Zulgad: Jared Allen sad to see friend go but glad defense won't change
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MINNEAPOLIS - Jared Allen has never met Alan Williams, but that didn't stop the Pro Bowl defensive end from expressing a bit of relief Thursday after it was made official that Williams would become the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator.
"I'm assuming we'll be running pretty much a similar defense," Allen said while attending the Boat Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
He would be correct.
The NFL's leader in sacks this season with 22 - he came within a half-sack of tying Michael Strahan's single-season record - Allen had seen reports for a few months that Fred Pagac would be removed as the Vikings' defensive coordinator.
He also heard the speculation that the Vikings might switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, meaning that in his ninth season Allen would have been asked to go from being a right end to an outside linebacker.
Allen didn't dismiss any of it.
He knew that the Vikings' 3-13 record was going to cause some type of overhaul. Allen predicted it on more than one occasion, even though he made it clear he felt Pagac deserved to remain as coordinator.
The one thing Allen made sure to convey to coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman was that he had little interest in playing in a 3-4 defense.
"When I heard (the rumors) at first I brought it to the attention of some people and they assured me it wasn't going to happen," Allen said. "But just like anything else, when you're 3-13 shakeups happen and you never know what the latest fad is.
"If a good d-coordinator is available sometimes you have to hire them and if their philosophy is such then there are decisions you have to make as a player. After talking with coaches and Coach Frazier and Rick and those guys, there was never a thought in my mind that that's the way they'd go."
Williams, 42, who spent the past 10 seasons coaching defensive backs for the Indianapolis Colts, will continue to run the Tampa-2 scheme that the Vikings have used a version of since 2006.
Frazier, who was the Vikings' defensive coordinator from 2007 until being promoted after Brad Childress was fired during the 2010 season, said Thursday that he plans to focus more heavily on that side of the ball.
That means little stands to change for Allen, who was acquired by the Vikings from Kansas City in April 2008. Frazier discussed the situation with Allen in a recent conversation.
"Coach called me when he made his decision and laid it out," Allen said. "Obviously, I'm not in the position of hiring or firing, but it was definitely nice to have him reach out to me and to make sure that I was comfortable with things and for the most part I am."
While Williams' hiring drew most of the attention Thursday, Allen actually was most pleased by the Vikings' decision to name Brendan Daly as defensive line coach.
Allen is very familiar with his new position coach, having worked with him in 2008 when Daly was in his final season as assistant line coach to Karl Dunbar. Dunbar was fired after this season, and Daly was brought back after spending three seasons coaching the St. Louis Rams' defensive line.
Allen had told Frazier that he needed to have someone coaching his position that he knew and trusted. The reality is Allen stands to have far more interaction with Daly, given Williams' background working with defensive backs and the fact that is where the Vikings need to make the most improvement on that side of the ball.
"That's awesome, because of the fact that it's someone I'm familiar with makes it easy," said Allen, who had 14.5 sacks in his first season with the Vikings. "That's one thing one thing I just asked that, 'Listen, I'm at a point in my career I really don't need to learn a new guy trying to teach me new techniques and stuff.'
"So to have Coach Daly, to have already worked with him in '08 and know where his mindset is, to know what his vision is, makes it so much easier to come in and build that continuity and that trust."
This doesn't mean Allen was happy that Pagac was stripped of his title or that Dunbar got fired. Allen had close relationships with both and called the moves "very tough" to see happen. Dunbar had been Allen's position coach since he arrived in Minnesota and the two had developed a bond.
"I'll be honest, I still don't understand it," Allen said of the decision. "I thought we performed well as a d-line, but again I guess to be able to bring Brandon Daly in, who was under Dunbar, keeps a lot of the same philosophies.
"Obviously, he's grown over the years and I'm excited to see where he's at. But that's tough. You build a relationship with someone over four years and you get to understand what they expect of you and what you expect from them. So that was tough to see them let him go. But at the same time, you understand the business. I've seen good coaches fired before."
Allen is glad that Pagac will remain on the Vikings' coaching staff; Pagac will join Mike Singletary in overseeing the linebackers.
Allen did express regret that Pagac never really got to run the defensive system he wanted.
"He's such a phenomenal coach," Allen said. "You didn't get to see what his true defense was like. Pug's a cover-1, aggressive guy and we got injured and kind of banged up, so we didn't really get to see the full force of what he could do.
"But at the same time it's a business and at 3-13 things had to change. I'm excited to see where this goes. I trust Coach Frazier, I trust the organization that they're going to put the right people in the spots and so that's what we're moving with."
An excellent cause
Allen had a good reason for returning to Minneapolis on a frigid Thursday from his offseason home in Arizona.
Allen was at the Boat Show for the unveiling of a custom-made wrapped boat, which will be sold in order to raise money for Allen's non-profit organization, Homes for Wounded Warriors.
The organization, founded in 2009, builds handicap accessible homes nationwide for wounded veterans. "This is going to allow us to build one, maybe two houses or remodel a bunch of houses for our soldiers," Allen said. "For me that's the ultimate way I can say thank you."