Vikings to interview incumbent defensive coordinator

Updated: January 2, 2006, 9:53 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Moving quickly to begin their search for a new head coach, the Vikings will interview incumbent defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell on Tuesday afternoon, ESPN.com has learned.

It is not known if Cottrell will actually be the first candidate to interview, since the Vikings were attempting on Monday evening to arrange a meeting with another potential candidate, believed to be Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. The Rams, who on Monday fired Mike Martz, have asked permission to speak to Rivera.

Because he is an assistant with a playoff team that has a first-round bye, Rivera must be interviewed this week by suitors or wait until the Bears are eliminated from the playoffs to meet with interested franchises.

A 22-year NFL veteran, Cottrell has interviewed for several head coach vacancies in the past and finished runner up to Dennis Erickson for the top job in San Francisco in 2003. Cottrell is black and Rivera is Hispanic, and both would enable the Vikings to meet the guidelines of the "Rooney Rules," which compel teams to interview minority candidates for head coach openings.

Sources said, though, that Cottrell is a serious candidate to succeed Mike Tice, dismissed on Sunday night by new owner Zygi Wilf. Several Vikings veterans lobbied Wilf and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski on behalf of Cottrell's inclusion in the interview process.

Cottrell, 58, joined the Vikings staff in 2004. His defense statistically ranked 21st overall this season but demonstrated marked improvement in the second half of the year, when a half-dozen new starters began to play well together and the team built a winning streak that thrust it into the NFC playoff race.

Notable in the second-half improvement is that the Vikings became more aggressive and began taking the ball away with regularity. Minnesota finished the season with 35 takeaways, fifth-most in the league, and posted a plus-five turnover differential for the year.

Before joining Tice's staff last season, Cottrell's previous NFL stops included Kansas City (1981-82), Buffalo (1986-89 and 1995-2000), Arizona (1990-94) and the New York Jets (2001-2003).

In a front office matter, the Vikings will not be hiring Philadelphia vice president Tom Heckert to become the top personnel official in the reorganized Minnesota front office. The Eagles announced Monday night that Heckert, the top choice for the personnel position in Minnesota, has been promoted to general manager and will be staying in Philadelphia on a multi-year contract.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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