On a day the Vikings formally interviewed Raheem Morris to potentially become their new defensive coordinator, head coach Leslie Frazier began executing other coaching staff changes as well. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar is the first official casualty, let go after six seasons with the team.
Dunbar's exit is the first move in what could ultimately be a total overhaul of the defensive coaching staff.
"This is what they wanted," Dunbar said in a phone interview with the Star Tribune. "Coach Frazier told me the ownership wanted to go in a different direction. And for me, that’s fine. As football coaches, we know we’re all migrant workers and we go where the jobs are. Now, my job in Minnesota is over."
Dunbar joined the Vikings in 2006 when Brad Childress became coach and helped the defensive line establish a reputation as a sturdy, run-stopping unit. Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen all earned Pro Bowl invitations while playing under Dunbar. And this season, despite the well-documented struggles of the entire defense, the d-line may have had the most solid season of any Vikings' position group, ranking 11th in the NFL against the run. The Vikings also tallied 50 sacks as a team with defensive end setting a new single-season team record with 22.
Still, after a 3-13 finish, Frazier has vowed to shake things up and make significant changes to his coaching staff. Dunbar's exit is likely just the start of the revolving door at Winter Park.
Dunbar said he wasn't able to diagnose the root cause of the Vikings' 3-13 freefall.
"I’m a position coach," he said. "I’m not a coordinator. I’m not a head coach. When I look at what I did with the Minnesota Vikings, my piece of the puzzle was to make the defensive line play as well as they could. We played well against the run. I think we finished No. 11 against the run. And we finished No. 1 in sacks. And the guy I coached led the league in sacks with 22 on a team that really didn’t have a lead the last eight games of the year. So I thought that was my piece of the puzzle. I can’t worry about running backs, defensive backs, receivers, linebackers. When you do it, you focus on your job, put your piece of the puzzle in and go from there."
Asked if he felt he had gotten a raw deal with his dismissal, Dunbar took the high road.
"No sir," he said. "No sir. You get what you’re given. And I spent six great years in Minnesota. So there’s no raw deal. They didn’t kill my wife and they didn’t kill my family. They took care of my family. So no, I didn’t get a raw deal. Leslie is a good man who treated me fairly. And Coach Childress did the same thing. Now they’ve decided to part ways and that’s fine."
Certainly Dunbar won't be the last assistant coach to be let go. At present, Fred Pagac remains the defensive coordinator. But needless to say, Morris' Friday visit doesn't say a lot for Pagac's job security.
If Morris were ultimately hired to take over the defense, it would not be a surprise if Frazier opted to dismantle his current staff on that side of the ball, working with Morris to put together a new assistant coaching tree.