The Minnesota Vikings made the decision to fire longtime head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday. Zimmer had a coaching record of 72-56-1, but went just 15-18 over the last two seasons while missing the playoffs in both years. Overall, he went 2-3 in the postseason with one appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings are facing a bit of a rebuild, as they are strapped for cash and have a defense that needs a huge boost. There’s also the Kirk Cousins question, as he’s entering the final year of his contract and is due $35 million in base salary, per Spotrac. Are the Vikings open to parting ways with Cousins, or are they set on finding a general manager/head coach that wants to build around him for 2022? Additionally, are the Vikings interested in a defensive-minded or offensive-minded head coach?
Below, we will break down three candidates the Vikings should consider interviewing and hiring for their head coach opening.
Most recent job: Head coach, Philadelphia Eagles
It appears the former Eagles head coach is ready to take another spin on the coaching carousel, as Pederson has already been interviewed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pederson helped the Eagles reach the top of the NFL world in 2017, as he led Philly to a Super Bowl LII win with backup quarterback Nick Foles. There’s even a statue of him and Foles speaking before dialing up the “Philly Special.” In five full seasons with the Eagles, Pederson went 42-37-1 with a 4-2 record in the postseason.
Pederson was the first Super Bowl-winning head coach to be fired within three years after winning it all since 1973. His final 4-11-1 season was defined by Carson Wentz’s struggles as well as a reportedly troublesome relationship with the front office. Pederson made the playoffs in three out of five seasons in Philly, and should have a head coaching job. He’s an offensive-minded coach who has gotten the most out of his quarterbacks and offense in general.
Most recent job: Head coach, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins made the surprising decision to fire Flores on Monday morning, and all reports indicate that he’s going to be a hot name this offseason. That usually indicates that the franchise made the wrong move in parting ways with him. With Flores being one of the more enticing names available, paired with the fact that he’s a defensive-minded head coach, the Vikings should be interested in acquiring his services.
Flores went 24-25 in his three seasons with the Dolphins, and barely missed out on the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. While his defense finished the regular season ranked No. 15 in terms of yards allowed per game, this unit was hampered by a poor offense and really came on late in the year. Miami ended the season on an 8-1 run after starting 1-7.
Flores had to weather the Deshaun Watson speculation all year and his relationship with general manager Chris Grier and Tua Tagovailoa had deteriorated to a “pretty bad place,” according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington. While that sounds like a red flag when it comes to a coaching candidate, this may be an issue that was caused by Grier, not Flores.
A young, proven defensive leader that probably should not be on the open market? Set up an interview for tomorrow.
Most recent job: offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
When teams undergo a head coaching change, the fanbase usually wants a proven candidate that can undoubtedly make the franchise better, not a wunderkind lottery ticket. Pederson and Flores are the safer options, but if you want to take a shot on a young up-and-comer, Kevin O’Connell is your guy.
O’Connell is not listed here just because he’s a Sean McVay clone that works under him in L.A., it goes deeper than that. He’s one of those former Washington assistants that’s ready to blow up, like McVay and Kyle Shanahan did. Put simply, O’Connell is an offensive-minded coach who has been highly regarded by his superiors everywhere he has gone. He served as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Washington Football Team in 2017 and 2018, then head coach Jay Gruden promoted him to offensive coordinator so he didn’t lose him to another NFL team.
Once Gruden was fired, O’Connell was even given some consideration for the head coaching job before the front office decided to go with Ron Rivera. From there, O’Connell joined McVay in L.A. Last offseason, the Los Angeles Chargers looked to steal him to serve as Brandon Staley’s offensive coordinator, but McVay reportedly blocked the interview.
O’Connell also has a relationship with Cousins, as he served as his quarterbacks coach in Cousins’ final season with Washington in 2017. He’s a young offensive mind who not only knows the veteran quarterback well, but also can get the most out of weapons like Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.