Vikings Down to Final Four Head Coach Candidates

Photo: Al Seib – Los Angeles Times

We appear to be in the final days of the Minnesota Vikings search for a new head coach. It’s been a wild ride so far and the last leg is guaranteed to bring more fireworks. But when the dust settles, a decision is expected by the end of the week. The hastiness in which this process is playing out, however, says we could have a new head coach by mid-week.

The candidate pool has apparently been whittled down to four finalists and the Vikings head coach search committee is in Los Angeles today, to conduct three of four final interviews. Here are the four remaining candidates and the latest steam behind their possible hire.

Jim Harbaugh – University of Michigan Head Coach

Jim Harbaugh is, by far, the most intriguing candidate remaining on the list of possibilities. Not only did he coach the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl birth during his first stint in the NFL, but Harbaugh’s one of the most polarizing coaches in all of football, no matter the level.

There’s no doubt that Harbaugh is serious about returning to the NFL. It’s been reported by multiple league insiders and those who cover the Michigan Wolverines at the college level. If he doesn’t get the Minnesota job, there are new rumors linking him to the Dolphins open position. So if the Vikings want him, they can probably get him.

Everyone I’ve spoken to in Michigan circles believes Jim Harbaugh’s interest in the Vikings is genuine and that he will formally interview as indicated in multiple reports. Where Michigan’s headman is in Minnesota’s pecking order heading into this week’s process is the real question.

Sam Webb – “The Michigan Insider” (247Sports)

Kevin O’Connell – LA Rams Offensive Coordinator

If I had to lay money down on one candidate to be the next Minnesota Vikings head coach, I’d place my bets on Kevin O’Connell. He’s the first finalist to get a second interview and the only coordinator remaining on the list who coaches on the offensive side of the ball. He’s consistently had the most steam behind his name since the beginning of this process, as well.

O’Connell doesn’t call plays for the Rams but he’s widely seen as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the league. After nearly a decade with defensive-minded Mike Zimmer, a shift to an offensive focus seems natural. I’m not the only one who thinks O’Connell is the favorite.

Raheem Morris – LA Rams Defensive Coordinator

Raheem Morris was a late add to the list of second interviews today. In fact, Sports Illustrated released an article this morning naming just three finalists. They had to update it to include Morris, after it was posted. That doesn’t mean Morris is out of the running or won’t get the job but it is worth noting since the Vikings were already in route to Los Angeles to interview O’Connell (who works in the same building).

Interviews with Morris and Ryans will satisfy the NFL’s “Rooney Rule“, which mandates teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for any open head coach position. O’Connell and Morris are the only two candidates who will coach in the Super Bowl two weeks from yesterday. Still, the Vikings could have a verbal agreement in place before and make it official after a 2021-22 NFL champion is named.

DeMeco Ryans – San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator

DeMeco Ryans is the last candidate remaining for this blog. I’d place him as the 3rd most-likely to get the Minnesota Vikings head coaching job. His 49ers were eliminated from Super Bowl contention on Sunday night when they lost to the LA Rams. That would make his hire a bit easier from a procedural standpoint. Not that the Vikings would make a decision based on that.

New general manager Adofo-Mensah has worked most recently with Ryans (2017-19). They were together during his final years in San Francisco. Recency bias is something to keep in mind, given Kwesi hasn’t worked with the other candidates since prior to 2015.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan