There were six openings after the early hours of the NFL’s annual bushwhacking of head coaches took place Monday morning. Only one job among those half-dozen could be rated as less attractive than becoming the Vikings’ ninth head coach as they enter a 54th season.
Houston will have the first selection in the 2014 draft, and the new coach will have his choice among quarterbacks. Tampa Bay will pick seventh, one spot ahead of the Vikings, and in better position to draft either a quarterback or a tremendous defender.
Washington already has in place two much better options at quarterback, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, than anyone currently employed by the Vikings. Detroit needs only someone who can instill discipline to enter next season as Green Bay’s only challenger in the NFC North.
Houston. Tampa Bay. Washington. Detroit.
If I was Bill O’Brien, currently the hot name in coaching searches, any of those jobs would be preferable to Minnesota. If I was Jon Gruden and wanted to get back into the serious part of football, I would take any of those jobs — even a reunion with the Glazers in Tampa — over the Vikings.
Cleveland? The Browns are picking fourth, allowing them to select the third quarterback in the draft. No matter. I wouldn’t touch the Browns’ opening with a big stick. They just fired a coach after one season.
OK, Zygi and Mark Wilf aren’t a bargain, having fired their third coach in nine years, but I’d go to work for them over Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland’s new nutcase of an owner.
The Wilfs’ track record for impatience isn’t even among the top few reasons for a coaching candidate with options to look beyond Minnesota. Consider:
• The defense is in awful shape. There are four players from the current bunch who can be looked at as certain assets when training camp opens next summer — Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary, Chad Greenway at linebacker and Brian Robison at end.
The defense is so short of high-quality players that the Vikings are going to have to overpay to keep Everson Griffen as a pass rusher, especially if General Manager Rick Spielman is focused on a switch to a 3-4 arrangement (as many folks suspect).
• The Vikings are headed off to play two seasons in TCF Bank Stadium. The on-campus yard is fine as a college stadium, but it was built on the cheap, is undersized and far short of NFL standards.
You get the impression the Vikings are headed for two lost seasons in the return to the outdoors — that their hope is simply to have everything back together by the time they move inside the Taj Ma Zygi in 2016.
This isn’t a job for an O’Brien or even a Jack Del Rio, candidates with immediate ambitions to be actual threats in the playoffs. This is a job for a guy like Adam Gase, the 35-year-old offensive coordinator in Denver … a young man with a five-year contract who could spend those two years outdoors finding and developing a quarterback.
• One obstacle to that strategy: There is no guarantee that Spielman is ready to admit that he completely blundered in taking Christian Ponder with the 12th choice in the 2011 draft.
The most feasible speculation on this season’s quarterback chaos is that Frazier decided early in the season that Ponder wasn’t going to be the answer.
Frazier was the one pushing to bring in Josh Freeman as a possible option for long-term success at quarterback. The Wilfs sided with Frazier on this, Freeman came in and played one awful game in New York, and then Spielman got his way again:
Ponder returned as the starter for six games, looked as inadequate as ever for most of them, and then left the Dec. 1 game vs. Chicago with a concussion. Matt Cassel came in and led the Vikings to a victory.
Cassel played the final four games of the season, as Frazier tried to save his job with a few victories. He got two to finish at 5-10-1, which wasn’t nearly enough.