Phoenix – Darrell Bevell’s friends who work for the Vikings say he believed, even as he was coaching Brett Favre, that he should have been playing quarterback in the NFL.
“I still believe it,” he said, laughing and yet serious Thursday. “I mean, I started for four years in college. I still can’t figure out how I didn’t get a chance.
“It used to drive me a lot. Now that I’ve come this far, I’m proud to say that I’ve made it to the NFL another way, and I like what we’re doing.”
Sunday, Bevell will coach in a second consecutive Super Bowl, for a team that has a chance to become the first to win two in a row in 10 years. The former Vikings offensive coordinator now serves in that role for the Seattle Seahawks.
As a player, Bevell was successful yet snubbed, and the snub drove him to build an impressive coaching career.
As a coach, he has been successful yet snubbed, and the snub only heightens his desire to become an NFL head coach.
“Absolutely,” he said.
It’s interesting to see who becomes labeled an innovator, and who becomes the hot prospect each winter when NFL teams fill head coaching vacancies.
Some coaches get hired because they are the fruit of an attractive coaching tree. Many are hired because they employ a trendy offense or defense. Many are hired for no apparent reason.
Here’s how Bevell, if he’s using the right résumé generator, should arrange his bullet points:
• In 2009, helped the legendarily erratic and notably aged Brett Favre play his most efficient season while playing in a version of the West Coast offense with the Vikings.
• In 2013 and 2014, helped the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson run the read option and make big plays with limited receivers while winning one Super Bowl and advancing to another.
Favre was an old, beat-up pocket passer with tremendous arm strength and a willingness if not a need to take risks.
Wilson is a young, short scrambler with moderate arm strength and tremendous running ability who, despite his four interceptions against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, is remarkably cautious with the ball.
“If there’s something I’ve improved at, it’s using the skills of the players I’m given,” Bevell said. “Before, there might have been a time when I was like, ‘OK, here’s what we want to do, and here’s how we’re going to do it.’
“Understanding that different guys have different skill sets is important. I mean, going from calling plays for Brett Favre to calling plays for Russell Wilson, those are two pretty different players.”
Bevell tries to use the threat of Wilson running more so than his actual running ability. Asked why he didn’t call for the read option — a play in which the quarterback starts to hand off, then decided whether to complete the handoff or to keep it and run to the outside — early against the Packers, Bevell offered some insight into how Seattle uses the play.
“We were using it, but they were doing a good job defending it,” he said. “At times it looks like a normal handoff, and that’s the way we want it to look, so you can’t tell if we’re reading it or not reading it.”
This postseason is something of a nostalgia tour for Bevell. He was born in Yuma, Ariz., and went to high school in Scottsdale, an affluent suburb of Phoenix. The Super Bowl will be played in another Phoenix suburb, Glendale.
He worked for the Packers as an assistant coach for six years, and the Seahawks staged an improbable 28-22 comeback victory in overtime over Green Bay for the NFC title.
And the four-year starting quarterback for the University of Wisconsin is coaching another Wisconsin quarterback in Wilson.
Asked if he was disappointed to have to wait another year before a chance to become a head coach, Bevell said: “This is a tough spot to get to. I feel very blessed that we’re at the Super Bowl. I know there’s a lot of coaches who are great coaches who have never been in a Super Bowl, and here I am for my second time. So, no, I can’t say it’s disappointing.”