Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh walks off the field after the Wolverines' 34-11 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl.

Syndication Detroit Free Press

Report: Jim Harbaugh has ‘legitimate interest’ in Vikings’ job

Jim Harbaugh has been making inroads toward a return to the NFL.

The Michigan head coach interviewed for the same position with the Minnesota Vikings over the weekend.

ESPN reported Harbaugh “conveyed legitimate interest” in the club and added the Vikings’ management came away “feeling Harbaugh is ready to return to the NFL.”

Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will be given second interviews with Minnesota, NFL Network reported.

The Vikings head-coaching job is available after the team fired Mike Zimmer on Jan. 10.

Zimmer, 65, posted a 72-56-1 record during his eight seasons at the helm in Minnesota, although the club finished under .500 in each of the past two seasons.

Harbaugh, 58, owns a 61-24 record during his seven seasons at Michigan, his alma mater. That came following a 44-19-1 run during his stint with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-14). He guided the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer waves to the crowd after the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Vikings fire coach Mike Zimmer, GM Rick Spielman

The Minnesota Vikings fired head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman on Monday, multiple outlets reported.

Zimmer was the seventh-longest tenured coach in the NFL. He finishes with a record of 72-56-1 and a 2-3 playoff record after eight seasons. He led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 2017.

The Vikings finished 8-9 this season and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the first time that’s happened in Zimmer’s tenure with the team.

The moves are expected to be officially announced later Monday.

Spielman has been with the Vikings since 2006 and as GM since 2012. He signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $84 million in 2018. Cousins led the Vikings to one playoff appearance.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) stretches during warmups prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow returns as Bengals host Vikings

Joe Burrow hopes to make a triumphant return Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener at Paul Brown Stadium.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer probably feels the same way.

Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was playing well for the Bengals last season before a knee injury in Week 10 cost him the final six games. Burrow threw for 2,688 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions before the injury.

How well Burrow will play now remains a bit of an uncertainty. He logged just three meaningless reps in the preseason finale last month in his only game action since the setback. The Bengals, 4-11-1 last season, have gone all in on Burrow with promising young receivers Tee Higgins (67 receptions, 908 yards, six touchdowns) and Tyler Boyd (79-841-4). Cincinnati added to the potential firepower with Burrow’s former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft.

It’s clear the Bengals need Burrow to build on the form he flashed early last season if they’re to make a move in the AFC North.

“I expect to be better,” Burrow said. “I put in a lot of work this offseason that I’m excited to show off — as well as all of our guys have. We’re a much better football team that has prepared the way we need to and understands how to win games now, I think.”

Zimmer, entering his eighth season in Minnesota, was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator from 2008-13 and crafted top 10 defenses with the Bengals four times (2009, 2011-13) before joining the Vikings. It will be his first game back in his old environment.

And while the Vikings have a potent offense, defense will be in focus on Sunday. RB Dalvin Cook (1,557 rushing yards, 16 TDs in 2021), and wideouts Adam Thielen (74-925, 14 TDs) and Justin Jefferson (88-1,400, seven TDs) — himself another Burrow college teammate — give QB Kirk Cousins (4,265 yards, 35 TDs, 13 interceptions) the weapons to match most teams in a shootout.

Zimmer, however, would prefer to see improvement first from the defense, which finished 29th in the NFL last season by allowing 29.7 points per game. Minnesota was in contention for much of the year, but missed the playoffs at 7-9.

“The offense had a lot of good stats, but part of it was they had to,” Zimmer said. “We got to go out and play, and actually do it.”

It may take some time to gel, however.

Linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) is questionable, and both TE Tyler Conklin (hamstring) and OT Christian Darrisaw (groin) were also limited in practice on Wednesday. This comes on the heels of losing TE Irv Smith Jr. (torn meniscus) for the season, and RB Kene Nwangwu and WR Dan Chisena will start the season on IR.

The Bengals had a large roster overhaul. Of the 46 players who appeared in the final game of 2020, 22 are not on the 53-man roster — including eight starters.

Cincinnati will enter the opener relatively healthy with only CB Trae Waynes (hamstring) ruled out for Sunday.

“It’s an exciting time right now,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “We feel good about the guys we have on this team and where we are as we head into the regular season.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a Minnesota Vikings helmet during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings announce promotion of Klint Kubiak to OC

The Minnesota Vikings announced the promotion of quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak to offensive coordinator on Tuesday.

He officially replaces his father, Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak, who retired last month.

“I’m happy to keep consistency of the scheme and the staff on the offensive side of the ball for 2021. I believe in the system and the coaches we have,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement. “Klint will do a great job leading them and continuing to put our players in position to maximize their skills.”

The younger Kubiak, who will turn 34 next week, spent the past two seasons as the club’s quarterbacks coach. He was with Denver as offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach from 2015-17. The Broncos, coached by Gary Kubiak, won Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

Klint Kubiak played defensive back at Colorado State. He started his NFL coaching career in Minnesota under Zimmer in 2013 as quality control/assistant wide receivers coach.

He is credited with helping quarterback Kirk Cousins achieve his two best seasons in terms of passer rating: 107.4 in 2019 and 105.0 in 2020. In that span, Cousins threw 61 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

“I am thrilled for Klint to get the opportunity to be our offensive coordinator,” Cousins said in a statement. “Having the chance to work with him on a day-to-day to basis the last two seasons has helped me grow both as a player and a person.

“His sharp mind and even-keel demeanor will serve him well as a play-caller. We will all benefit from the continuity Klint provides, and I’m looking forward to working with him in this new role.”

Also on Tuesday, the Vikings promoted Andrew Janocko from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach. Former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell will hold the same position in Minnesota.

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler (27) is carted off the field after suffering an apparent injury during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK

Vikings CB Dantzler might play Sunday, coach says

The Minnesota Vikings received some good news about rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler on Monday, a day after he was stretchered off the field over concern of a head or neck injury during a win at Green Bay.

“We were all concerned about him, but it looks like he’s going to be just fine,” said coach Mike Zimmer, who also indicated that Dantzler could play Sunday when the Vikings host NFC North rival Detroit.

Dantzler, who has played in five games, all as a starter, left the contest against the Packers in the first quarter when he collided with teammate Anthony Harris while attempting to make a tackle. Dantzler’s head hit Harris’ thigh.

A third-round pick of the Vikings in this year’s draft, Dantzler has 26 tackles, including two for a loss.

Without Dantzler for much of the game, the Vikings were down to rookies Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand at the corners, with Harris playing corner in nickel formations.

–Field Level Media

Feb 27, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manger Rick Spielman speaks to media during the 2019 NFL Combine at Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings, GM Spielman agree to multi-year extension

The Minnesota Vikings and general manager Rick Spielman have agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

ESPN reported that Spielman’s new deal is believed to run through the 2023 season. Should that be the case, he would be in line with head coach Mike Zimmer, who received a three-year contract extension last month.

“Rick has been outstanding in his role as Vikings general manager,” Vikings co-owner and team president Mark Wilf said in a statement. “We are excited and honored to have him continue to lead our efforts to build a championship roster and first-class organization. With Rick’s and Coach Zimmer’s leadership in place, we are in a great position to continue to compete for a Super Bowl.”

Spielman is heading into his 15th season in Minnesota and ninth as the team’s general manager. The Vikings have posted a 117-105-2 record since Spielman joined the organization in 2006.

Minnesota has won a pair of NFC North titles and secured a 57-38-1 record during the six seasons that Spielman and Zimmer have worked together.

The Vikings went 10-6 in 2019 and upset the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round before losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

–Field Level Media