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Head Coach Candidates Whose Stock Increased or Decreased During Wild Card Weekend

One game does not tell the whole story of a coach's potential, but it's still worth evaluating.

When evaluating head coach candidates, as the Vikings are currently doing, the most important factors are their entire body of work, what other people around the league have to say about them, and how they interview. Individual games should only carry so much weight. 

But that doesn't mean they aren't important, especially when you're talking about playoff games. You'd like to see coaches have success when the pressure, stakes, and competition are elevated.

Wild card weekend just wrapped up, and there were six games featuring plenty of coordinators who are viewed as popular candidates for head coach vacancies in this cycle. Seven of the eight coaches the Vikings have requested interviews with so far had teams in action across a three-day football fest that featured a disappointing number of blowout results.

Again, it's worth repeating that the resumes built up by these coaches over this season and previous years are more useful than single game results. With that in mind, let's take a look at which candidates made good or bad impressions this weekend.

Stock up

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator (beat Patriots 47-17)

No one improved their stock more during wild card weekend than Daboll, whose Bills offense put on an absolute clinic against Bill Belichick's Patriots. Buffalo had seven possessions in this game (excluding their victory formation at the end of the game) and scored touchdowns on all seven of them. They didn't punt once or turn the ball over. Josh Allen threw for 308 yards with more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four), and the Bills also ran for 174 yards. They averaged 8.9 yards per play and went six for seven on third down. Daboll was already a premiere head coach candidate, but this performance took him to another level. The Vikings really need to get him scheduled for an interview.

On the Vikings' current interview list? No

DeMeco Ryans, 49ers defensive coordinator (beat Cowboys 23-17)

Of the coaches on the Vikings' current interview list, I was impressed the most by Ryans this weekend. The Cowboys entered this game with the No. 1 offense in the NFL by both yards and points, and they struggled mightily all game long against the 49ers' defense. Dallas finished with 17 points, but ten of those came in the final 12 minutes of the fourth quarter after San Francisco had lost its two best defensive players in Fred Warner and Nick Bosa. Similarly, 150 of their 307 total yards came in the fourth. The 49ers sacked Dak Prescott five times, picked him off once, and completely shut down the running game. Ryans dialed up beautiful pressures all game long, but the most impressive was a zero blitz on a critical fourth down with less than two minutes to play. That was a strong display ahead of his interview with the Vikings on Wednesday.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Raheem Morris, Rams defensive coordinator (beat Cardinals 34-11)

Vikings owners and executives must've been watching Rams-Cardinals on Monday night, because they requested an interview with Morris the next morning. This was a complete dismantling by the Los Angeles defense. The Cardinals averaged 3.4 yards per play on their way to 183 total yards. They went 0 for 9 on third down and didn't score a point until the game was already close to decided late in the third quarter. Kyler Murray finished 19 of 34 for 137 yards and two interceptions with just six rushing yards. He was flustered all night by the Rams' pressures and disguises.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Eric Bienemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator (beat Steelers 42-21)

Not that it was a surprise to anyone, but the Chiefs absolutely dominated the Steelers on Sunday night. They racked up 478 yards of offense, with Patrick Mahomes throwing for 404 yards and five touchdowns. They also ran for over 100 yards. This is nothing new for Bienemy, who has been Kansas City's OC since the start of the Mahomes era in 2018. The question with him remains what it has always been: what will he look like without Mahomes and Andy Reid? Those are two of the best ever at their jobs, and Reid calls the plays. But Bienemy is a huge part of the Chiefs' game-planning and preparation and deserves a shot to be a head coach sooner rather than later.

On the Vikings' current interview list? No

Kevin O'Connell, Rams offensive coordinator (beat Cardinals 34-11)

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The biggest story from this game was the Rams' defensive dominance (or the Cardinals' offensive implosion, depending on how you want to look at it). But the Rams' offense was impressive as well, racking up 6.6 yards per play and scoring 28 points by the ten-minute mark of the third quarter. Their running game was a thing of beauty, especially in the first half, and a lot of credit for that goes to O'Connell. Matthew Stafford didn't need to do much, finishing an efficient 13 of 17 for 202 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Odell Beckham Jr. even threw for a 40-yard gain on a cool trick play. Like Bienemy and the Packers' Nathaniel Hackett, O'Connell doesn't call the plays. But all three still deserve major credit for the success of their offenses and have undoubtedly learned a great deal from being around great coaches and players.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator (beat Eagles 31-15)

The Eagles were always going to be outmatched against the defending Super Bowl champions, but this went even worse for them than anticipated. When the fourth quarter began, the score was 31-0. Bowles' defense was dominant; Jalen Hurts was inefficient all game and threw two picks and the Eagles couldn't get anything going on the ground until garbage time. The Bucs' defense stiffened twice in its own territory to end scoring chances in the first half. Bowles interviews with the Vikings on Friday.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Others: Leslie Frazier, Bills DC; Mike McDaniel, 49ers OC; Byron Leftwich, Bucs OC; Brian Callahan, Bengals OC

Stock down

Jonathan Gannon, Eagles defensive coordinator (lost to Bucs 15-31)

Ouch. Gannon, who interviews with the Vikings this week, will have to answer some major questions about his defense's performance against the Buccaneers. They didn't get much help from their offense, but allowing 31 points through less than three quarters is never ideal. It was a methodical, efficient day for Tom Brady and the Tampa offense, who didn't turn the ball over. I'm not sure I get the hype around Gannon as much as I do the other candidates on the Vikings' list, but he's clearly respected in NFL circles with all of the buzz he's getting for various openings.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator (lost to 49ers 17-23)

The most talked-about moment from the entire weekend, by far, was the ending of the Cowboys' loss to the 49ers. With 14 seconds left and Dallas at the San Francisco 41, Moore called a QB draw with Prescott. He picked up 17 yards, but failed to get the ball to the referee in time for it to be spotted and spiked before time ran out. It was a wild way for a team's season to come to an end, and Moore has taken a lot of heat for the call. Even before that play, he decisively lost the battle against Ryans, as his offense failed to get much going until the fourth quarter. One game does not mean Moore can't become an excellent head coach, but it wasn't the kind of performance he was hoping for as he prepares for interviews.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator (lost to 49ers 17-23)

Quinn's Cowboys defense made its name all year by getting after quarterbacks and creating takeaways. Against the 49ers, they finished with zero sacks and just one takeaway, an interception gift-wrapped by Jimmy Garoppolo on an overthrow. The Dallas defense looked perplexed by Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel's running game, allowing nearly 170 yards on the ground. It wasn't an awful look for Quinn, but it also wasn't anything that made NFL teams with coaching vacancies slide him to the top of their lists.

On the Vikings' current interview list? Yes

Others: Josh McDaniels, Patriots OC; Jerod Mayo, Patriots ILBs coach; Vance Joseph, Cardinals DC

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