The easiest candidate for the Vikings to hire, the most logical and familiar choice, is one they might not even interview.
Here's what this pseudo-mystery candidate has going for him:
1. Experience. Experience shouldn't necessarily be a prerequisite, but experience does give intelligent coaches a chance to learn from their own mistakes. This candidate was a head coach for only two full NFL seasons, and made the playoffs once, with a quarterback who had no other success in the NFL. Seven of the past eight Super Bowls were won by coaches who had previously been fired by another team.
2. Current success. This candidate's team just won a playoff game in wildly impressive fashion and his unit is performing as well or better than any other unit of its kind in recent NFL history. In fact, his unit is ranked first in the NFL despite zero players being elected to the Pro Bowl. That's coaching.
3. Familiarity. This is another category that shouldn't be a prerequisite, but if you have a choice between a candidate you don't know and a candidate you respect and like, it's not a bad tiebreaker. This candidate is widely liked and admired by people in the Vikings organization.
4. Class. The Vikings coach is the best-known and most-scrutinized person in Minnesota. Mike Zimmer's grumpiness did him no favors in his past two seasons, inside or outside the Vikings facility. Having a classy, well-liked head coach prevents a lot of internal and public relations problems.
5. Diversity. If every NFL team pays lip service to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and paints their end zones and emblazons their helmets with anti-racist statements, and the league continues to employ one or two Black head coaches in a league in which 70% of the players are Black, then the words, symbols and statements remain meaningless. There are excellent Black candidates in this hiring pool. This candidate happens to be Black.
Yes, the candidate is Leslie Frazier, the former Vikings coach and current Bills defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
He's a key part of one of the NFL's best success stories of the past five years. Remember, the Bills were 6-10 in 2018 as they broke in rookie quarterback Josh Allen. They are 34-15 since — partly because of Allen's development, partly because of their defense's improvement.
Now let's look at the arguments against Frazier.
He wouldn't be an exciting hire?
Among the coaches who took teams to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs this weekend were Sean McDermott, Mike Vrabel and Zac Taylor. If you make the case that they were exciting hires at the time of their introductory news conferences, you would be lying.
Frazier lacks the offensive expertise needed to find and develop a franchise quarterback?
That's what the general manager and offensive coaching staff are for. The head coach needs to be a leader. The organization needs to surround him with complementary expertise.
He didn't impress you the first time around?
The man took a team quarterbacked by Christian Ponder to the playoffs. No other coach in NFL history did that. It's a feat akin to winning the Olympic 100-meter dash while carrying a wild boar.
The next year, Ponder imploded, and General Manager Rick Spielman fired Frazier. Frazier should have fired Spielman. Spielman is the one who drafted Ponder, which remains the signature mistake of his tenure.
Frazier's Bills defense finished the 2021 regular season ranked first in the NFL in total defense, yards per play allowed, passing yards allowed, passing yards per play allowed and first downs allowed. Then the Bills beat New England 47-17 in the first round of the playoffs.
Quick: Name the Bills' defensive superstar.
That's right, the Bills were historically good on defense without anyone like Lawrence Taylor or even Micah Parsons. They have two excellent safeties but lack the superstar pass rusher who makes life easy on a defensive coach.
Frazier is obviously a great candidate. The Vikings seem willing to let their familiarity with one of the classiest coaches in team history count as a negative.