Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, believed to be the frontrunner in Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman’s extensive head coaching search, arrived in the Twin Cities today for two nights and will spend Tuesday going through a second interview that will include the team’s ownership, the Star Tribune has learned.
Zimmer, 57, has spent 20 seasons as an NFL assistant, including the past 14 as a defensive coordinator for three teams, including Dallas, where he worked with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells for four seasons, Atlanta and Cincinnati, where he revived a dormant defense and helped the Bengals post three consecutive playoff seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Zimmer has never been a head coach in the NFL or in college, where he spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Missouri, Weber State and Washington State. If hired, he would be the Vikings’ ninth head coach and the third one hired since current owners Zygi and Mark Wilf bought the team in 2005.
As Spielman’s coaching search entered its third week on Monday, two other finalists were believed to have surfaced. They are Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Seahawks coordinator Dan Quinn.
Both are among the seven candidates Spielman has interviewed. Bowles is available immediately for a second interview, which may take place this week if the team doesn’t move quickly to hire Zimmer. Quinn, meanwhile, would not be available until next week because the Seahawks are in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.
Also in the title game and unavailable until next week are San Francisco’s offensive coordinator Greg Roman defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. They interviewed with Spielman on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., the day before the divisional playoff game against the Panthers.
Bowles has not been scheduled for a second interview as of Monday afternoon, according to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
Also known to have interviewed with Spielman are Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Vikings had interest in Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but he has refused all interview requests until after the Broncos’ season is over.
-- Mark Craig and Master Tesfatsion
Coaching candidate: Darrell Bevell
Contact: Interviewed with the Vikings last weekend; cannot speak with team again until Seahawks eliminated or after the Super Bowl
Head coaching experience: None
NFL coaching experience: 13 seasons
2000-05 – Offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach for the Packers
2006-2010 – Offensive coordinator for the Vikings
2011-present – Offensive coordinator for the Seahawks
Ever heard of this guy? Bevell has been one of the hot coordinators this year seeking a head coaching position. He knocked out two interviews last week, including one with the Vikings, and has drawn interest from the Redskins, Lions and Titans.
The Yuma, Ariz. native spent five seasons with the Vikings as offensive coordinator under head coach Brad Childress. He wasn’t retained once the organization fired Childress and hired Leslie Frazier, but Bevell received the same position in Seattle in 2011. It turned out to be a pretty nice career move for him.
Bevell has helped with the development of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in his two NFL seasons. Like the case in Minnesota however, the Seahawks offense ranked in the top five in rushing over the last two seasons (third last season with 161.2 ypg; fourth this season with 136.8 ypg). The Seahawks won their first NFC West division title this season with Bevell as the offensive coordinator.
Bevell was a four-year starter at the University of Wisconsin after starting at Northern Arizona and taking a two-year Mormon mission trip to Cleveland, Ohio in 1990-91. The Badgers went 10-1-1 during Bevell’s sophomore season to claim a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1962. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes during his collegiate career.
Here's a story the Star Tribune did on Bevell in 2010.
Hello everyone. Quick update on the Vikings coaching search. The team officially requested permission to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, according to a league source. They are one of four teams that requested permission on Monday.
Per league rules, Gruden was not available to interview last week because the Bengals played in the Wild Card game. Coaches whose teams had a first-round bye were allowed to interview last week.
Led by General Manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings reportedly interviewed Seattle coordinators Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn over ther weekend.
According to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the Vikings are in Phoenix today to interview Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. They will interview Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton on Tuesday.
That means they likely will interview Gruden later in the week. It won't be surprising if they also request permission to interview Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
UPDATE: Jason La Canfora of CBS reports that the Vikings also have requested permission to interview San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
The Vikings, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans have all requested interviews with Gruden and Whisenhunt, according to La Canfora.
The NFL’s annual meeting wraps up this afternoon from the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. This morning, all 16 NFC coaches held court for the conference’s coaches breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. Included: Seattle’s Pete Carroll, the proud new coach of standout receiver Percy Harvin, a Viking for his first four seasons in the league but now a Seahawks after last week’s blockbuster trade.
I had a chance to briefly pick Carroll’s brain on the move to land Harvin and how he hopes to wrap around his brain around the receiver’s fiery personality, which at times is both his greatest strength and most dangerous weakness.
Here’s a quick taste of Carroll’s thoughts ...
Before the trade occurred, when you were trying to do some background on Percy and familiarize yourself with his situation, what specifically did you want to glean from Darrell Bevell, who had obvious comfort with him? What was some of his feedback
Carroll: Darrell had nothing but the best things to say. He said he had had a great relationship with Percy, which I found out after talking to Percy, that it was reciprocated. They work together really well. Darrell raved about his competitiveness. He raved about his work ethic. He raved about his talent. And it was a total positive, supportive perspective that Darrel had. So we felt compelled that that was a perspective that we had to call on, what Darrell provided. That cemented the idea for us as we were looking into it.
In some ways, Percy’s personality can be a bit of a riddle. And people who know him well will tell you that his competitive fire is admirable but yet can get the best of him at times. How do you sense you’ll be able to manage that and channel that fire in the right direction.
Carroll: I think it’s that way with the greatest of the great athletes. I think that’s a positive. Sometimes they push the limits. But they’re like that because that’s who they are. You know what I mean? So I don’t have any problem with that. I have no problem with guys being highly, highly competitive. And so I think there’s an understanding there that’s needed. We’ve already talked about it. I want him to be as competitive as he can be, that way we make sure he’s always helping this football team. So that’s one thing I’ve had to learn, dealing with young kids. That nature has made him what he is. So if you think that that’s a problem, you’re missing the boat I think. So we’re going to figure out how to help him along the way so he can translate that competitiveness to great play and championships and all that kind of stuff. I’m not worried about that one bit.
He was glowing at his introductory press conference. Did you have an immediate sense of why specifically he was so excited for a new start and to join the offense you guys have?
Carroll: I think, from what Percy said, it first started when he began to hear about Russell. He loves Russell’s nature. He loves his approach to the game and his outlook about working hard and competing at all times. That resonated with Percy. And he started to check into it. And I think Russell wanted to see Percy. He came in and met with him when Percy was at our facility as well. Percy had a little background with me [from being recruited to USC]. He had tremendous background with Darrell. He knew that this was a young team coming up. So I think there were a lot of things that added up. So whatever he said, I know he felt very much in his heart.
Percy Harvin's time as a Viking has come to end. According to an NFL source, the Vikings have agreed in principle to a trade with Seattle, formally ending a rocky relationship with their ultra-talented yet mercurial receiver.
The NFL's free agency period will open at 3 p.m. Tuesday, which is also the opening of the new league year. That's the earliest a trade could be rubber-stamped and completed. But as of right now, the deal has been finalized and Harvin will simply have to pass a team physical in Seattle.
A Harvin trade has been rumored for more than a month. And while Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman repeatedly asserted that he had "no intent" to trade Harvin, the Vikings also had begun to run out of patience with trying to make Harvin happy. The moody receiver had pushed the team to deal him after his 2012 season ended with tension.
Harvin played his last game in a Week 9 loss to Seattle in early-November but suffered a severe ankle sprain in the second half of that game. He tried to come back from the injury but was unsuccessful in doing so and was put on injured reserve in Week 14, ending his season.
If the trade to Seattle doesn't hit any unforeseen snags and is indeed finalized, Harvin would reunite with Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator who held the same position with the Vikings during Harvin's first two seasons. Harvin would also join forced with Pete Carroll, who in his previous post at the University of Southern Cal, had recruited Harvin out of Landstown High School in Virginia.
Stay tuned for additional details as this story develops ...
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