Skip to main content

There’s a concept when it comes to drafting that it’s more important to focus on the things that might derail a prospect rather than their highlight-reel moments.

Applied to a coaching search: Maybe if the Detroit Lions considered that idea they could have avoided Matt Patricia or Jacksonville could've dodged Urban Meyer. There were red flags, sirens and whistles that those teams ignored and they paid for it.

The Minnesota Vikings’ coaching search has been whittled down to three candidates who barely have a smudge on their resume and, well, Jim Harbaugh.

Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is coaching in a Super Bowl for the third time in his career, which started in the early 2000s with Tampa Bay. The last time he was in The Big Game was on the opposite side of the ball as Atlanta’s assistant head coach, receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Atlanta in 2016.

While his first go-round as a head coach with the Bucs went sideways, it isn’t hard to make a case for Morris as having a great deal of valuable experience under terrific head coaches since then. You can easily envision him as a head coach who would command the franchise from the top and delegate duties to his coordinators and assistant coaches.

The Vikings also had a second interview with Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who comes from a tree that seems to sprout success. Whether it’s Kyle Shanahan or McVay or Matt LaFleur, the descendants of Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak seem to understand how to build good offenses that maximize quarterbacks. O’Connell didn’t call plays but neither did Zac Taylor, the ex McVay understudy who will be coaching the Bengals in the Super Bowl.

If the plan is to pair the next QB with a QB guru head coach, O’Connell has a great case. He is a former NFL quarterback, a former quarterbacks coach and acted as passing game coordinator in Washington.

That type of HC-QB bond has worked pretty well in New Orleans, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Francisco etc.

How about Patrick Graham? He might be the lone thing for the New York Giants to be proud of in the last five years. He has turned chicken bleep into chicken salad with a competent defense that dragged the Giants into a handful of close games and wins this year. His background is impressive, having played at Yale and grinded his way up through the system to finally have a chance at head coaching interviews.

He’s your defensive version of Kevin Stefanski, who has done everything from being a position coach with the Patriots to run game coordinator with Green Bay to DC/assistant HC in New York. It says a lot about him that new coach Brian Daboll wants Graham to stay.

The Vikings reportedly had a nine hour interview with Graham on Tuesday. That doesn’t happen just for kicks.

And then there’s Harbaugh. As much arguing as might be going on within the Vikings’ fan base, the truth is that he’s a good candidate. His past record with the 49ers is excellent (44-19-1) and he’s coached up some good quarterbacks along the way.

Harbaugh has red flags though. More than the others.

Reports indicate that he wants the job but it’s going to be up to the Vikings’ owners and new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah on whether Harbaugh can ease their concerns and agree to play nice, unlike what happened at the end of his tenure in San Francisco. There is a report from author John U. Bacon that one of the Vikings’ minority owners does not want Harbaugh to join the Vikings. Bacon also notes that 49ers owner Jed York has been “badmouthing” Harbaugh to NFL teams since his exit. There’s lots of debates about whose at fault for the bickering between Harbaugh and former 49ers GM Trent Baalke but we can all agree there was bickering.

So what is the Vikings’ search party to do? Should they follow the draft theory about giving more consideration to the potential drawbacks? Should they put more emphasis on someone who can lead all areas of the franchise like Morris or a candidate who can become the quarterback’s best friend or hire the defensive guru to rebuild a defense that has been abysmal over the last two years?

There are so many examples around the league of every type of situation working or not working that you can make whatever case you want to make.

But let’s try to work through this a little more.

Harbaugh would be a painted as a big swing at a home run from a GM in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who only has a four-year contract. It’s presented as the burn-hot-and-fast hire, the all-in, go-for-it-all guy, while the others shine like mere stars in the sky compared to the blazing sun of Harbaugh.

It’s fair to view the team’s path back to the top as being quicker with Harbaugh — you don’t hire the Khaki Legend to take the long road.

Why does that have to mean that Morris, O’Connell or Graham can’t get the Vikings back to prominence quickly?

Think about some of the recent hires that excited absolutely nobody. In Buffalo, the townspeople didn’t exactly hold a parade when the Bills hired Sean McDermott but he’s made the franchise the most relevant it’s been since the early 1990s. Kevin Stefanski didn’t take LeBron James’ spot as the most popular sports figure ever in Cleveland when he was hired. Mike Vrabel? Really Titans? Frank Reich wasn’t even the Colts’ first choice. Ninety percent of football fans still don’t know who the head coach of the Eagles is. Zac Taylor was considered “a guy who knew Sean McVay” when the Bengals brought him on.

Past results with Harbaugh do not always guarantee future success either, as proven by Rex Ryan (Buffalo), John Fox (Chicago), Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay), Jeff Fisher (Rams), Jon Gruden (Raiders), Norv Turner (Raiders), Dennis Green (Cardinals), Steve Mariucci (Lions).

This is not to say that Harbaugh will fail. Retread coaches have done well at times, see: Belichick, Bill.

It’s only to say the idea that Harbaugh is the only person with the “ceiling” to take the Vikings to the next level is pretty flawed.

Wasn’t Mike Zimmer painted as a non-flashy hire? Didn’t he get the team to an NFC Championship?

What we have is four candidates who have very good arguments for the job. One of them has a winning record as a head coach and undeniable concerns about his past. If the Vikings go a different direction because they are focused on the red flags, that doesn’t mean they punted on a shot at glory.

If they do hire Harbaugh, all the same things that would need to happen with the roster otherwise still need to happen. The defense needs to be reconstructed. He needs to work hand-in-hand with the quarterback. They will need to manage the cap and make the right calls on veteran players. And they’ll need the same caliber of draft picks that helped Harbaugh rise to prominence in San Francisco i.e. Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Staley and Vernon Davis.

That’s the reality of the NFL: If Adofo-Mensah builds the right team, the chances that these four quality candidates can win probably aren’t much different. 

Purple Insider banner

Next Up


Minnesota 'glampground' named one of 10 best in U.S.

In Nevis, Minnesota, campers can stay in a refurbished 1905 train car.

Screen Shot 2022-01-28 at 9.04.12 AM

Two men charged over terrifying armed robbery at Newport apartment

They shot the woman who lives in the apartment in the abdomen, and put a gun to a man's head.

Minneapolis police

Minneapolis 2-year-old identified in suspicious death case

The cause of death has not yet been revealed due to an ongoing investigation.

Arianna Vos

Victim of wrong-way driver crash ID'd as Hutchinson 19-year-old

Three women, ages 19, 20 and 20, were in the vehicle struck by a wrong-way driver early Sunday morning.

Julissa Thaler

Eli Hart killing: Police investigating multiple crime scenes

An announcement Tuesday confirmed potential crime scenes in Mound and Minnetrista.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota strike.

Twin Cities mental health workers gather for 1-day strike

More than 400 mental health workers are participating in the unionized strike on Tuesday.

Bloomington Fire

HAZMAT team at Bloomington hotel following chemical spill in pool

The fire department said two hotel employees are being evaluated by paramedics.

Screen Shot 2022-03-24 at 9.21.32 AM

Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities gets $6M of Mackenzie Scott donation

The donation is the largest the organization has ever seen from a single individual.

Hennepin Avenue S.

Minneapolis accused of backtracking on 24/7 bus lanes for Hennepin Ave.

The Minneapolis City Council is set to vote on Thursday.

Pexels - face mask covid holding

Duluth brings back masking in city buildings amid COVID surge

Duluth, in one of the state's current COVID hotspots, has brought back a mask requirement in city buildings.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, May 24

Minnesota has now surpassed 12,600 COVID deaths.


Kevin O'Connell

Coller: With O'Connell over Harbaugh, Vikings can ask for patience

With Harbaugh, you’re always in all-in mode. The Vikings, coincidentally, landed in this position because of four years of all-in mode.

Jim Harbaugh

Can the Vikings still rebuild if they hire Jim Harbaugh?

Harbaugh is reportedly coming to Minnesota on Wednesday to interview


Vikings' lesson from L.A.'s Super Bowl win: It takes everyone

The Rams put together a complete team in order to raise the Lombardi can the Vikings follow their path?

Kirk Cousins

What can Kevin O'Connell do to improve Kirk Cousins' play?

If Vikings stick with Cousins, O'Connell has some ways to make the offense more efficient.

Vikings Rams, Cam Dantzler

Coller: The Vikings want to be the Rams but that will take time

It takes time to go from a 1997 Ford Ranger to a 2022 Lincoln Navigator.

Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh reportedly wants Vikings job, but will Minnesota offer it?

A Michigan reporter says Harbaugh is planning to sign a deal with the Vikings.

Kirk Cousins

With coach and GM in place, it's time for Vikings to trade Cousins

Trading Cousins will give the Vikings the space to create a great team.

Combine Reports (1)

In Indy, Vikings' new brass is giving hope to things that seemed hopeless

Interesting to see how other coaches have talked about their QB situation.