Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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O'Brien would fit 'opposite' profile for Vikings

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: December 15, 2013 - 9:57 PM

The Vikings' discovery of an explosive passing game occurred on the same weekend that Pro Football Talk spread this rumor: Penn State coach Bill O'Brien's camp has been contacted by the Houston Texans and the Vikings.

There's no embarrassment in this from the standpoint of the Texans, since they already have fired Gary Kubiak. The Vikings will be not be pleased with this report, since Les Frazier still has a job.

What we do know is if ownership and General Manager Rick Spielman do use Frazier as the scapegoat for this failed season, it will be an O'Brien type that gets hired as the replacement. That's because the Vikings -- and most every team in major professional and big-time college sports -- follow this pattern:

When firing a coach, a team replaces him with the opposite.

This is particularly true in football, and has stood up through 53 seasons and eight coaches for the Vikings.

I don't think it was a search for the opposite when the Vikings' first coaching change was made after the 1966 season. It was more a case of General Manager Jim Finks knowing exactly who he wanted after Norm Van Brocklin "resigned'' amidst the chaos of quarterback Fran Tarkenton publicly demanding a trade.

Finks' football background was in the Canadian Football League. The best coach in the CFL was Winnipeg's Bud Grant. There was no coaching search. Finks simply told Bill McGrane, the Vikings' head of public relations, to go to the airport and pick up Grant.

"How will I know him?'' McGrane said.

"He'll be the guy who looks like the town marshal,'' Finks said.

Bud was a stoic who disciplined with a stare and the loss of playing time -- in contrast to the loud, profane, quick-tempered Van Brocklin.

If Van Brocklin had played a town marshal, it would've been in a Sam Peckinpah movie. Bud was Gary Cooper in High Noon (you can look it up).

When Grant resigned after the 1983 season, Mike Lynn felt he had a dynamic young coach on the staff who would bring a louder form of discipline and salesmanship to the team. He saw a need for the salesmanship part because the Gophers had hired Lou Holtz as the new coach in December 1983.

Lynn's choice, Les Steckel, was a disaster. Grant came back for a one-season rescue, then longtime assistant Jerry Burns was given the job (as should have been the case two years earlier) for the 1986 season. Burnsie was 180 degrees from Steckel ...a guy who knew he was coaching pros and not trying to motivate college kids.

The Vikings never quite got over the hump in Burnsie's six seasons. When they fell back in 1991, Lynn's replacement, Roger Headrick, wanted to hire his own guy and bring a harder edge to the job. He chose the new Sheriff, Dennis Green, over Pete Carroll, an affable fellow who would have been a much-younger, more-organized version of Burnsie..

Green was successful, even as he feuded with local media, ran off several terrific players and found scapegoats when playoff seasons didn't end as he had hoped. He lasted a decade and quit with one game left in the 2001 season, so as not to be fired.

The replacement was assistant Mike Tice, a character, a player's coach and better at the job than the credit he was given. Tice had a couple of inlfuential critics at Winter Park; disloyal people in the football operation who thought he was too forthcoming with information when it came to the media.

The Wilf boys were in charge by then, and couldn't wait to hire the opposite: Brad Childress, a coach with an edge and a proper amount of paranoia. The first year was his worst in how he treated people, and "Chilly'' loosened up for a while. But he certainly was hired to be the opposite of Tice.

And when Childress was fired at midseason, the first-ever Vikings coach to suffer that fate, Frazier was named as the interim ... a quiet man who could regain a locker room that Chilly had lost. He got the job full-time.

Frazier has less of a self-serving agenda than any coach in Vikings history. It's about team, players, trying to win.

The Vikings had no chance in his first season, they were a surprise playoff team in 2012, and they couldn't finish potential wins that could've gotten them to the playoffs in the mediocre NFL of 2013.

And now if Frazier gets fired, the Vikings will bring in a hard-nosed coach, a guy with a paranoid streak that causes him to distrust everyone outside the halls of Winter Park ... an O'Brien type, if not O'Brien.

O'Brien had a good first season at Penn State in 2012, worked it to get a lucrative extension, and now his background as Bill Belichick's assistant in New England has him as a hot item for NFL openings again.

O'Brien's crowning achievement to prove he would be the opposite of Frazier came after a 44-24 loss to Indiana in the Big Ten opener.

At his weekly press conference three days later, O'Brien refused to answer questions about the Indiana game. "I'm not here to talk about scholarships, sanctions, not last week's game ...'' O'Brien said with the even-keeled malice toward the media for which Belichick has the copyright.

Two days later, at O'Brien's live radio show where there are questions, the audience again was instructed to not mention the loss to Indiana.

Paranoid, a control freak ... exactly the opposite of Les Frazier. And that makes O'Brien, or another like him, as a heavy favorite to be the next coach up at Winter Park.

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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