The coaching moves appear to be over at Winter Park. Alan Williams is in as the Vikings’ new defensive coordinator, Brendan Daly is returning to the Twin Cities as the defensive line coach and Fred Pagac and Mike Singletary have been asked to coach the linebackers together, each accepting a tweaked role as Leslie Frazier’s rebuilding project begins.
With the Vikings officially announcing those moves today, here are four things you should know.
1. Brendan Daly’s return has several players excited.
Yes, several members of the defensive line were disappointed that defensive line coach Karl Dunbar was fired earlier this month. But the news of Daly’s hiring seems to have rejuvenated the energy. After all, Daly was a defensive line assistant with the Vikings from 2006-08, a stretch in which the Vikings led the NFL in rushing defense for three straight seasons. Daly went on to become the defensive line coach with the Rams but will now rejoin head coach Leslie Frazier with the Vikings.
Arguably no Viking knows Daly better than defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who not only worked with Daly in his first stint with the Vikings, but also spent three seasons with him at Oklahoma State.
“He’s a fiery guy,” Williams said. “I like that about him. He’s going to get after our butts. He gets really excited. Some coaches might be more reserved. But he’ll get really fired up when you make a good play or even a bad play. That’ll be a different element that will hopefully be good for us. This is a guy we don’t have to get to know. Maybe we’ll have to learn some of the new stuff that he’s continued to incorporate since he’s been gone. But as a person, we know each other already for the most part. So we can get right down to football”
2. Frazier cannot wait for his upcoming trip to Mobile, Ala.
In many ways, what happens at next week’s Senior Bowl will have a great impact on how the Vikings begin their preparation for the 2012 season. Frazier and his staff will be in charge of leading the North squad, an opportunity the Vikings coach is eager to attack.
Said Frazier: “The fact that we get a chance to get our hands on the players -- we get to talk with them, spend time with them, eat in the cafeteria with them, talk to them about their lifestyle. It will be immeasurable the time that we’ll be able to be around them and be able to evaluate these players."
“As you know, it’s tough to go wrong when you’re drafting the third pick in the draft. We have to hit on that one. But now, when you reach Rounds 5, 6 and 7, those rounds are as important as that first round when you’re trying to revamp your roster like we are.”
Yet just as important as working with the players, Frazier is looking forward to having his revised coaching staff together to begin forging its new identity.
“This is really a start for us as far as jelling as a staff and beginning to put things in place prior to the OTAs and the mini-camps as a staff,” Frazier said. “I think it’s going to be a big plus for us, a big advantage in that way.
3. The Vikings did have interest in Mel Tucker but never interviewed Steve Spagnuolo.
Over the past two weeks, the details of Frazier’s search for a new defensive coordinator were hazy. We knew Raheem Morris interviewed with the team but ultimately took a job coaching defensive backs in Washington. Mel Tucker also had Frazier’s attention, interviewed with the Vikings and was thought to be in line to take the job if he wanted it. But Tucker opted to stay with the Jaguars, where he remains the defensive coordinator under new coach Mike Mularkey.
“At the end of the day, he felt like, for him, the best situation for him was to remain in Jacksonville and not move his family,” Frazier said.
As for Spagnuolo?
“I just knew that after the season he was going through a lot, just trying to ascertain what his future was,” Frazier said. “We didn’t really get to the point where we were talking about working here in Minnesota. But I was just trying to help him work through some of the feelings he had after [what happened with] the Rams.
4. Frazier wants to be hands on with the defense and will be heavily involved in initiating Williams into the coordinator role, a position he’s never had before.
Give Frazier credit for being honest. He made very clear Thursday his desire to have heavy input on the defensive philosophy that Williams will be asked to implement and coach. But Frazier said he also understands the dangers in getting over-involved and will try to steer around those kinds of potholes.
“We are an evolving football team,” he said. “And we’ve really got to do some serious things with our roster to get back in the mix in our division and our conference. So I don’t want to get immersed to the point where I’m the defensive coordinator/head coach. Some people can do that. But I don’t think I can. I don’t want to go in that direction. I do want to take the lead on some things early on and really set the tone for how I want things done. I just think that’s important, after what we experienced this past season.”