Heat Check: Vikings Head Coach Candidates

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have their new general manager in former Browns VP of Football Ops, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Now, Adofo-Mensah and the rest of the Vikings’ front office have turned their full attention to the next task on the offseason checklist. Find a head coach. Kwesi said in his introductory press conference that the coaching search will internally heat up next week. Vikings insider, Chad Graff (The Athletic), expects the new head coach to be announced sometime next weekend.

“We’re going to dive into this head-coaching search and bring a partner to me and this organization that’s going to lead us to where we want to go,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’ve had some initial conversations, but those have just been initial; obviously, we’re going to dive more into it as the week goes on.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

So let’s look at the current list of candidates, which started at eight but has since been both shrunk and expanded in the last few days. Most of these head coaching hopefuls have already been interviewed. But two of the hottest names are yet to conduct any virtual interviews that we know of. Each candidate below has a heat rating (HOTTEST, HOT, SPICY, WARM, COOL), which reflects the amount of chatter linking them to the Vikings job over the last few days.

Jim Harbaugh – University of Michigan Head Coach: HOTTEST (Formerly SPICY)

You cannot create a Minnesota Vikings head coaching candidate list over the last few days and not include Jim Harbaugh. This after famed (and very plugged-in) Michigan writer, John U. Bacon mentioned the possibility that he’d leave for Minneapolis if the job was offered. Bacon went a step farther on Thursday when he noted that the Vikings and Harbaugh have already been in communication.

Harbaugh was head coach with the 49ers when Adofo-Mensah was hired back in 2013 and would easily be the most newsworthy hire the Vikings could make. If they want to find their way onto ESPN more often, Jim would be the obvious choice.

UPDATE: The Vikings have reportedly (via ProFootballTalk.com) set up an interview with Jim Harbaugh making this a real possibility. READ MORE HERE.

Patrick Graham – New York Giants Defensive Coordinator: HOTTEST

Patrick Graham tops the list as the hottest candidate currently on the Minnesota Vikings’ short list of potential head coaching options because he’s the only candidate to schedule an interview AFTER new GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired. He’s set to interview for the first time on Saturday.

Many are questioning the motives behind this scheduled interview given the Giants are a non-playoff team whose defense ranked 21st and 23rd in yards and points surrendered respectively. But Graham was one of two coordinators who Kwesi had on a “list of intriguing candidates” (see below) while going through the hiring process with the Vikings. It’s also important to remember that, back in 2006, Mike Tomlin’s Minnesota Vikings defense struggled during a 6-10 season before he was hired away by the Steelers to be their head coach. That worked out pretty well for them.

Kevin O’Connell – Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator: HOTTEST

Kevin O’Connell is right next to Patrick Graham as a favorite to land the Vikings head coaching job. He was the other candidate named by Jeremy Fowler (ESPN) as someone who Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had on his list of intriguing coaching candidates..

O’Connell doesn’t call plays for the Rams offense. That’s Sean McVay’s job. But he’s been one of the most talked about head coaching candidates league wide throughout this hiring cycle. He has a relationship with the new GM (SF – 2016) and the Vikings interviewed him once over Zoom already, before Adofo-Mensah was hired. He’s also one of the only current finalists who coaches offense.

DeMeco Ryans – San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator: HOT

DeMeco Ryans was the early favorite for a lot of fans and media members when the Adofo-Mensah hire was announced. That’s because the two were together in San Francisco for three years before Kwesi moved on to the Cleveland Browns in 2020. That was before Ryans’ defense completely shut down Aaron Rodgers last weekend in the NFC Divisional Round and sent the Packers home for the offseason.

DeMeco Ryans is still a top-three contestant but he has lost a bit of steam over the last day or two as Patrick Graham has jumped to the top of the list, with Kevin O’Connell also mentioned among national insiders. A couple of days ago on “Mackey and Judd (SKOR North)“, however, Darren Wolfson (KSTP) named DeMeco Ryans as one of three coordinators the Vikings could be interested in. He’s also the only candidate to be named by both Fowler and Wolfson.

Todd Bowles – Tampa Bay Bucs Defensive Coordinator: WARM

Todd Bowles is the candidate nobody wants but who continues to be mentioned as a real possibility. As of Thursday night, Bowles was the betting favorite at DraftKings.com to land the job. But odds for the next Vikings head coach have since been taken off their books, given all the uncertainty.

Raheem Morris – Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator: WARM

Raheem Morris is the third name mentioned by Darren Wolfson in his last podcast appearance with Mackey and Judd (SKOR North) this week. But much like Ryans, chatter surrounding Morris has quieted over the last couple of days while O’Connell and Graham have climbed to the top.

Jonathan Gannon – Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator: COOL

Gannon was one of the original eight to interview for the Minnesota Vikings head coaching job a week ago. Since then, his prospects to actually land the gig have fallen off the proverbial cliff. Unless something changes and he finds his way back into the conversation, fans can cross him off as a likely option. He is interviewing for a second time in Houston, however.

Kellen Moore – Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator: COOL

Kellen Moore entered the 2021-22 NFL season as one of the hottest young coaches in the NFL. He was a guy that many thought would’ve been off the table by this time in the offseason hiring cycle. He interviewed with the Vikings a week ago but chatter surrounding him has completely died ever since. Jerry Jones said today on Dallas radio that he expects Moore to be back as the Cowboys’ OC next season.

Former Candidates

Some of the one-time candidates for the next Minnesota Vikings head coach have either dropped out of the running or they have been hired elsewhere. Those names include:

  • Nathaniel Hackett – Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator: Hired by Broncos
  • Dan Quinn – Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator: Returning to Cowboys

If news drops that adds to this list or changes the heat-rating for any of the candidates already listed, this post will be updated.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan