If Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman wanted to position their franchise as a place where the new head coach would be able to focus on things NFL head coaches want to focus on - assembling good players, coaching them up and winning football games - then January 2, 2014 was not a good day.
Linebacker Erin Henderson had a little legal issue come to light, and shortly after that, Chris Kluwe's journalistic foray starting making the rounds on the Internet.
There has already been some dissing about the attractiveness of the Vikings head coach position and a few Vikings fans thought the fallout from Kluwe's column, where he accuses special teams coordinator Mike Priefer of being a bigot and Leslie Frazier and Spielman of trying to muzzle him on the issue of supporting same-sex marriages, could deter the best possible candidate from taking the Minnesota job (although I think the best possible candidate has already been hired by Tampa Bay).
I guess all of this doesn't help. But does it really hurt?
My view is it doesn't. The Vikings were quick to start an independent review of Kluwe's allegations. This is a decisive move by the Vikings to show they are not an organization that tolerates bigotry and it should play out well in the court of public opinion. Whatever comes of the investigation, I don't expect the new head coach, who wasn't in Minnesota in 2012 when this stuff may or may not have happened, will have to answer for it. That will be Rick Spielman's job. The new hire shouldn't feel he'll be forced to deal with scrutiny over a controversy that wasn't of his making, so it shouldn't scare him off from taking the job as the Vikings new head coach.
What about any concerns the new hire might have about working under Spielman, who Kluwe says tried to control what he said about political/social issues outside of his day job?
This could be a concern. But I agree with Ted Glover's take on this at the Daily Norseman. I don't think many head coaching candidates are going to stump for a controversial cause like same-sex marriage and I don't think they'd disagree with what Spielman did - if that is what he did, which was try to get a Viking player to cool it with the tweets, interviews and statements about non-football issues. In fact, I think most coaches would probably appreciate the fact their GM would step in during such a case and not just leave it to the coaching staff to deal with.
Finally, what about Priefer, who is still the Vikings special teams coordinator as I write this post? Is his presence on the team a turn off for head coaching candidates who might be interested in the Vikes job but don't want to deal with the bullshit that would come with having an accused homophobe on your staff?
Well, anyone who was hired as head coach would certainly have the power to hire the staff they wanted to work with. And when new head coaches are hired they almost always bring in a hand-picked crew of new coordinators and assistants and let go the entire staff from the old regime. By replacing Priefer with someone else, the new hire would remove a major figure in the Kluwe affair from the Vikings organization and distance the team further from it. (That move would come with a risk, however, as the Vikings special teams has been ranked 5th (2012) and 6th (2013) in special teams DVOA by Football Outsiders under Priefer the past 2 seasons. Would a new coach be willing to get rid of an experienced coordinator who has had success with a critical part of the team?)
To me, the Kluwe business is a side issue for any coach considering the Vikings head coach job. The real issues he will have to consider if he wants the position are as follows:
a) Can I work with the Wilfs and Spielman?
b) Will they pay me what I'm worth?
c) Does the team have the talent in place, both on the field and in the management and scouting departments, to allow me to be successful so I can keep this job for as long as I want it?
If the candidate can answer each of those three questions with an affirmative 'yes', then what Chris Kluwe is alleging won't stop any coaching candidate from taking the Vikings job.