Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chris Kluwe's impact on the Minnesota Vikings search for a head coach

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.


  1. I've posted here a couple times that I doubt this job will be seen as the best opportunity...but that said, it's all relative. It's still an NFL head coaching position, currently one of only four that are vacant, and there's a substantial pool of competitive, bright individuals who would jump to come here. It's up to Spielman and the Wilfs to find the right fit.

    Interesting that they're going to bring in Bevell. When he had Tarvaris Jackson or Gus Frerotte at QB, people wanted to run him out of town; when he had a "WTF" 2009 Brett Favre or Russell Wilson, he's a hot candidate. If he's the guy, I'd expect them to look for a mobile QB.

    I always think of this exchange when I think of Bevell, from a "mic'ed up" Favre:

    Bevell: Being a coordinator's hard.
    Favre: You oughta try playing quarterback sometime.

    (Brilliant in that Bevell WAS a quarterback.)


    1. Jianfu:

      I'm non-plussed with the thought of Bevell being the next head coach. I wonder how many guys have become head coach of a franchise after that franchise fired them as a coordinator, and did so just 3 seasons prior. Like you said, Bevell's looked like a genius when he had Favre playing out of his mind in 2009 and with Russell Wilson. Every other season his offenses have been very blah due to the QBs he's had. And he could very well be getting blah for quarterbacking in Minnesota for the next year or so. So can he get an offense to play well in spite of the QBing? His record says no, although to be fair, there aren't many coordinators who could.

      If the Vikings were to hire Bevell and then draft Manziel, that might be an interesting experiment. Manziel's got some of the attributes Wilson has (very mobile, short for a QB). Could Bevell work some more magic with Johnny Football?

  2. You mean you don't miss all those two-yard passes to Nafahu Tahi on 3rd and 7?


  3. I don't think it will discourage anyone from taking the job but I hate how it's a major distraction for Spielman when he has much bigger things to worry about. Kluwe certainly waited for the time to inflict the most damage on the organization. If Priefer isn't guilty of this he better sue the shit out of him.

    Oh man I hated everything about Tahi. And that was before 12 men in the huddle...


  4. Looks like Blake Bortles is entering the draft. The Orlando Sentinel reported earlier the junior Qb received a first round projection from the draft committee. With the Vikings at #8, he could be strong possibility.


    1. I only saw him play once but he's a big kid who can also run. O'Leary is a good coach so he should have the basics down. Culpepper jr?


    2. Gents:

      I saw Bortles play for a half against Baylor, so my impressions of him are based on limited knowledge, but I was surprised by how fast of a runner he was for such a big dude. He's got a strong arm but it was mentioned his release is long and looping. He didn't have a great half throwing but apparently turned it on in the 2nd half. I should also probably point out Baylor's defense looked terrible. He does have some nice tools, however.