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Updated: December 30th, 2013 6:48pm
Zulgad: Where does Minnesota rank among NFL head coaching vacancies?

Zulgad: Where does Minnesota rank among NFL head coaching vacancies?

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by Judd Zulgad

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Rick Spielman made it clear Monday afternoon that he will conduct an "extensive search" as he attempts to find a replacement for Leslie Frazier.

The Minnesota Vikings general manager would like to have a coach hired by the Senior Bowl in late January but admitted that he could continue the process past that time.

Spielman talked of looking at 13 possible categories of coaches, ranging from head coaches who are now coordinators to coordinators without head coaching experience to college coaches with and without experience in the NFL.

What Spielman didn't bring up was this fact: One reason he will have plenty of time to conduct a search is because there is no guarantee any top candidates will jump at the chance to work for the Vikings.

"I think this a very attractive job," Spielman said during a press conference at Winter Park. "I think when you talk to people on the outside that the young talent that we do have on this roster, with all the new coming in, with the new stadium and potential facilities online coming in, I don't think we're in a total rebuilding mode."

What else is Spielman going to say?

There are currently six head coaching openings in the NFL. Houston fired Gary Kubiak with three games left in the season and reportedly is hoping to hire Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. O'Brien reportedly also was contacted by the Vikings a few weeks back.

The five vacancies created in the past 48 hours include Cleveland (Rob Chudzinski), Detroit (Jim Schwartz), Tampa Bay (Greg Schiano), Washington (Mike Shanahan) and the Vikings. It's unknown if Tennessee's Mike Munchak and Oakland's Dennis Allen will be around past the New Year.

So why wouldn't the Vikings be near the top of this list?

Strike one, the Vikings lack what every team and coach in the NFL covets: A franchise-type quarterback whom an organization can build around. And, no, having one of the game's greatest running backs in Adrian Peterson does not make up for that.

Washington owner Daniel Snyder might be high maintenance but you name me a coach who wouldn't like the chance to turn around Robert Griffin III? Detroit also is attractive because of the presence of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Strike two, the Vikings are about to embark on a two-year stay at TCF Bank Stadium while their new indoor palace is being built on the site of the Metrodome. Think of it this way, if you are a highly pursued NFL free agent that can get big money from several teams what would be the incentive to play in Minnesota in 2014 or 2015?


It's also worth keeping in mind that Spielman would rather build gradually and not make a splash in free agency. This means it's highly unlikely the Vikings would throw so much money at a free agent that they would overlook playing outdoors in a college stadium for two years.

Strike three, Spielman is going to conduct this search and that almost certainly means he is going to maintain final say over all personnel decisions. The big-time head coaching candidates often look for as much power as they can get and they aren't going to find that in Minnesota.

This is not saying it's a good idea to give a coach power over personnel decisions. In fact, it's often a bad one. But it's something the Vikings won't be able to use as a selling point.

Spielman also finds himself in an interesting situation because now that Frazier is gone the majority of the pressure will shift to him. That means he must find a coach who won't look to convince ownership that perhaps the general manager doesn't know best. The next slip up on a quarterback likely will fall entirely in Spielman's lap.

Spielman, of course, doesn't see there being any problem with the working relationship between him and the new coach.

 "(This is) a coach that's going to come in that I look at as a partner to work hand in hand with," he said. "We have great ownership that is willing to put whatever it takes to put the best product on the field. We're going to be in a great (salary) cap situation. It's a situation where a head coach comes in that I feel could be a very quick turnaround."

Spielman is right in that things can be turned around quickly in the NFL. The Vikings, and Frazier, proved that going from 3-13 in 2011 to 10-6 and a playoff berth in 2012.

With any luck, the Vikings will rebound from a 5-10-1 finish this season with a strong 2014.

If that happens, however, odds are it could be with a coach whom Spielman has to first sell on taking the job.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 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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