Coaching the Minnesota Vikings used to be a pretty stable and successful job. The Vikings only had two head coaches in the first 23 years of the franchise.
The franchise started in 1961 with Hall of Fame QB Norm Van Brocklin as the head coach.
VIKINGS HEAD COACHES (1961-1983)
Norm Van Brocklin, 1961-66
Bud Grant, 1967-1983
Bud Grant resigned after taking the Vikings to four Super Bowls and winning 151 games.
For all the stability of the first 23 years of the franchise, the next 29 years of the Vikings franchise have been marked by instability and bad hires.
VIKINGS HEAD COACHES (1984-present)
Les Steckel, 1984
Bud Grant, 1985
Jerry Burns, 1986-91
Dennis Green, 1992-2001
Mike Tice, 2001-05
Brad Childress, 2006-10
Leslie Frazier, 2010-2013
Mike Zimmer, 2014-
Steckel was an assistant coach under Grant for five seasons. His military background, strict ways and youth all worked against him as the Vikings limped to a 3-13 record, the worst in franchise history. He was fired when he refused to resign.
Grant came back in 1985 to steady the ship and to rehire longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns, who had resigned under Steckel. Grant retired after the 1985 season, and Burns took over.
Burns lasted six seasons, making the playoffs three times. He retired after the 1991 season.
Denny Green was hired away from Stanford to replace Burns. He was from the Bill Walsh coaching tree, and the Vikings were hoping to duplicate the San Francisco 49ers success.
Green only had one losing season in his 10 seasons at the helm of the Vikings, and made the playoffs eight times. The 1998 team featured Randall Cunningham at quarterback throwing the ball all over the field to the rookie Randy Moss and Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Robert Smith rushed for more than 1,100 yards.
But the Vikings would lose the NFC Championship game to Atlanta at home. Losing big games in the playoffs was becoming a staple of the Green teams. Although he was 97-62 overall as the Vikings head coach he was just 4-8 in the playoffs.
After missing the 2001 playoffs and posting his only losing season in Minnesota (5-10), Green was fired with one game to go. He had failed to hold together the mercurial but talented Moss, Carter and Daunte Culpepper while also starting a rookie running back in Michael Bennett (who had to replace the successful Smith who suddenly retired after eight seasons).
And Tice was waiting in the wings. You know, because offensive line coaches are always successful when dealing with pain-in-the-ass wide receivers and quarterbacks.
Tice set the tone for his tenure with the Vikings by losing to the Ravens in the game after Green was fired. The former NFL tight end (including with the Vikings) led the Vikings for four seasons. His teams were known for piling up big yards week after week while blatantly refusing to play any defense. He finished with a 32-33 record and one playoff appearance.
The Vikings turned the franchise over to Philadelphia Eagles’ assistant coach Brad Childress. Childress was on the Eagles staff for three straight NFC Championship game and one Super Bowl.
Childress tenure with the Vikings is known for two things: wearing a Whitney Houston-esque type headset instead of the standard issue headset every other NFL coach wore and begging hated foe Brett Favre to run the team for two year as quarterback. The Vikings paid Favre a pile of cash to get them to the NFC Championship game in 2009. Then even more cash to have Favre lead them to a 6-10 finish in 2010 that included the fragile Percy Harvin missing game and a home game in Detroit when the Metrodome room deflated under heavy snow. Childress was fired 10 games into the mess.
Assistant Coach Leslie Frazier took over for the remainder of the 2010 season, and was hired as the full-time head coach after the season. Vikings fans were hoping the Vikings would get back to playing a little defense under Frazier. After all he was a defensive back on the “Da Bears” team that won the Super Bowl (he led the team in interceptions that season) and the defensive coordinator for the Vikings. Those dreams were quickly dashed. The 2011 team was 26th in passing defense, the 2012 team was 24th and the 2013 team was 31st in the league. In a league where everyone throws the ball all the time, the Vikings were resoundingly bad at pass defense.
Frazier ended with a 21-32-1 record, and one playoff appearance. The 2012 team parlayed a really soft schedule and Adrian Peterson’s 2,075 yards into a 10-6 record. The season ended with a thumping in the Wild Card game in Green Bay.
The Vikings now turn to Zimmer. Widely considered one of the best defensive coaches in the league, he comes to Minnesota after leading a stout Bengals defensive unit. However, he hasn’t had a lot of post-season success. In his six years as a defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons and Bengals he was in the playoffs three times. All three times, the Bengals lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Time will tell if the Vikings have finally found their next Bud Grant or Denny Green.