Posted on Thu, Mar. 02, 2006

[size=18px]Diversity rules new staff[/size]

Vikings' rookie coordinators bring different perspectives

BY SEAN JENSEN
Pioneer Press


After just five NFL seasons, Mike Tomlin is one of the league's youngest coordinators.

But he doesn't feel like the Vikings rookie defensive coordinator since taking over Jan. 10.

"I've gone through this process 1,000 times in my mind," said Tomlin, who turns 34 this month. "So it wasn't awkward or uncomfortable."

Since he was hired on Jan. 6, head coach Brad Childress has pieced together a diverse coaching staff in age, race and football background, but his boldest choices came at his three coordinator positions.

Tomlin (defense), Darrell Bevell (offense) and Paul Ferraro (special teams) are all first-time coordinators.

Ferraro, 46, was a defensive coordinator in college. But Bevell, like Tomlin, has skyrocketed through the coaching ranks.

"When I first started coaching, I started in college, and there are only a certain amount of doors there," said Bevell, 36. "Then, I went to Green Bay, and more doors opened. I can't tell you when I was at Westmar in Iowa (in 1996) that I'd be the Vikings offensive coordinator."

But Bevell said his and Tomlin's age shouldn't matter.

"I don't think our age will define our success," he said. "Our abilities on offense and defense will."

Childress said he is proud of the mix of his coaching staff and added that he will not "micromanage" Bevell, Ferraro and Tomlin.

As the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator, Childress sometimes wondered why head coach Andy Reid didn't spend more time in his meetings.

"I realized that it's not that he didn't want to," Childress said, "there are just so many other things.

"I told Andy that, and he said, 'That's why I hired you.' "

Childress again noted that professional football is a "young man's game," and he didn't want to hover over his coaches' every moves.

"I hire them and I have to trust them. Andy did that. Barry (Alvarez at Wisconsin) did that," Childress said. "… (The coordinators) have taken the ball and run with it. They're good leaders. But to be a good leader, you have to have good followers."

That is why Childress can't wait until the players show up at Winter Park on a more regular basis. He wants them to feel the energy of the defensive meetings, and he wants them to soak up the many perspectives of his coaching staff.

"We've been together a month," Ferraro said. "But (Childress) has put together a great cross section of coaches. Different levels. Different parts of the country. Different conferences. NFL. Different ages.

"I've been places where it's all kind of young, or all kind of old. Or all come from this one experience. I think (the diversity) can bring a lot to a staff."

But Tomlin said there are common threads among the coaches: They are communicators, teachers and aficionados of competition.

Tomlin said his players have a "clean slate" with him. And even though he has watched plenty of tape and talked to many of the Vikings' scouts about the players, Tomlin won't be quick to judge any of them and their role in his new defense.

"We try not to evaluate guys based on tape, because we don't know exactly what they were asked to do," Tomlin said. "You know a guy like Antoine Winfield is going to be in the mix. You know Darren Sharper and Kevin Williams are going to be in the mix. But you have to be open-minded and let the process happen. The only way we'll be great is if there is competition.

"Who plays will be determined by who performs."

Ferraro said he has a "great foundation" of special-teams players, and Bevell said the Vikings' offense is very "flexible."

"There's a lot of pieces that we have to work with," Bevell said, "but there is free agency and a draft to help bolster that."

But there is little time to relax; the coaches are still selling houses in their previous stops and securing new residences here.

Bevell's family won't arrive from Green Bay until mid-May, and several of the coaches are still driving around in rental cars and living in hotels.
In fact, the coaches haven't had much time to even socialize and have group outings.

"You do that once you get settled," Ferraro said. "It's been such a whirlwind for us."

Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Diversity rules new staff