The Vikings have completed initial interviews with eight head coach candidates, casting a wide net despite not yet having a general manager in place. That was something they needed to do, in part because the NFL rules mean if they hadn't interviewed someone on a team playing in a conference title game — like the 49ers' DeMeco Ryans and the Rams' Raheem Morris and Kevin O'Connell — before the divisional round was over, they'd risk not getting to meet with them until after the Super Bowl.
Now the coaching search is about to really heat up. The Vikings are likely going to hire a new general manager by the end of the week, whether that's Ryan Poles or Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. From there, that person's immediate first priority will be stepping in as a key figure in the coaching search. That could mean second interviews with candidates the Vikings have already talked to, as well as initial interviews for people outside that group of eight.
Even with the GM hire being a few days away, coaching rumors are continuing to pop up left and right. Let's go over the two most recent ones.
The Buccaneers' outstanding defensive coordinator, formerly the head coach of the Jets, has interviewed with the Vikings, Bears, and Jaguars in this cycle. It sounds like he's a name to keep an eye on in Minnesota's search.
"Bowles is firmly in the running there in Minnesota," said NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. "The owners are from New Jersey, he's from New Jersey, and he definitely did well in that interview. I would expect a second interview for Bowles and potentially in the running there."
The Star Tribune's Ben Goessling — one of the most plugged-in reporters on the Vikings beat — has reported the same.
"There’s significant interest in Bowles," Goessling tweeted. "He was lined up for a second interview back when the Vikings hired Zimmer, and they’re looking hard at him this time."
Since Bowles took over as Tampa's DC in 2019, the Bucs have the No. 1 rush defense and the No. 6 pass defense in opponent EPA per play, and they've finished in the top 10 in defensive DVOA three years in a row. That included a dominant performance against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in last year's Super Bowl, which followed road wins over the Saints and Packers in the NFC playoffs.
With that said, my personal opinion is that Bowles would be a disappointing, somewhat conservative hire. The Jets are a mess of a franchise, but his 24-40 record in four seasons there didn't inspire a ton of confidence. Bowles made some questionable calls late in the Bucs' season-ending loss to the Rams on Sunday, most notably leaving safety Antoine Winfield Jr. one-on-one against Cooper Kupp while blitzing Matthew Stafford on the game's decisive play. And the fact that Bowles and the Wilfs are both from Elizabeth, N.J., should have no bearing on their decision.
Bowles is a strong leader who could certainly have success as a head coach if he gets another shot, but if the Vikings end up hiring a defensive coordinator, why not go with someone younger like DeMeco Ryans or Raheem Morris?
Here's a name I didn't expect to come up in Vikings rumors at this point in the search.
On Monday, Michigan-based journalist and author John Bacon tweeted the latest on what he's hearing about the possibility of Harbaugh potentially leaving the Wolverines to return to the NFL.
"Harbaugh Watch, Day 23: Nobody Knows Anything," Bacon wrote. "But, [for what it's worth], I'm hearing the NFL possibilities seem to be shrinking, not expanding, especially with probably the best fit, Las Vegas. Flip side, just heard, 'Don't count the Vikings out.'"
The reason that's notable is because of Bacon's background. He's a Michigan alum who wrote for the Detroit News before becoming a big-time freelancer, author, and radio/TV commentator in Ann Arbor. He has also taught at Michigan for many years. Bacon has written a number of books about Michigan football, including multiple books about the Harbaugh era. He's as dialed in on Harbaugh as anyone.
For now, it's just a rumor to keep in mind. The Raiders have been viewed for a while as the most likely possible NFL landing spot for Harbaugh, who could also return to a Michigan program that he just took to the College Football Playoff. But if he does have interest in the Vikings, they should absolutely explore that option. Harbaugh took the 49ers to three NFC championship games and a Super Bowl in four years, sandwiched between successful college stints at Stanford and Michigan.
One other thing worth noting is if the Vikings hire Adofo-Mensah as their GM, he got his start in the NFL with the 49ers in 2013 and overlapped with Harbaugh for two years.
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