Thursday, January 05, 2006

Who Should the Vikings Hire?

With 25% percent of the NFL looking for head coaches, there is urgency for the Vikings to find a new coach. Despite the urgency it is still critical to find the right guy. The early candidates are all current assistants, including Vikes defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. It is difficult to tell how good an assistant coach truly is besides popular opinion. For example Eagles' offensive coordinator Brad Childress is a popular choice to be hired somewhere this off-season. Philly had an above average offense the past few years, but Andy Reid calls the plays, making it tough to gauge Childress' skills.

It is also hard to tell what direction Minnesota's owners want to go, but to me there are a few key things to look for. The biggest thing is communication skills with the front office, coaching staff and players. Every aspect of a head coach's job requires communication: talent evaluation, drafting, coordinating game plans, game day decisions, to motivating players and building good chemistry. Almost every NFL coach is going to work 16 hour days, but if the communication is poor or egos get in the way it will not work.

Another trait for an ideal coach would be a mix of flexibility and faith in his plan. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try things, but in the same breath not panicking when things struggle. Bill Belicheck may be the ultimate model of this balancing act. After winning his third Super Bowl, he went to the Navy to study Navy's running game in hopes of gleaning knowledge he could apply to the Patriots. The coach of an NFL dynasty that is still looking for new tricks at a bottom rung college program. The converse of this is Belicheck's system in New England. He has let go of Pro Bowlers like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Damien Woody, and Terry Glenn because he knew that his team was bigger than stars. It's doubtful the Vikings will find someone of Belicheck's caliber, but it's still a good example of what a good coach looks like.

In the Vikings' case I think it is also vital that they find someone without ties to previous regimes. Mike Tice was on Dennis Green's staff and many things carried over good and bad. Each team has their own culture and how things are done, and sometimes I think things can get overlooked or go unchallenged. With Red McCombs gone, it is time for a complete break. I hope Ted Cottrell gets a head coaching job (Jets?), he is long overdue, but in this case an outsider might be needed.