The one promise Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman gave media and fans regarding the hiring of the next head coach was a willingness to conduct an extensive search that includes 13 different possible categories.
Off the record, I’m betting one of those categories include looking at former Vikings’ coaches or former coaches that have served on the same staff with Rick Spielman. Former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has already surfaced as a possible candidate to replace Leslie Frazier.
So, I decided to do a little search to look for a few under-the-radar names that might have a connection to Spielman or the Vikings. My search also includes consideration to any connections to a possible future franchise quarterback that the Vikings might be scouting in the 2014 NFL draft. This is what I found.
The Vikings selected CB Josh Robinson with the 66th pick in the 2012 draft, so it is safe to say that the Vikings have some familiarity with the University of Central Florida. Rick Spielman is no stranger to paying attention to detail and doing his due diligence. My guess is Spielman must have had at least one conversation with Robinson’s head coach at UCF before they selected him. The head coach at UCF is George O’Leary who also was an assistant coach for the Vikings in 2002-2003 before he took the head coaching gig at UCF. I think O’Leary is a good under-the-radar candidate because he fills multiple categories that Spielman might be looking for in a coach. O’Leary has successful head coaching experience at two different universities turning Georgia Tech and UCF into outstanding programs leading his teams to 11 bowl games. O’Leary has NFL assistant coaching experience not only with the Vikings, but also with the San Diego Charges. O’Leary is a guy with a desire to coach at the highest level evident when he successfully perused and landed the head coaching job at Notre Dame in 2001. The the X-factor that I like the most about O’Leary is the work he has done with quarterback Blake Bortles. O’Leary and UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe have transformed Bortles from an unknown quarterback into one of college football’s brightest stars.
Bortles was the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year finishing ahead of Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Todd McShay currently has Bortles ranked as the 2nd best quarterback on his draft board. While ESPN Game Analyst Chris Spielman (Rick’s brother) thinks Bortles’ best football is still ahead of him.
In last night’s Fiesta Bowl, O’Leary and Bortles pulled off one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history with an impressive 52 to 42 victory over the high-octane 6th ranked Baylor Bears. At age 67, O’Leary’s is no spring chicken, but there is no denying he is a talented football coach. In 2002, as defensive coordinator for the Vikings, O’Leary improved the 30th ranked defense to 10th in the league.
Landing O’Leary and his UCF staff would certainly be easy on Zygi Wilf’s wallet (a cheap price tag could also be one of Spielman’s 13 categories), but the real kicker would be drafting Bortles with the 8th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
If the junior quarterback declares for the draft, you can bet I will be writing more about him in the next few months, but for now let’s just get the O’Leary to Minnesota coaching rumors started.