Hartman: Vikings offensive line coach deserves an interview

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2014 - 11:13 AM

Jeff Davidson is just as qualified as those who are interviewing for the head coaching spot.

The Vikings have been interviewing a number of assistant coaches for their head coaching vacancy, including Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

But is there any reason that any of the assistant coaches mentioned above would be a better head coaching prospect than current Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson?

His coaching résumé is as good as or better than any of the candidates mentioned.

Davidson was the Patriots’ assistant offensive line coach when they won the Super Bowl in 2001 and tight ends coach when they won in 2003 and 2004. One of the big reasons for the Patriots’ success was the protection plan put in by Davidson, leaving Tom Brady all sorts of time to throw. He learned a lot under Bill Belichick in New England from 1998-2004, and he also helped resurrect the career of Corey Dillon when he rushed for 1,635 yards in 2004.

He then went to Cleveland in 2005-06 when Romeo Crennel was hired away from the Patriots.

He was hired by Carolina to be offensive coordinator under John Fox from 2007-2010. Fox was looking to improve the Panthers’ running game, and Davidson had gotten a strong recommendation for the job by Charlie Weiss, another former Patriots assistant who was then Notre Dame’s head coach.

The Panthers went 7-9 in Davidson’s first season as offensive coordinator, but in 2008 they improved to 12-4, tying a franchise record, and won the NFC South. That season Davidson’s offensive line produced the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL with 30 and finished third in yards with 2,437. DeAngelo Williams did the bulk of the work, rushing for 1,515 yards on 5.5 yards per carry.

Davidson came to the Vikings in 2011, and his offensive line led the way for Adrian Peterson to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012.

That means that Davidson has led the offensive line for three of the best rushing seasons in NFL history — Peterson’s is second all-time, Dillon’s mark is good for 45th all-time, and Williams’ numbers are the 75th-best single-season mark.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman must also have high regard for Davidson because when the Atlanta Falcons asked for permission to talk to him about his interest in their offensive line coaching job, Spielman turned them down.

That might be the reason that former Vikings offensive line and head coach Mike Tice was hired as the new Falcons line coach this week.

Memo to Spielman: Take a vote of the offensive linemen and they’ll be unanimous for Davidson.

Fisher has connection

USA Today recently carried a story that involved Jimbo Fisher, the coach of Florida State, this year’s national championship winner. It turns out that Fisher has a connection with the University of Minnesota. Jimbo’s 8-year-old son, Ethan, has Fanconi anemia, a serious blood disease that at present doesn’t have a cure. The University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is the country’s top research center for FA, and once a year Ethan has to visit the local FA center for a bone marrow biopsy. The procedures are critical as FA eventually causes bone marrow failure that would require a transplant and can cause cancer.

Gophers coach Jerry Kill said he and his wife, Rebecca, visited the Fishers when they were here.

“I was there when he came, my wife and I,” he said. “I’ve been out of town, but when he first came I did see him. I basically met him on that day.”

Meanwhile, two of the outstanding Gophers assistants have ties to new Texas coach Charlie Strong but haven’t indicated any notion of leaving Kill. Jay Sawvel was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame when Strong was the defensive line coach, and Bill Miller was assistant head coach and linebacking coach at Florida when Strong was the defensive coordinator there in 2003-04.

SB Nation.com has Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman being picked 17th in the NFL draft.

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  • Harrison Smith (22) celebrated his third quarter interception with head coach Leslie Frazier and defensive line coach Jeff Davidson during NFL action between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field Sunday September 15, 2013 in Chicago , IL. Chicago beat Minnesota 31-30 ] JERRY HOLT • jerry.holt@startribune.com

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