In the wake of Mike Zimmer’s firing, the Minnesota Vikings have a long list of criteria for their next head coach.
They need to find someone who can build a culture while also saying hello in the hallway. The Vikings need to find someone who doesn’t treat the offense as an afterthought and can develop their franchise quarterback. And they need someone that can sell hope to a franchise that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 46 years.
Unfortunately, there’s not a candidate out there that can check every box. But what if we created the perfect candidate? It all starts with what the Vikings should be looking for with their next head coach.
The Offensive Knowledge of Kellen Moore
The Vikings’ search should begin with someone who understands how to run an offense. With Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and others, running the offense should have been easy for Klint Kubiak. Instead, it was like handing your teenager the keys to a Corvette.
The Vikings’ offense has its flaws, but it has the pieces to be a top-10 unit in the right hands. Fortunately, Moore has been obsessed with offense since high school.
According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Moore would collect playbooks in high school, draw his own plays and run them during games. Being the coach’s kid surely didn’t hurt, but Moore has backed it up with his success on the field.
Moore was 31 when he took over as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. In three seasons on the job, the Cowboys have ranked first in total offense twice, and they were off to a blazing start in 2020 before Dak Prescott broke his ankle.
There are many unknowns when it comes to Moore’s qualities as a head coach, but if the Vikings are looking to upgrade their scheme, he would be a great place to start.
The Leadership of Brian Flores
When the Miami Dolphins fired Flores, the football universe let out a collective “WHAT?” Which is a way of saying, “You just screwed up.”
Flores took over a disaster in Miami and walked out with a 24-25 record. Although his teams were supposed to be tanking, Flores built a culture with the Dolphins. Although they started 1-7, Miami won eight of their final nine games. It speaks volumes when a coach can pull his team out of a nosedive. On any of the other 31 teams, perhaps Flores’ ability to get people to run through a wall would be appreciated. But the Vikings also need to balance his similarities to Zimmer.
After a report in The Athletic stated that Flores wouldn’t say hello to players in the hallway, bringing him in would be turning a blind eye to comments that Brian O’Neill had after Zimmer’s firing. However, those things can also be tolerated if the team wins, which Flores did a lot of in Miami.
Doug Pederson’s ability to develop a quarterback
Whether you think Kirk Cousins is the answer or part of the problem, the Vikings will need to have someone who can get the best out of their quarterback. That candidate could be Pederson.
In an article for The 33rd Team, Pederson emphasized the relationship between a head coach and his quarterback. His opening paragraphs sound like music to the ears of Vikings fans who have sat through the Cousins/Zimmer power struggle.
“Whether you’re a first-time head coach or a veteran head coach, the ability to establish a strong and stable quarterback room is the most consequential aspect of achieving success in the NFL,” Pederson wrote. “The first piece of that is to identify a starting quarterback you believe you can win with at a high level and put together a plan to maximize his talents.”
Pederson had Carson Wentz playing at an MVP level with the Philadelphia Eagles before he tore his ACL in Nov. 2017. When Wentz got hurt, he seamlessly won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles, then picked up a playoff win with Foles the following season.
There will be questions regarding his fallout two years after winning a Super Bowl. But if Pederson can find his franchise quarterback, it will mean good things moving forward.
Brian Daboll and Byron Leftwich’s address book
A good coach can make a name for themselves, but it’s always good to know people. Throughout Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota, he would frequently name-drop Bill Parcells and even had Deion Sanders call in the middle of a press conference. These instances gave ammo to his critics, but it’s always good to have someone to give advice.
For Daboll, this means tapping into the Bill Belichick and Nick Saban coaching trees. This tree hasn’t produced many great head coaches, but that’s because they lacked people skills. Daboll is a different case as he seems to get the most out of his players and accentuates what they do well.
Leftwich also has some good friends to lean on after working with Bruce Arians the past three seasons. With the added benefit of working with Tom Brady, Leftwich has produced one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and can command a locker room. If you don’t believe me, check out that time he broke his leg at Marshall.
Having connections doesn’t always guarantee success. But it’s never a bad idea to draw from someone who has won in the NFL.
Nathaniel Hackett’s charisma
For fans, charisma might be an essential quality. It’s been nearly three years since Vikings fans have had something to hold on to. A lot of that is because Zimmer was crusty in press conferences and was never one to dole out compliments.
Hackett is a candidate that can change that. His demeanor in press conferences bleeds optimism, and his resumé´, from Buffalo to Green Bay, is qualified enough to take the job.
Press conferences are usually reserved for canned answers. But if the ideal candidate can bring the Vikings’ fan base together, it will be a big victory for this coaching search.