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Updated: January 5th, 2012 8:47pm
Vikings to interview Raheem Morris for job on defensive staff

Vikings to interview Raheem Morris for job on defensive staff

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings have yet to announce any changes to their defensive coaching staff, but those moves appear to be imminent.

The team already has made plans to interview former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris for a "possible high-level defensive coaching position," according to ESPN. Morris already has met with the Washington Redskins about becoming their defensive backs coach.

It's been anticipated for several weeks that defensive coordinator Fred Pagac would be let go by the Vikings after one season in that position. Other jobs on the defensive staff also are expected to change as well.

Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has told people at Winter Park that he doesn't plan to return, according to sources.

Coach Leslie Frazier, the Vikings defensive coordinator from 2007 until he was promoted to coach in November 2010, said Tuesday that he was still evaluating his assistant coaches.

This came after Rick Spielman was introduced as the team's new general manager. Spielman said Frazier would have control over who is on his coaching staff.

The Vikings went 3-13 this season and the defense finished 21st in the NFL, giving up 358.2 yards per game. The run defense was 11th (107 yards per game) and the pass defense was 26th (251.2 yards per game). The Vikings' run defense hadn't finished out of the top 10 since the 2005 season.

Morris, 35, was fired Monday after three seasons as Tampa Bay's coach. The Bucs won four of their first six games, including a victory at the Metrodome, but lost their final 10.

Morris went 17-31 with the Bucs but he guided them to a 10-6 finish in 2010 and the team just missed the playoffs. He was hired in January 2009 to replace Jon Gruden.

Morris was the Buccaneers' defensive backs coach in 2007 and led Tampa Bay's pass defense to the top-ranking in the NFL that season.

Morris was set to take over as the team's defensive coordinator in 2009 but then got the head coaching spot when Gruden was let go in a surprise move.

The Buccaneers' defense was even worse than the Vikings this season, giving up 394.4 yards per game to finish 30th in the league. Tampa Bay was 21st in pass defense (238.4 yards per game) and last in run defense (156.1 yards per game).

If Morris were named the Vikings' defensive coordinator, it would be a clear indication the team plans to largely stick with the Cover-2, Tampa-2 scheme it has employed since Mike Tomlin took over as Brad Childress' defensive coordinator in 2006.

In fact, Tomlin had been the Buccaneers defensive backs coach before joining the Vikings. Frazier also continued to run the Tampa-2 scheme when he arrived after a stint with the Indianapolis Colts.

Tomlin and Frazier both worked for former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who helped popularize the Tampa-2 scheme along with then-Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and assistant Lovie Smith.

Frazier hasn't closed the door on making changes to his defense -- even leaving open the possibility the Vikings could switch to a 3-4 -- but he has made it clear he prefers the Tampa-2 system because that is what he knows. Actually, the Vikings and Bucs both play Cover-2 derivatives, but that's not unusual in a league where defenses are more multiple than ever.

Nonetheless, Frazier likely would be more comfortable working with Morris than Pagac. 

According to those with knowledge of the situation, Pagac wanted to play a more aggressive defense this season but Frazier wasn't entirely on board with that.

Pagac, who was promoted from the Vikings linebackers coach to coordinator last offseason, got the job in part because of the success the Vikings had using an ultra-aggressive scheme late in the 2010 season in an upset victory at Philadelphia. Pagac had become the Vikings' interim coordinator at that point because Frazier was the interim coach.

Frazier took over making the defensive calls at time this season because of differences of opinion about how things should be run.

Morris also likely would be counted upon to take a very active role in helping straighten out a secondary that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2011.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who finished with 22 sacks this season, putting him a half-sack behind Michael Strahan's single-season record, said Monday that he wants Pagac back as his coordinator.

"I love Coach Pagac to death and I'm going to fight for him," Allen said. "I want him to be my d-coordinator next year."

But Allen knows there is a big difference between what he might want and what actually might happen.

"I can just state my opinions to Coach Frazier, like I do every year," Allen said. "I used to have the same conversation with Brad and I'd just say, 'Listen, I love playing for my guys,' and leave it at that. What decisions are going to be made are going to be made. I just know that I appreciate our coaching staff and I appreciate everything they put into this season."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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