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First Dominoes Fall in Vikings Coaching Search: Hackett to Denver, Quinn Staying in Dallas

The Bears also filled their vacancy, hiring Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

The first few dominoes have fallen in this year's NFL's head coach hiring cycle, and all of them have an impact on the Vikings in some capacity or another.

Heading into Thursday, there were nine coaching vacancies across the league. The first hire of the year was made early this morning, with former Vikings executive George Paton and the Broncos nabbing Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio. Hackett was scheduled to interview with the Jaguars again today, but the Broncos made sure that didn't happen.

That's a noteworthy one for several reasons. Hackett was on the Vikings' list of eight candidates they've interviewed so far, and was one of just three OCs on the list. The Vikings reportedly liked him in their interview, but the Broncos pounced before Minnesota had named any finalists. Already having a GM in place put Denver in position to be slightly ahead of the game compared to the Vikings. 

What's also notable about that hire is what it could mean for Aaron Rodgers' future. The Packers' star quarterback is taking some time to consider his next step and has said he'll make a decision before free agency starts. He's close with Hackett, so that could increase the appeal of requesting a trade to the Broncos, who play in a tough division but have a dynamic roster with a gaping hole at QB. That's not why Denver hired Hackett, but there's no doubt it's something they've thought about.

Then again, Rodgers is also close with Packers QB coach Luke Getsy, Hackett's presumptive replacement as Green Bay's OC.

The Bears and new GM Ryan Poles made the second hire of the day, landing Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Chicago was reportedly considering Jim Caldwell, but Poles made the decision to go with Eberflus, hand-picking his head coach just two days after he was hired as the Bears' GM. Randomly enough, that means the Bears are replacing a GM named Ryan (Pace) and a head coach named Matt (Nagy) with a GM named Ryan and a head coach named Matt.

Eberflus wasn't a Vikings target, so there's no impact there. But since Chicago is a divisional rival, his success or lack thereof will directly affect the Vikings. It'll be very interesting to see who is chosen as the Bears' OC to lead Justin Fields in 2022 and beyond. As an additional note: the Bears' nucleus of Poles and Eberflus will be directly compared to the Vikings' leadership of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and their next head coach for years to come, because of Poles and Adofo-Mensah being hired one day apart and the fact that both GMs also interviewed with the other team.

The last domino of note, as of this writing: Cowboys DC Dan Quinn has told teams that he's returning to Dallas, per Tom Pelissero. Quinn was one of the hottest candidates leaguewide during this cycle, interviewing (or being requested for an interview) with six different teams. The Vikings were one of those. At one point, Quinn was rumored to be near the top of their list. He was a finalist with the Bears and Broncos as well, but he returns to the Cowboys to coach their talented defense and pursue a Super Bowl.

There have also been rumblings that OC Kellen Moore is likely to stay in Dallas as well, but then there was a report that he's expected to interview for a second time with the Dolphins. So who knows? At this point, I'd be very surprised if Moore ends up as the Vikings' head coach.

Assuming, for now, that Moore is unlikely to wind up in Minnesota, that leaves five available candidates the Vikings have already interviewed:

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  • 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans
  • Rams DC Raheem Morris
  • Rams OC Kevin O'Connell
  • Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon
  • Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles

However, there's certainly a possibility that Adofo-Mensah will interview additional candidates in the coming days. Off the top of my head, some possibilities that could make sense:

  • 49ers OC Mike McDaniel
  • Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy
  • Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh
  • Former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson

Bills OC Brian Daboll appears to be a favorite with the Dolphins and Giants, and Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich is likely headed to the Jaguars or Saints, but either could theoretically still be an interview target for the Vikings.

"We’re going to dive into this head coaching search and bring a partner for me and this organization that’s going to lead us where we want to go," Adofo-Mensah said in his introductory press conference Thursday morning. "We’ve had some initial conversations, but those have just been initial, honestly, and we’re going to dive more into it as the week goes on."

"We know what we want to find — we want leadership, we want somebody who is going to value the collective over the individual, we want somebody who has a vision, who can communicate, who has a solid football foundation, who understands how football is interconnected and what that means. That’s been our focus in these last few days honing in on what we want. In terms of specific names, we’re going to meet after this and talk about that further."

As a reminder, here are all nine head coach vacancies:

  • Denver Broncos: Nathaniel Hackett
  • Chicago Bears: Matt Eberflus
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Houston Texans
  • Las Vegas Raiders (only team that still needs a GM)
  • New York Giants

Now that the first couple hires have been made, things should continue to heat up. We'll keep you updated on everything Vikings-related as the coaching searches unfold across the league.

Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all offseason long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.