10 candidates who could replace Mike Zimmer as Vikings head coach

When the Vikings do name a replacement for former head coach Mike Zimmer, that person will be expected to bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy reacts during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today Sports file photo
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf made it clear that he and his inner circle are going to be very calculated as they lead the NFL franchise into the future. They plan to look for a replacement for former general manager Rick Spielman first, then start the search for the next head coach.

If the Vikings miss out on someone in the meantime, so be it. They won’t rush the process. They know they have to get it right this time around.

But know this: When the Vikings do name a replacement for former head coach Mike Zimmer, that person will be expected to bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota. That’s the goal.

Here are 10 candidates that could step into the role:

Eric Bieniemy

Is this the offseason that Bieniemy finally gets a head coaching job? The longtime assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs has flourished since taking over as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2018. There’s also a Minnesota connection as Bieniemy served as the Vikings’ running backs coach from 2006-10. If the Vikings want an offensive mind to lead the franchise into the future, there might not be a better choice than Bieniemy. The only question that might scare them off: Why hasn’t he gotten a head coaching job already? He has been a top candidate the past couple of offseasons but has been passed up each time. What does that mean, if anything?


NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York on Jan. 2, 2022.
Rich Barnes / USA Today sports file photo

Brian Daboll

As offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills since 2018, Daboll has made a name for himself as an extremely creative mind and a coach who deserves the chance to lead a team. He has helped franchise quarterback Josh Allen reach the next level and has kept star receiver Stefon Diggs happy with tons of targets. That of course was an issue when Diggs was with the Vikings early in his career. If the Vikings want to build an offense around star receiver Justin Jefferson moving forward, Daboll might be the guy to do it.

FILE PHOTO: NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores runs off the field after winning the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Dec. 19.<br/>
Sam Navarro / USA Today Sports file photo

Brian Flores

No doubt the biggest surprise of the week was the Miami Dolphins deciding to fire head coach Flores. He had led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons, and more impressive, had shown the ability to beat New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Flores is now on the open market, where he figures to garner a lot of interest. He has come up the coaching ranks as a defensive mind, though that shouldn’t deter the Vikings if they feel he’s the right man for the job.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore stands on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelpha.
Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports

Kellen Moore

As the NFL continues to hire younger head coaches, Moore has become someone to keep an eye on. As the offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys for the past few seasons, Moore, 33, has helped quarterback Dak Prescott post numbers reminiscent of a Madden video game. He also happens to be a former NFL quarterback himself. If the Vikings give Moore a chance, he would instantly become the youngest head coach in the league. That could be appealing to an ownership group that wants to establish a new culture.

Andre Patterson

After giving his heart and soul to the Vikings throughout his career, Patterson at least deserves a fair shake. He has been in charge of the Vikings’ defensive line since 2014 and has consistently helped churn out some of the best players at those positions. The biggest thing working against Patterson is that the Vikings might want to go in a completely different direction now that Zimmer is out.

Doug Pederson

Anyone remember who was in charge of the Philadelphia Eagles when they destroyed the Vikings in the 2017 NFC Championship Game? That’s right. It was Super Bowl-winning head coach Pederson. Currently out of the league after parting ways with the Eagles last offseason, Pederson wants to be a head coach again, and he’s already starting to garner some interest. Maybe the Vikings figure, if they can’t beat him, they could always hire him.


Byron Leftwich

As a former NFL quarterback, Leftwich has started to make a name for himself in the coaching ranks. As offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the past few seasons, he has gotten to work with the GOAT, Tom Brady, on a daily basis. He won a Super Bowl last season under head coach Bruce Arians and could be on his way to repeat this season. Those are credentials that should interest the Vikings.

Todd Bowles

If Leftwich is being considered for a head coaching job, so too should Bowles. As defensive coordinator of the Buccaneers the past few seasons, he should garner some major interest this offseason. He was head coach of the New York Jets not long ago but struggled to turn that franchise around. That said, Bowles deserves another chance with a more stable organization. Maybe the Vikings are a good landing spot.

Jim Harbaugh

This is a little outside of the box. And maybe unrealistic. But if Harbaugh is ever going to leave the University of Michigan, it’s going to be to get back in the NFL. He was successful as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-14 before both sides mutually agreed to part ways. If the Vikings want to make a splash, and Harbaugh is legitimately interested in returning to the NFL, this could be a match made in heaven.

Lane Kiffin

This is more than a little outside of the box. And likely very unrealistic. Still, rumors have been swirling that the Vikings might be interested in Kiffin. As much as rumors should always be taken with a grain of salt, Kiffin would be an interesting hire. He was an absolute train wreck with the Oakland Raiders earlier in his coaching career before slowly repairing his image at the college ranks. He recently led Ole Miss to its most successful season in a very long time. After more than decade later, maybe Kiffin is ready for the NFL once again.

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