The NFC North division is about to get a couple of new faces in the coaching department. The Vikings, plagued by quarterback issues all season long, fired their head coach Leslie Frazier on Monday after Frazier only lead the team to one playoff appearance last year. The Detroit Lions, who had a perfect opportunity to win the North division after injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler for a good portion of the season, crumbled towards the end of the season and fired their head coach Jim Schwartz on Monday as well.
So now the NFC North division has two openings for head coaching candidates. A lot of NFL analysts are calling the Lions the first or second best opportunity, based on the fact they have so many playmakers like: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh. The Vikings also have some good pieces with Adrian Pederson and Cordarrelle Patterson and a new stadium for the 2015 season, but they still need a quarterback.
So, who should the Vikings and Lions look at to lead their teams next season? There are a lot of good, deserving candidates out there, but I’ve narrowed it down to three coaches for each team to look at to be their head man next year.
1. Darrell Bevell – Offensive Coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks
Many Vikings fans may prefer to avoid this choice as head coach, but I believe this could be a great fit. Bevell is a former Vikings offensive coordinator during the Brad Childress era and that may be why a lot of fans don’t want him. But, Bevell has done some great things in Seattle. The last two years, his Seahawks have been 3rd in the league in rushing. Adrian Pederson should love that fact. Too many times the Vikings have gone away from the running game even when they have the best running back in the game. With Bevell, Pederson would be the focal point. And how about Bevell's work with Russell Wilson? If the Vikings can find a quarterback in the draft, Bevell could get creative, like he is in Seattle, with his offensive playbook with the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson and the existing veterans of Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings.
2. Jay Gruden – Offensive Coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals
Speaking of being creative with the offensive playbook, one of the most creative play callers in the game right now is Jay Gruden, the brother of former Super Bowl winning coach Jon Gruden. During his tenure in Cincinnati, Gruden’s offensive playbook has been one of the most creative and hard to predict offenses in the league. His playbook consists of plays of the wildcat, power running, west coast offense, and more. Put Patterson and Pederson in that scheme and you could have a dynamic offense. Gruden also has great experience coaching up a rookie quarterback, something you would think the Vikings would want in their head coach.
3. Jack Del Rio – Defensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos
Word is already out that the Vikings are interested in interviewing Jack Del Rio for the head coaching position. Del Rio is a former player for the Vikings and has had success in coaching with his stint as being the head coach in Jacksonville and being the interim coach for the Broncos this year. The Vikings need help on defense. They may want to look at a defensive minded coach to help improve that area.
1. Ken Whisenhunt – Offensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers
I envision this as the perfect hire in Detroit. The Lions have so much talent that is just being wasted and they are very undisciplined. Whisenhunt can change that. He comes from a Pittsburgh Steelers background that is centered on disciplined, successful football. But, perhaps the biggest trait he has working for him, is his quarterback work. When Whisenhunt was the head man in Arizona, he resurrected Kurt Warner’s career and lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl. This year, he resurrected Phillip Rivers career. The Lions need Whisenhunt to work with their quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Especially since Stafford recently said he won’t seek coaching from a quarterback guru.
2. Mike Zimmer – Defensive Coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals
It’s no secret, the Lions strength is their front four on the defensive line. If they want to improve their overall defense and make that line the staple of their team, Zimmer is the perfect fit. Zimmer’s defenses in Cincinnati have consistently ranked towards the top in the league and why is that? Because of his dominate defensive lines. Also, Zimmer took over an undisciplined, underachieving defense when he got to Cincinnati and turned it around. The Lions may want to hire him to do the same exact thing for their team.
3. Lovie Smith – Former Head Coach for the Chicago Bears
This is a long shot hire in my opinion, but if the Lions feel they need to make a hire in which their players will instantly respect the coach, Lovie is that guy. Lovie did a great job during his time in Chicago and would know a great deal about the NFC North if the Lions hired him. Lovie does run a 4-3 defense, something the Lions already run, but Lovie’s is more of a Tampa 2 and that doesn’t really fit the Lions personnel. But let’s be honest, that secondary is bad anyways. The knock on Lovie during his time in Chicago was his inability to find a good offensive coordinator. It’s rumored he already has former California coach Dave Telford lined up to be his offensive coordinator wherever he goes, which will help ease that concern for teams.