of 3 candidates with previous head coaching experience. That said, he has recently drawn rave reviews from current players for his coaching ability and some think he was thrust into a head coaching job too soon as he was only 33 years old when he became head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. So he may not have reached his full potential as a head coach yet.

4. Nathaniel Hackett (current offensive coordinator, GB Packers) hired by Denver

While Nathaniel Hackett has never served as a head coach at any level, he rises to the top of the remaining candidates without head coaching experience due to his years in the NFL and as a coordinator. He's coached in the NFL off and on for a total of 13 years, with some stints in college wedged in there as well. But, he's been an offensive coordinator for 8 years working with the Bills, Jaguars, and Packers in that role. If the Vikings are looking for an established, experienced NFL coordinator who is ready to make their first jump into a head coaching job, look no further than Nathaniel Hackett. Some recent character pieces in the media paint him out to be a well-liked, high energy, entertaining teacher's coach.

5. Kevin O'Connell (current offensive coordinator, LA Rams)

Kevin O'Connell has not spent a tremendous amount of time working the NFL, only 7 years total, but of those 7 years, he's spent 3 as an offensive coordinator with the Redskins and Rams. He finds himself buried in the middle of the ranking due to his relative lack of experience and lack of track record. He's a young coaching candidate at only age 36 so there are many unknowns about his ability to move into a head coaching role. When he was offensive coordinator with the Redskins in 2019, they were ranked dead last in the NFL in points per game, and the 2020 Rams were not much better with Jared Goff. With Matt Stafford, the Rams have transformed into a top 10 offense in O'Connell's second season.

6. Jonathan Gannon (current defensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles)

Jonathan Gannon has a lot more NFL experience than most of the other candidates without head coaching experience, but most of his 14 years in the NFL has been spent as a position coach, assistant coach, or NFL scout. He has spent only one year as a coordinator (this past season with the Eagles) and only 3 other years a sole position coach. Still, those other years of experience in the NFL move him ahead of the two candidates below who have even less experience.

7. Kellen Moore (current offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys)

Kellen Moore is a former NFL quarterback who has been serving as a coach in the NFL for only the past 4 years. However, during 3 of those years he has served as offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, leading a top offense under Dak Prescott. At age 32, Kellen Moore is also the youngest candidate on the list and finds himself near the bottom of the ranking as a result. Moore could become an excellent coach, but to date doesn't have the experience or longevity to prove it yet. It is noteworthy that it was Jason Garrett who elevated Moore from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, and Mike McCarthy did decide to retain him in that role after Jason Garrett was fired.

8. DeMeco Ryans (current defensive coordinator, SF 49ers)

DeMeco Ryans might be the most interesting candidate on the list, despite being ranked 8th in this assessment. While he has 1 more year of NFL coaching experience than Kellen Moore above, he has served as a coordinator for only 1 year, which is why he falls to 8th place. He has spent his short tenure as an NFL coach entirely with the 49ers, working his way up from a linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Media reports paint him out to be an extremely intelligent, respected, and well-liked coach. But like some of the names immediately above him, Ryans doesn't have the experience and longevity to show enough evidence of his head coaching potential. New Vikings GM Kwesi Odofo-Mensah has previous experience working alongside DeMeco Ryans for one season in San Francisco, so there is speculation that there could be a connection between the two of them.

Choosing a Head Coach

The Vikings have publicly stated that they are looking for the following qualities in a head coach: "great leaders, great communicators and great collaborators" and who "our players will want to follow and that will get us success on and off the field." While those are rather generic qualities it is interesting that the Vikings brought in a wide variety of candidates from experienced coaches with a track record as a head coach and decades coaching in the NFL, to some who have served a long time as coordinators, to relative newcomers. The list of head coach candidates have a wide range of experience and backgrounds and it remains to be seen how the new general manager helps guide the head coach search committee to their finalists for a second interview. If they want a candidate with previous head coaching experience and a track record of success, Dan Quinn is probably their best choice. If they're looking for an experienced coordinator ready to make the first jump into a head coaching role, then Nathaniel Hackett is probably their guy. If they are looking to hit the jackpot with a relative unknown, inexperienced, and young coach with potential, perhaps Kellen Moore is their guy. Or maybe they want to draw on a previous connection and go with someone who has already worked with their new General Manager, and in that case, DeMeco Ryans fits the bill. It could make sense for any of those four candidates to rise above the rest.

The fact that the Vikings haven't moved to announce any head coaching finalists yet, that could also be a clue that they are looking at those coaches that are still alive in the playoffs like: Raheem Morris, Kevin O'Connell, or DeMeco Ryans. Or, they might have just been waiting to get their new general manager in place to allow Kwesi Odofo-Mensah time to evaluate the list of candidates. Could he decide to bring someone in for an interview that the initial search committee overlooked? Who knows, but it will be a wild ride this off-season regardless.

Updated Jan. 27th to show Quinn and Hackett no longer available

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.