Are the Vikings Really Interviewing Only Three Offensive-Minded Coaches?

Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon (USA TODAY Sports)

Two full weeks have passed since the Minnesota Vikings officially moved on from general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer. As Mark Wilf laid out on Jan. 10th, the plan has been to hire a GM and then collaborate with the new leader of the front office to determine who would be the next head coach of the Vikings.

And as Tom Pelissero reported on Friday afternoon, the Wilfs have apparently zeroed in on two finalists for the vacant GM position.

Although the plan is to hire a GM before deciding on a coach, the Wilfs have conducted eight reported interviews for the head coach. And for Skoliders who dreamt of resetting organizational expectations by prioritizing the offensive side of the ball, the past two weeks have left this segment of the fanbase scratching their heads.

When Spielman and Zimmer were relieved of their duties, many fans expected that the Vikings would interview the whole gambit of hotshot offensive coordinators. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell called Minnesota the most desirable destination for potential head coaching vacancies. With an offense loaded with skill players such as Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Kirk Cousins, Skoldiers had their eyes set on some of the most popular coaching candidates.

  • Brian Daboll — Buffalo Bills OC
  • Byron Leftwich — Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC
  • Eric Bieniemy — Kansas City Chiefs OC
  • Joe Lombardi — Los Angeles Chargers OC
  • Mike McDaniel — San Francisco 49ers OC

Even former NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds like Super Bowl champion Doug Pederson or Jim Harbaugh were near the top of many Skoliders list. It’s been reported that every single coach listed above except Harbaugh has been requested for head coaching interviews throughout this hiring carousel.

Except for the Minnesota Vikings.

Granted, the Wilfs have already interviewed the widely-regarded crowned jewel of prospective head coaches with offensive backgrounds — Kellen Moore. Despite having the No. 1 offense in the NFL in two out of the past three years, the same coach has drawn considerable criticism following the Dallas Cowboys’ questionable ending to their opening-round loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

There’s no question that Moore benefited from having an offense rich in talent across the board. But let’s not pretend that the Cowboys are the only team in the NFL that has the luxury of talent offensively and high-level coaching.

But other than Moore, the Vikings have interviewed only two other offensive-oriented head coaching candidates. And neither has called plays in their NFL careers — which is also true for Bieniemy and McDaniel.

So far, Los Angeles Rams OC Kevin O’Connell and Green Bay Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett have been the only other coaches with offensive backgrounds to interview with the Vikings. To their credit, both O’Connell and Hackett have been part of some of the league’s best offenses in LA and Green Bay. But they are far from the splashy candidates that most Skoldiers were hoping for when the Vikings embarked on this coaching search.

Is it possible that the more popular candidates listed above could be requested for interviews once the Wilfs decide between Kwesi Adofo-Mensah or Ryan Poles as their GM? Absolutely. But coaches like Daboll and Leftwich are already finalists elsewhere, and the clock is ticking.

If the Vikings have already begun their interviews for head coaches before selecting the GM, why have these more sought-after candidates — Daboll, Leftwich, and Bieniemy in particular — been left off Mark and Zygi Wilfs’ guest list?

Could it be that the aforementioned offensive coaches respectfully declined an opportunity to interview with Minnesota? I suppose, but wouldn’t that have come out in the press by now? And does it make sense for an offensive head coach to say thanks but no thanks to the opportunity at leading an organization that includes so much firepower on offense?

By all accounts, the Wilfs appear to have hit a no-doubter home run with Adofo-Mensah and Poles as their finalists for the GM position. Whoever they decide between the two finalists to hand the keys of the front office to, the Vikings will be in an incredibly strong spot with an up-and-coming GM.

But the process that has gone into the eight reported head coaching interviews deserves its fair share of questions.

Does Jonathan Gannon — a first-year Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator that oversaw a unit that ranked 18th in points allowed this season — deserve to be interviewed more than Daboll, Leftwich, or Bieniemy?

For context, first-year offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak’s offense in Minnesota ranked 14th in points scored this season. Is Kubiak getting interviews for head coaching positions at the moment? Like Kubiak with the Vikings, Gannon wasn’t short on talent in Philadelphia this season with players such as Pro Bowler Darius Slay, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, and Fletcher Cox. And yet Gannon’s defense was in the bottom half of the league in points allowed.

For all we know, Gannon could be a terrific head coach in the NFL. And it’s been reported that Gannon interviewed exceptionally well with both the Vikings and Broncos. Gannon has even drawn comparisons to first-year head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Brandon Staley.

But let’s not forget, the Chargers were one of the worst defenses in the NFL this past season — ranking 29th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. And they had a defense that includes perennial Pro Bowler Joey Bosa and 2018 first-team All-Pro safety Derwin James. The same defense that failed to keep generational quarterback Justin Herbert from making the playoffs this season.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Wilfs when it comes to picking the right head coach to lead this new era of Vikings football. And with the notable absences so far among the reported eight interview requests, it’s more than fair to ask if they are botching this coaching search by neglecting some of the best offensive-minded candidates on the open market right now.

To make matters worse, since 2018, offensive-minded head coaches have accounted for 13 of the 16 Conference Championship game appearances. And for the third straight season, the Super Bowl will feature two offensive-oriented head coaches.

Yet here we are, on the brink of the Vikings hiring their next head coach, and five of the eight requested head coach interviews come from defensive backgrounds.

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