Mike Zimmer hired a number of coordinators in his first seven years as Minnesota Vikings head coach, but the interview process will be different this time.
The NFL expanded the Rooney Rule last May to require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for each coordinator job. The Vikings have an opening for a special-teams coordinator after Zimmer did not renew the expiring two-year contract of Marwan Maalouf earlier this week. And the Vikings will have an opening for an offensive coordinator if Gary Kubiak, whom Pro Football Talk has reported will retire, indeed does so.
“I would fully expect (the Vikings) to comply,” said Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works with the NFL on diversity hiring. “Members of the organization have been exceptionally supportive of the efforts for fair and equitable hiring practices.”
With the Vikings, Zimmer has hired five offensive coordinators and three defensive coordinators. He hired Maalouf in 2019 to replace Mike Priefer, whom Zimmer kept on as special-teams coordinator after he was on the staff of previous coach Leslie Frazier.
Zimmer’s hires have included former defensive coordinator George Edwards and Andre Patterson, promoted last year to co-defensive coordinator. Both are Black.
As part of the hiring process, the Fritz Pollard Alliance provides an annual list of diversity candidates for executive, head coach and coordinator positions to NFL teams. The list put out last month includes 16 names for special-teams coordinator and 19 for offensive coordinator.
One special-teams candidate is longtime NFL assistant George Stewart, 62, who was the Vikings’ offensive line coach from 1984-85 and their wide receivers coach from 2007-16, which included three seasons under Zimmer. Stewart has 15 years of NFL experience as a special-teams coordinator, including most of the past four with the Los Angeles Chargers. He was reassigned in November to senior offensive advisor after the Chargers struggled on special teams in 2020.
“He’s a great teacher,” Graves said of Stewart. “He has all of those attributes you love in a football coach.”
Graves said Atlanta special-teams coordinator Bernie Parmalee, 53, a former NFL running back, also could be a candidate since Raheem Morris finished the season as an interim head coach, and his future with the Falcons is uncertain. Graves also spoke well of San Francisco assistant special-teams coaches Michael Clay, 29, and Stan Kwan, 53.
“Those San Francisco guys do a great job,” Graves said. “They have a couple of assistants there who certainly could be elevated.”
If the Vikings bring in a new offensive coordinator, that could be a more specialized hiring. Regardless of what happens with Kubiak, Zimmer said he wants to stick with a similar offensive scheme. Possible internal replacement candidates could include Kubiak’s son, quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, and offensive line coach Rick Dennison, but the Vikings also would be required to interview at least one minority candidate.
On the Fritz Pollard Alliance list is Miami running backs coach Eric Studesville, 53, who was Denver’s running backs coach from 2010-17, a tenure that included when Kubiak’s years as head coach from 2015-16. Studesville also was the Broncos’ interim head coach the final four games in 2010.
“I certainly believe he would have a lot of strong qualities to be considered,” Graves said.
A listed candidate with a Vikings connection is Las Vegas running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was running backs coach under Zimmer from 2014-15. Graves said he has much respect for Wilson, 59, going back to when he was Arizona’s running backs coach from 2004-06 and Graves was general manager.
Another listed candidate with a connection to Zimmer is Hue Jackson. He was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator in 2007 when Zimmer was defensive coordinator. From 2012-13, Zimmer’s final two seasons as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator, Jackson was a Bengals assistant.
Jackson, 55, has five years experience as an NFL offensive coordinator and three as a head coach. He went 8-8 as Oakland’s coach in 2011 before having a disastrous 3-36-1 Cleveland tenure from 2016-18. He was out of NFL coaching in 2019 and 2020.
“He’s certainly one of the most experienced guys out there, and he has a reputation for being an outstanding quarterbacks coach,” Graves said. “Those are the things you want to look for in coordinators, and he’s been a play-caller. He’s one of the strongest candidates.”
Other notable names on the list for offensive coordinator include Jacksonville running backs coach Terry Robiskie, who had stints as interim head coach with Washington in 2000 and Cleveland in 2004; Las Vegas receivers coach Edgar Bennett, Green Bay’s offensive coordinator from 2015-17; Browns running game coordinator Stump Mitchell, a former NFL 1,000-yard rusher; Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, a former XFL head coach, and 49ers assistant head coach and tight ends coach Jon Embree, a former University of Colorado coach.