I can’t help but wonder if one of the 13 categories that GM Rick Spielman talked about in regards to finding the next head coach for the Minnesota Vikings could be, Super Bowl Experience. Well, Ray Horton just happens to have three Super Bowl rings setting on his office desk. Horton hasn’t had the opportunity to win one as a head coach yet, but his time may be just around the corner.
Currently the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Horton’s job status is somewhat uncertain because the Browns are also looking to fill a vacant head coaching position as well.
Horton is ready to be a head coach in the NFL, but at the very least, Horton should be a front runner to fill one of the many vacant defensive coordinator positions available right now. Spielman’s willingness to interview Horton is a strong indication that the Vikings are ready to move away from the 4-3 cover two scheme.
Horton is well liked by his team because he frequently adjusts to his players strengths and weakness by incorporating what they like and feel confortable with. Horton is a detail-oriented coach who says his scheme is difficult to learn and that young players struggle to get playing time. Horton had the Steelers ranked in the top five in pass defense on a regular bases when he was a defensive backs coach in Pittsburgh from 2004-2010. As a defensive coordinator in Arizona from 2011-2012, he took over a unit that was ranked 30th in points allowed, by 2012, Horton had the Cardinals ranked 12th in that category. Horton inherited a young team in Cleveland this year and had them ranked in the top ten after one season on the job.
Ray Horton had an outstanding ten year career as a defensive back in the NFL playing for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys.
Three coaches have been very influential in shaping Ray Horton as a player and as a coach. Dick LeBeau the long time defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and former head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2000-2002. Dave Campo a former head coach for the Cowboys who also served as Horton’s position coach during his playing days in Dallas. And Norv Turner who began Horton’s coaching career by hiring him as a defensive assistant with Washington in 1994. Turner is currently the offensive coordinator on the same staff with Horton in Cleveland.
Horton is a good choice because I think he has solid connections with NFL masterminds that will help him put together a great staff when he lands a head coaching job. Horton and the Vikings may already have a couple big names on the radar.
Norv Turner wants out of Cleveland and he also has experience working with Spielman in Maimi during the 2002-2003 seasons. When Chan Gailey, Mike Shula and Norv Turner all move on to head coaching jobs, the proverbial poo-poo hit the fan for Spielman and Dave Wannstedt in Miami.
Charlie Weis and Dave Campo are struggling a bit to turn the University of Kansas football program around after their first two years on the job, so a shot at a return to the NFL under Ray Horton might interest them. Jeff Davidson the current Vikings offensive line coach worked closely with Charlie Weis in New England. Also worthy to note, when Jeff Davidson was the offensive coordinator for John Fox in Carolina from 2007-2010, it was no coincident that Fox and Davidson selected Jimmy Clausen, a Charlie Weis product from Nortre Dame with the 48th pick in the 2010 draft.
Was Jeff Davidson a major influence in Spielman’s decision to bring Matt Cassel to the Vikings? Maybe that was why Frazier was slow to name Cassel the starter?
Charlie Weis was named the offensive coordinator in 2010 for the Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Todd Haley. Matt Cassel had his highest QB rate of his career the one and only year he was a starting quarterback under Weis. Cassel connected on 58.2% of his attempts and threw for over 3,000 yards. He tossed a career best 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions in 2010 as the Chiefs starting quarterback . I wouldn’t be surprised if Davidson and Cassel are working behind the scenes at Winter Park lobbying for Charlie Weis to be the next offensive coordinator.
Ken Whisenhunt hired Ray Horton as his defensive coordinator at Arizona in 2011. Whisenhunt is currently the offensive coordinator for the Chargers. Yes, I know it would be a cold day in San Diego and elsewhere before Whisenhunt would follow Horton to Minnesota for a coordinators position when he is currently rumored for head coaching jobs elswhere. However, if Horton is in the bag as (at the very least) a defensive coordinator, Whisenhunt could have some interest in the head coaching job with the Vikings.
Whisenhunt has a 49-53 career record as a head coach guiding the Cardinals to two NFC Divisional Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. Whisehunt’s offesive coordinator during his successful days in Arizona was Tood Haley. Haley went on to be the head coach at Kansas City and hired Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator. So, a similar system in Minnesota with a veteran quarterback like Matt Cassel could be the blue print for attracting Whisenhunt.
Don’t expect the Vikings to offer the head coaching job to Horton too quickly, but certainly count him as a serious candidate for either the head coaching job or the defensive coordinator position.
Having Ray Horton and Charlie Weis or Norv Turner in the Vikings’ back pocket could play a major role in attracting Ken Whisenhunt to Minnesota in a few weeks. Especially if the Chargers have a long playoff run. The longer the Chargers stay in the playoff picture, the more likely other teams will go ahead and hire head coaches. The longer the Vikings can give Ray Horton real hope that he has a shot at the Vikings head coaching job, the longer he will stays off the defesive coordinator market. If the lucky stars line up for Spielman, Ray Horton and Ken Whisenhunt both just might fall into place in Minnesota.
A similar system to what Whisenhunt had in Arizona, and a somewhat similar staff partually in place in Minnesota might be attractive to Whisenhunt. And if not… Horton can finish out the staff and lead this team as the head coach.
I’m hoping candidates like Ravens offesive coordinator Jim Caldwell, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin will have a great week and take some major strides in filling a couple more of these head coaching vacancies.