Todd Bowles Could Be the Leader the Vikings Need

Photo Credit: Kim Klement (USA TODAY Sports)

When the Minnesota Vikings launched the most crucial offseason in franchise history, there was a lot of buzz about finding an offensive-minded head coach to lead them through a mini rebuild. That made sense after Mike Zimmer’s eight-year tenure. Minnesota is loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, so developing an offense to maximize that personnel is essential.

Hiring a GM will be the first step. We’ll know a lot more about the team’s direction when that happens. For now, though, all we have to go on is what the Wilf ownership group has said.

Vikings president Mark Wilf opened his press conference by saying, “The process will be methodical, comprehensive, and we’re looking for strong leaders, communicators, [and] collaborators.”

The Wilfs have stuck to this statement thus far, focusing on leadership over offensive expertise. A lot of the interviews have been with candidates who have previous head coaching experience, but none fit as well as current Tampa Bay Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles.

Many remember Bowles for his stint with the New York Jets, which was lackluster, to say the least. After four seasons, Bowles left the Meadowlands with a 24-40 record. His defenses finished in the top-10 only once during his tenure.

Bowles is essentially the antithesis of everything Vikings fans want in the post-Zimmer era. At 58, he’s a bit on the older side, has a defense-first approach, and has already struggled as a head coach. But take a deeper dive into his career, and he becomes a lot more intriguing.

First and foremost, he’s in the prestigious club of having won a Super Bowl as a player, coach, and executive. It might not have worked out in New York, but sometimes an individual’s success in the NFL can be significantly circumstantial. Bowles had three different starting quarterbacks with the Jets and extremely limited weapons on both sides of the ball. Coaching is the difference between good teams and great ones, but you can’t be either without on-field talent.

Since he left New York, he’s shown what he can do with a fuller roster. Tampa Bay had a top-10 defense in back-to-back seasons under his tutelage, and it’s a big reason why the Buccaneers have a good shot at repeating as Super Bowl Champions. It’s hard to say how quickly he’d be able to replicate such success with a Vikings defense that is a bit barren, but there’s plenty of evidence that he could rebuild it.

More importantly, Bowles has established himself as a leader within the league.

Even in the New York media, you can’t find anything bad about Bowles. Guys love to play for him. He develops a much different culture than Zimmer did, one where players feel like there is more of an ongoing dialogue within the organization.

Take Bill Belichick, for example. He’s been the head coach of the New England Patriots for my entire life and could go down as the greatest football coach ever. But even with all his success, he had growing pains in his career. Belichick was famously head coach of the Cleveland Browns for five seasons before arriving in New England. He finished under .500 with the Browns and had only one playoff appearance to show for it. That’s a parallel to Bowles, who had one year of relative success in New York before a lot of losing.

I’m not here to suggest that Bowles will become one of the greatest coaches of all time in Minnesota, but sometimes before you can succeed, you need to fail.

I think it’s still nearly impossible to decipher who may be in the lead for the Vikings’ head coaching job. Given the various candidates requested to interview, it’s clear that finding a strong leader is the Wilfs’ biggest priority. It doesn’t matter their age or what their expertise is. Connecting with the locker room is a must.

That’s something that Bowles can do. Consider Vita Vea, who has dominated in the trenches for the Bucs and earned a four-year extension. When asked about what it meant to him, he immediately gloated about Bowles’ impact on him as a player.

“Coach Bowles put me in this situation to be the best I could be,” said Vea. “Coach Bowles puts us in the best situations possible.”

An anecdotal story from a press conference may seem small, but it’s the ability to be personable that can make the difference. It’s something the Vikings haven’t had for years, and bringing in Bowles for a second chance could be a match made in heaven for both sides.

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