Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings head coach candidate: Ray Horton

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated: January 7, 2014 - 9:47 AM

Coaching candidate: Ray Horton

Contact: Expected to interview with the Vikings today in Phoenix

Head coaching experience: None

NFL coaching experience: 19 seasons

1994-96 – Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs coach for the Redskins

1997-2001 – Defensive backs coach for the Bengals

2002-03 – Secondary coach for the Lions

2004-2010 – Assistant defensive backs coach/defensive backs coach for the Steelers

2011-12 – Defensive coordinator for the Cardinals

2013-present – Defensive coordinator for the Browns

Background:

The Vikings are interviewing two candidates in Phoenix this week: Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and his predecessor, Horton.

The Tacoma, Wash. native guided the Browns to a top-10 defense in total yards (332.4 ypg) and the eighth ranked pass defense (221.1 ypg). The Browns were 23rd in total defense (363.8 ypg) and 25 in pass defense (245.2 ypg) last season before Horton became defensive coordinator.

During his two seasons as defensive coordinator with the Cardinals, the defense finished in the top-two in third down defense (first in 2011 at 31.4 percent; second in 2012 at 32.9 percent). In 2011, the Cardinals’s defense allowed 34 total touchdowns, their fewest since 1994.

Horton spent his longest tenure with the Steelers under defensive coordinator and Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, who coached Horton out of college (Washington) in 1983 as defensive coordinator for the Bengals. He played under LeBeau for six seasons and coached with him during his tenure with the Bengals (1997-2001) before reuniting in Pittsburgh.

Once Mike Tomlin was named head coach of the Steelers, Horton was promoted to defensive backs coach. Horton is credited with developing safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers finished in the top 10 in total defense during Horton’s entire tenure, with five seasons finishing in the top five.

Horton spent 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back with the Bengals and Cowboys. He played in two Super Bowls and won one (Super Bowl XXVII) with Dallas that ended up as the final game in his career. Horton also earned All-America and All-Pac 10 honors at Washington and played in two Rose Bowls as a three-year starter.

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