After eight seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Zimmer has been relieved of his duties. The whole fiasco felt like witnessing a car crash in slow motion. Rumors regarding Zimmer’s job security were swirling around social media for months. Some purple-blooded conspiracy theorists believed that the Wilfs informed him of his eventual departure before taking to the podium days after losing the Detroit Lions.
Over the past few seasons, the Vikings’ defense saw a drastic decline in production. Zimmer’s defense went from allowing the fewest number of points and yards in 2017 to ranking 24th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed. Add in that Zimmer mandated his offensive coordinator to operate a run-first offense, despite having a quarterback on the roster eating up 21% of the team’s cap space — all while running a “fear-based organization,” — and it should come as no surprise that Zim got canned.
The decision to fire Zimmer was an easy one. But the search for a new head coach capable of leading the franchise to its first Super Bowl win will be a difficult task. Every head-coaching candidate comes from a different background with their unique specialties, but there are risks associated with each coach that the Wilfs must factor in. For the sake of argument, we’ll only focus on candidates who specialize on the offensive side of the ball. This list isn’t entirely comprehensive, but it will feature some of the most popular names.
Brian Daboll is perhaps the top choice among Vikings fans to replace Zimmer, and it’s easy to see why. In his fourth season as offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, Daboll played a significant role in transforming a once-mediocre Bills offensive unit into an explosive pass-first offense led by one of the league’s brightest young quarterbacks in Josh Allen. In 2020, the Bills’ offense ranked second overall in both yards (396.4) and points (31.3) per game. Buffalo’s dominance on offense continued in 2021. They finished the regular season fifth in yards (381.9) per game and third in points (28.4) per game. The Bills’ rushing offense saw an uptick in production as well, ranking sixth in rushing yards (129.9) per game.
However, Daboll’s offenses have been uninspiring everywhere else. He served as an offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2009-10. The Browns ended both seasons at 5-11, and Daboll’s offense struggled. In 2009, Cleveland’s passing offense ranked dead last, and 2010 wasn’t much better as the team finished 29th in passing. The Miami Dolphins brought Daboll in as their offensive coordinator in 2011. However, they ranked 23rd in total yards that season and Miami let him go after they finished the season with a 6-10 record. The Kansas City Chiefs then hired him in 2012, and things somehow managed to get worse. Led by interim head coach Romeo Crennel, KC finished the year with a 2-14 record and ranked 24th in yards per game.
The big question with Daboll is, how much of the Bills’ success on offense can be attributed directly to him? One could make the case that Allen is making him look better than he actually is.
Some may know Kellen Moore better as a former backup QB for the Detroit Lions and later the Dallas Cowboys, but he’s been making waves as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator. Moore hung up his cleats in 2018, only to be hired by Dallas as the team’s quarterbacks coach after Wade Wilson retired. The following year, Dallas promoted Moore to offensive coordinator. After the 2019 season, Dallas parted ways with head coach Jason Garrett and hired Mike McCarthy to replace him. Despite McCarthy having over 30 years of experience, he decided to let Moore continue calling plays, even after saying he would never relinquish play-calling duties in Green Bay. That says a lot about the 33-year-old quarterback-turned-coach.
Under Moore’s supervision, the Cowboys’ offense reached new heights. In his first year calling plays, Dallas led the league in yards per game (431.5). That wasn’t a product of elite quarterback play either, as the Cowboys’ offense was still productive even without Dak Prescott. They finished the 2020 season ranked 14th in the league in total offense. With Prescott now healthy, Dallas again leads the league in yards (407) and points (31.2) per game.
The main question surrounding Moore is, does he have enough coaching experience to manage an entire team? If he gets hired, it will revolutionize NFL coaching like Sean McVay’s hiring did. However, McVay had nearly a decade’s worth of coaching experience in the NFL before landing a head coaching gig. Moore has only been coaching in the NFL for four years. Do the Wilfs want to take a chance with a young and inexperienced coach?
If there’s one coach who is long overdue for a top job, it’s Eric Bieniemy. He’s been the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator since 2018, and Kansas City’s offense has been an unstoppable force ever since they drafted Patrick Mahomes. Anyone who watches football knows how good KC is, so I’ll keep this brief. In three of the last four years, Kansas City’s offense has been a top-five scoring unit. The one year the Chiefs weren’t in the top five, they were ranked sixth. Kansas City’s offense is consistently elite. Not many NFL teams can say that.
So why hasn’t Bieniemy been hired yet? Some say race is a factor. Others claim it’s because Andy Reid is the real mastermind behind the offense. Both notions have some truth, but neither of those things are 100% accurate. Andy Reid calls a good amount of plays in Kansas City, but Mahomes has credited Bieniemy with calling a good portion of the plays the Chiefs run and is surprised that another team hasn’t hired him yet.
I think the reason another team hasn’t hired him has to do with the lack of clarity surrounding his responsibilities as offensive coordinator. We know he helps Reid design and call plays, but to what extent? Is it an equal partnership, or is Reid doing most of the heavy lifting? That question is not only the toughest one to answer, but it’s also the most critical. Teams can better evaluate Daboll and Moore because we know they are the ones in charge. Bieniemy doesn’t have the same benefit. Unfortunately, that is why he has yet to land a head coaching job.
It doesn’t matter how good the offense you coach is. The people in charge who are interviewing coaches will always have questions. Was it a fluke? Does he have the qualifications? What was he responsible for? When it’s all said and done, only one question matters:
Is he the right man for the job?