An NFC North Name to Remember if the Vikings Search for a Head Coach
With the Minnesota Vikings latest (7-8) loss to the Los Angeles Rams (11-4), their hopes of making the 2021 NFL playoffs are not quite over, but they are bleak. With that result, the possibility that the Vikings will begin their search for a new head coach this offseason is quickly becoming a reality. Throughout this season, there are some who already have speculated on who that coach may be. Today, I’ll add one more name to that hat of candidates: Jim Caldwell.
Obviously, there is a bit of risk involved in this hire. First off, Caldwell is going to be 67 years old when the 2022 NFL season begins, so it’s unclear how long he actually would want to hold another coaching position. Then there’s also the fact that he hasn’t been a head coach in four years. The NFL game is constantly in a state of evolution, so it possible he’s lost touch with the game? It’s at least something to keep in mind, but it’s worth noting he was a QB coach and assistant head coach in Miami during 2019.
There’s also the question of how interested he actually is in taking a position. It’s already been confirmed that Jim Caldwell will be receiving an interview from the Jacksonville Jaguars regarding their opening in 2022, so there’s obviously some level. I would argue that, despite the promise of Trevor Lawrence, the Vikings are a much more intriguing job given the core that has already been built.
Reasons for Purple Interest in Jim Caldwell
First and foremost, a Jim Caldwell hire would be a complete change in philosophy from Mike Zimmer. Throughout his career, Zimmer has been heralded as a defensive coach, specializing in creative defensive schemes. Caldwell on the other hand is much more fluent in offensive gameplans, particularly passing offenses. Of course, some of that early on had to do with the fact that Peyton Manning was his quarterback. In 2009 and 2010, the Colts offense ranked in the top two of pass attempts, yards, TDs, and among the top-10 in terms of net yards per attempt.
That said, even in Detroit with Matthew Stafford, the Lions found more success than they have at any other point in the last 30 years. In 2014, his first year with Detroit, the Lions won 11 games for the first (and still the only) time since 1991 while also making the playoffs. Caldwell’s Lions also made the playoffs two times in three years for the first (and again, still the only) time since 1997-99.
Vikings fans like to point out that the franchise is cursed and doomed to failure forever, but really, is there any franchise more cursed than the Detroit Lions? If Caldwell can find even relative success with that franchise, he certainly can do so with this talented Vikings team.
Finally, as aforementioned, Caldwell’s age certainly does not make him a long-term solution as head coach. Not only that, but his previous coaching tenures in Detroit and Indy suggest that after a few years, he runs his course. His best record with the Colts was his first year of 2009, when Indy went 14-2 and made the Super Bowl. Then, his best record in Detroit was his first year of 2014, where they went 11-5 and lost in the wild card round.
Similarly, this Vikings squad is built for right now. Kirk Cousins will likely get one more year to lessen his 2022 $45 million cap hit, but after that he’s likely gone in favor of a young QB. Adam Thielen is 32 and probably on his last big deal. Justin Jefferson is going to be at the peak of his powers for the next 4-5 years. This is a strong team, so why not maximize what they’ve got with a coach that can bring a creative, offensive-focused scheme to the organization?