Zulgad: Vikings should not rush decision on head coaching vacancy
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There has been a long held belief in the NFL that being an assistant coach on a team that makes a deep playoff run is a bad thing for those hoping to land a head coaching job.
That's because many clubs seem to operate on a schedule that dictates a coach be fired the day after the season ends and a new hire be made in a timely fashion.
Part of this thinking makes little sense.
If a team knows it's going to fire its coach, doing it the day after the season ends is fine. But unless you think you are interviewing the next Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick, the hurry to name a replacement seems odd and misguided.
The Vikings, of course, went with quick-hire philosophy in 2006, when Brad Childress was named head coach five days after Mike Tice was fired.
Childress, who had been offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, was considered a hot head coaching candidate and owner Zygi Wilf didn't want to let him leave town without signing a contract.
In his first public speaking engagement as Vikings coach, Childress told a crowd that if he had left Minnesota after talking to the Vikings that he was headed to Green Bay and would have gotten the Packers job.
The Packers had fired coach Mike Sherman on Jan. 2, 2006, a day after the season ended, but general manager Ted Thompson used a more deliberate approach than the Vikings.
Thompson interviewed San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy on Jan. 8 -- McCarthy wasn't nearly as hot of a name as Childress -- and did not offer him the job until three days later. That move has worked out pretty well in Green Bay, considering the Vikings will be naming their third coach in the time the Packers have had only one.
A year later, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that is among the most stable in sports when it comes to keeping a head coach, proved there is nothing wrong with showing patience in looking for the right guy.
Bill Cowher, the Steelers' coach for 15 years, stepped down on Jan. 5. Pittsburgh did not hire Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin until Jan. 22.
Steelers executives had to know they were taking a chance by going with a guy who had one season of experience as a coordinator and was only 34 years old. But after doing a thorough amount of due diligence, they decided they had the right person.
That brings us to the Vikings' latest search, which has been ongoing since Leslie Frazier was fired on Dec. 30. The Vikings are joined by Cleveland and Detroit as teams that have yet to make hires, meaning clubs might be getting smarter. (ESPN reported Monday that Ken Whisenhunt will be the next coach of the Titans.)
Tampa Bay quickly pursued and landed former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and the Washington Redskins hired Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden just before he was about to talk to the Vikings.
Twitter has been heavy with rumors that the favorite for the Vikings job is Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and that he will receive an offer this week after a second meeting with the team.
The name of Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles also continues to circulate and there have been reports of a third unnamed candidate being in the mix.
The Vikings did talk to San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., before the 49ers played the Panthers on Sunday.
Several other coordinators also received interviews with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and other team officials who have been traveling with him.
While there are some who want the Vikings to hire Zimmer right now, there still isn't a rush here and this should be done on the team's timetable.
Spielman was not yet with the Vikings in early 2006, when Childress essentially told Wilf that if he left he probably would not be coming back. That should have been a chance the owner was willing to take.
Zimmer is 57 years old and has never been a head coach in the NFL. This doesn't mean he wouldn't be a good coach, but if he was viewed as a can't-miss type, then don't you think he already would have had a job?
If the Vikings want to wait on Roman, what's the harm in doing so? If they are convinced he might be a better option than Zimmer, then they should wait to see if the 49ers get ousted in the NFC title game on Sunday at Seattle.
If that happens, Roman could be in the Twin Cities on Monday to meet again with team officials. This holds true for any other assistant whose team will be playing in the conference championship games this weekend.
This might cause a few more anxious moments for people but the Vikings are hoping to end a run that saw Childress last four-plus seasons and Frazier only three-plus years as head coach.
The Vikings, one would hope, are looking for a long-term relationship with their next coach, so working on any sort of rushed timetable to find him makes little sense.