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Karl Dunbar, at training camp drilling the defensive line in 2007.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Karl Dunbar first to fall as Vikings plot staff moves

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • January 7, 2012 - 2:26 AM

Until Friday, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had merely hinted at making changes to his staff. But now, an overhaul on the defensive side of things has entered the action stage.

For starters, the Vikings have fired defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, a move confirmed Friday, the same day Raheem Morris interviewed at Winter Park as a potential candidate to be the new defensive coordinator.

To be clear, Frazier still has not removed Fred Pagac from the latter post. Dunbar is the only assistant who has been officially dismissed, his six-season run in the Twin Cities ending with a cordial but nondescript sendoff.

"This is what they wanted," Dunbar said in a phone interview with the Star Tribune. "Coach Frazier told me they wanted to go in a different direction. And for me, that's fine. As football coaches, we know we're all migrant workers and we go where the jobs are. Now, my job in Minnesota is over."

Still, Morris' visit is part of a larger evaluation process that could send more dominoes in motion soon.

After being fired as head coach in Tampa Bay on Monday and reportedly interviewing for a defensive backs coach opening in Washington a couple of days later, Morris traded thoughts with Frazier and the Vikings on Friday.

If Morris were ultimately hired to take over the defense, it would not be a surprise if Frazier opted to dismantle his current staff on that side of the ball, working with Morris to put together a new assistant coaching tree.

For weeks now, there's been widespread belief that Pagac is done as the defensive coordinator. Yet the Vikings seem content to let him twist in the wind as Frazier explores other options, similar to the course of action taken last year when Frazier surveyed replacement options for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and special teams coach Brian Murphy.

Technically, Bevell and Murphy left the Vikings without being fired, Bevell landing with the Seattle Seahawks and Murphy with the Carolina Panthers.

With Dunbar's exit complete, one thing is certain: There is a defensive line coach vacancy for Frazier to fill.

This past season, despite the Vikings' many defensive struggles, Dunbar was in charge of the unit that arguably was the most consistently productive on the team.

Dunbar said Friday he couldn't diagnose all that went wrong during a disastrous 3-13 season.

"I'm a position coach," he said. "I'm not a coordinator. I'm not a head coach. When I look at what I did with the Minnesota Vikings, my piece of the puzzle was to make the defensive line play as well as they could.

"We played well against the run. I think we finished No. 11 against the run. And we finished No. 1 in sacks [with 50]. And the guy I coached [Jared Allen] led the league in sacks with 22 on a team that really didn't have a lead the last eight games of the year. So I thought that was my piece of the puzzle. I can't worry about running backs, defensive backs, receivers, linebackers. When you do it, you focus on your job, put your piece of the puzzle in and go from there."

Asked whether he felt he had gotten a raw deal with his firing, Dunbar took the high road.

"No sir," he said. "No sir. You get what you're given. And I spent six great years in Minnesota. So there's no raw deal. They didn't kill my wife and they didn't kill my family. They took care of my family. So no, I didn't get a raw deal. Leslie is a good man who treated me fairly."

Now, Frazier must continue his comprehensive coaching staff evaluation with a decision on Morris and additional changes likely on the way soon.

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