EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Only a few hours after he said the decision was made to fire coach Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman outlined his search for a replacement, including 13 categories he can find the next Minnesota coach.
Spielman is known for being meticulous and said he’s prepared for an exhaustive search and hope to have interviews lined up this week with a new coach in place by later this month.
"I’ve sliced every way you can slice it," Spielman said Monday afternoon. "I’ve looked at 13 different categories where coaches come out of and that can be anything from head coaches that are currently offensive coordinators, former head coaches that are currently defensive coordinators, defensive coordinators [and] offensive coordinators without head coaching experiences, college head coaches with and without NFL coaching experience. So there is a long list of areas that you can look for in a head coach."
Five other NFL teams are searching for head coaches. The Houston Texans reportedly have already agreed to a deal with Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly closing in on Lovie Smith as their next head coach.
O’Brien is the former NFL coordinator who was a college head coach. Smith would be getting his second head-coaching job. Of the last 16 Super Bowl winners, 10 were coached by someone on their second head coaching job in the NFL.
Spielman said none of his 13 categories yields more success than any other. He will need success from a group that likely includes:
DARRELL BEVELL, Seahawks offensive coordinator
Would Bevell be open to a return? Bevell, 43, was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings under Brad Childress and could potentially replace the person who fired him. Bevell’s stock wasn’t high when he left Minnesota, but it has grown immensely the past few seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. As the Seattle offensive coordinator, Bevell has helped develop Russell Wilson into one of the league’s elite young quarterbacks. The Seahawks are a run-first team that has ranked No. 1 and 2 in the NFL in rushing the past two seasons with Marshawn Lynch. Bevell could develop another young quarterback in Minnesota and would have Adrian Peterson to lead his offense. The Vikings have reportedly already asked for permission to interview Bevell.
TODD BOWLES, Cardinals defensive coordinator
Bowles was the first name to come out Monday about possible interviews. Several reports say Minnesota has already asked for permission to interview Bowles and an interview could be on tap soon. Bowles, 50, has worked his way up the chain. The former Washington Redskins safety has spent 14 years as an NFL defensive assistant. The assistant head coach/secondary coach in Miami for four years, he became the team’s interim head coach in 2011 and went 2-1 in three games after Tony Sparano was fired. He took over as interim defensive coordinator in his one season in Philadelphia in 2012 and coordinated Arizona’s defense this season, which allowed the sixth-fewest yards, seventh-fewest points and was the league’s best run defense.
JACK DEL RIO, Broncos defensive coordinator
Fitting in the ex-coach category is Del Rio, who was 68-71 in eight-plus seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, including two playoff appearances. Del Rio, 50, would even fit in the former player category — if there is one on Spielman’s list — having played 11 seasons as an NFL linebacker, the last four with Minnesota. Del Rio, 50, has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator for Denver under John Fox, and was the Broncos’ interim coach while Fox recovered from heart surgery this season, guiding Denver to a 3-1 record without Fox. Del Rio’s defense slipped to 19th in the NFL this season, plagued by injuries. But the Broncos had the league’s second-ranked defense the previous season.
JAMES FRANKLIN, Vanderbilt head coach
Stanford’s David Shaw is the college coach everyone wants. Shaw continues to maintain he has no interest in the NFL though. Kevin Sumlin has also committed to staying at Texas A&M, which leaves two possible college promotions. James Franklin, 41, is the hottest name for the work he’s done at Vanderbilt. Baylor’s Art Briles could receive more interest as he admitted this week he’s curious how his offensive system would work in the NFL, but Briles said he hasn’t had any contact with NFL teams. Franklin is 23-15 in his three seasons at Vanderbilt and has taken the program to a bowl each season after it went 4-20 in the two seasons before Franklin arrived. Franklin has one NFL season under his belt, spending 2005 as the Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers coach.
ADAM GASE, Broncos offensive coordinator
Gase, 35, is a tough candidate to judge. Gase is in his first year as Denver’s coordinator and the Broncos finished with the league’s best offense, but quarterback Peyton Manning receives a lot of the credit for the success and it’s hard to tell how much credit Gase deserves. Mike McCoy was the coordinator the previous year and the team’s success with Manning got McCoy the head coaching job with San Diego. For his part, McCoy guided the Chargers to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance and the league’s fifth-ranked offense. Gase is one of the hotter names expected to be considered. Like Del Rio, he won’t interview until after Denver is finished this season, so teams might have to wait on him. Minnesota has reportedly asked to interview Gase.
JAY GRUDEN, Bengals offensive coordinator
A Gruden, yes, but not the one fans have been asking for. JAY Gruden is one of the most interesting candidates with a background that includes time in the United Football League and arena football. Jon’s brother, Jay didn’t get to the NFL simply on name recognition. He won four Arena Bowls as a player and two as a coach. He was an offensive assistant under Jon with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before going to the United Football League. Gruden, 46, got the offensive coordinator job with Cincinnati and has helped Andy Dalton’s NFL development. The Bengals had the league’s 10th-ranked offense in terms of yards gained this season and the sixth-most points scored. He had several interviews last year and will surely get more this season.
DAN QUINN, Seahawks defensive coordinator
Quinn might fit several categories, depending on Spielman’s preferences. Quinn, 43, has spent one season as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, guiding the Seahawks to the league’s best defense this past season in terms of fewest yards and points allowed. He replaced Gus Bradley, who left to become the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach this season. Could Seattle lose a defensive coordinator for the second straight year? Quinn was the defensive coordinator with at the University of Florida the previous two seasons and utilizes an aggressive, hybrid defensive system. Before going to Florida, Quinn spent 10 seasons as an NFL assistant, mainly as a defensive line coach. The Vikings have already reportedly asked for permission to speak with Quinn.
GREG ROMAN, 49ers offensive coordinator
It’s routine for NFL teams to try and pick off assistant coaches on successful teams. Bevell and Quinn, Gase and Del Rio, and San Francisco could hear about Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Roman, 41, followed Jim Harbaugh from Stanford to San Francisco and has been the offensive coordinator for the past three seasons. Harbaugh and Roman have led an offense that has shown a variety of different traits and dealt with a complete philosophical change midseason in 2012 from quarterback Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick. After ranking 11th in the NFL in offense in 2012, the 49ers slipped to 24th this season in terms of yards allowed. They were 11th in points scored.
KEN WHISENHUNT, Chargers offensive coordinator
Whisenhunt, 51, might be the top name among the coaching retreads looking for a second opportunity. Whisenhunt was 45-51 in six years as the Arizona Cardinals head coach, including two playoff appearances and the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Whisenhunt had two losing seasons with Arizona and was ousted after a 5-11 record in 2012. It didn’t take him long to be considered for other head coaching chances, though. As the offensive coordinator for San Diego this season, Whisenhunt worked with McCoy to lead the league’s fifth-ranked offense. The Chargers got a bounce-back season from quarterback Phillip Rivers and the first big year of running back Ryan Matthews’ career in making the playoffs.
MIKE ZIMMER, Bengals defensive coordinator
Mike Zimmer, 57, is the veteran assistant waiting for his first chance to be a head coach. Zimmer has been an NFL defensive assistant since 1994, including the past 11 seasons as a defensive coordinator. Overall, he’s spent 34 years as an assistant in the NFL and college, starting in 1979. Zimmer has interviewed in the past, but been passed over. From 2000-06, he coordinated the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, including the league’s top defense in 2003. After one down season in Atlanta, he became Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator and has overseen a top-15 defense every season with the Bengals, and a top-7 mark four times in six years. This past season, even dealing with the loss of All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Cincinnati was third in fewest yards allowed and fifth in fewest points allowed, including a 42-14 win against Minnesota that will surely play into the evaluation of both Gruden and Zimmer from the Vikings’ perspective.