With two coaches out, Vikings defense in flux

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2012 - 12:36 PM

The Vikings now have a pair of significant coaching vacancies, meaning star defensive end Jared Allen will spend 2012 working with a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive line coach.

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For now, Vikings star defensive end Jared Allen doesn't know who his defensive coordinator or line coach will be next season.

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These are the words of a superstar in limbo.

"I hate watching 'SportsCenter,'" Jared Allen said.

Which is weird.

"Because I watch 'SportsCenter' every day," Allen said. "But now it's to see what's going on that might affect our team and my future."

Allen's current aversion to ESPN? It's this strange combination of anticipation and anxiety, sort of like showing up to the first day of high school.

The Vikings now have a pair of significant coaching vacancies, meaning Allen will spend 2012 working with a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive line coach whose identities he does not yet know. But the five-time Pro Bowler guesses he might learn of the changes while watching TV.

"There's a fear of the unknown," Allen said. "I'd love to get a grasp on what to prepare myself for. So much of this is about building relationships. And relationships don't just happen instantly when you go into training camp and all of a sudden you've got a new coach and a new system and that whole feeling-out process."

This is one of the more intriguing subplots of the Vikings' reconstruction. Here the team's best defensive player is coming off a career year. Yet now the two major changes exacted to begin the rebuilding have been the dismissals of two coaches Allen worked with extensively.

First Karl Dunbar was removed as defensive line coach. Then, this past weekend, Allen received word Fred Pagac had been removed as defensive coordinator as well.

To date, head coach Leslie Frazier hasn't offered any public explanation regarding those decisions, the inner workings of a staff often far more complex than even the players can understand.

So Allen trusts Frazier did what he deemed necessary. But Allen did label Pagac's dismissal "disappointing" and Dunbar's firing "a shock."

"After 3-13," he said, "I just know people lose their jobs a lot."

Pagac's removal, while anticipated for the better part of the past month, hasn't exactly left players in a celebratory mood. Allen, while most vocal with his support, is far from the only defensive player who still had belief in Pagac as a coordinator.

"He never once griped and complained," Allen said. "He could have stood up there and said, 'Listen, we're so beat up in the back end, we can't play the way I really want.' But he never took that route. I admired that. ... And for him to accept this decision that he was finished here the way he did, to me, is indicative of who he is."

So now, the Vikings' defensive star waits like everyone else, curious and anxious about the changes that are coming.

According to the NFL Network, two new potential coordinators are on the Vikings' radar: Dolphins interim head coach Todd Bowles and Colts defensive backs coach Alan Williams, who reportedly is scheduled to interview Tuesday.

As for in-house candidate Mike Singletary, Allen wouldn't express any strong feelings, offering only a reminder that Singletary prefers to run a 3-4 defense. And Allen would welcome a change to the 3-4 as readily as he'd book a winter cruise in Detroit.

Allen says he trusts Frazier and General Manager Rick Spielman, knowing they're trying to make decisions that lead to success.

So how influential will Allen's input be?

"I guess we'll wait and see what happens with the hirings, right?" Allen said. "We can sit and talk and I think I've been heard. But he's the head coach for a reason. Ultimately, you have to have faith they're going to do what's best. Until then, I'll have that anxiety."

Dan Wiederer dwiederer@startribune.com

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