By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have moved into the home stretch of their search for a head coach and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has emerged as a favorite.
John Wooten, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said in a phone interview on Monday that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told him last week the team’s plan was to contact finalists for the job by Tuesday. According to an NFL Network report on Saturday, Zimmer was scheduled to travel to Minnesota on Monday and meet with Vikings officials for a second interview Tuesday.
The alliance, based in Washington, is designed to promote candidate development for coaching, front office and scouting jobs in the NFL. The FPA’s strategic efforts include advocacy for and marketing of the hiring and promotion of minorities among NFL teams, and one of Wooten’s protégées is Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, another strong candidate for Minnesota.
Bowles spoke with Spielman in Arizona last week, and Wooten said Spielman told him the interview went well.
“He was thoroughly, thoroughly impressed. That’s the way I would describe it,” Wooten said.
Wooten said on Monday afternoon that he had not yet heard from Spielman about a second interview for Bowles.
The Vikings began the week one of four teams left without a head coach, joining Cleveland, Detroit and Tennessee. The Lions, according to Wooten’s conversation with general manager Martin Mayhew, were also moving toward a conclusion, with a similar plan to invite finalists to Michigan on Monday or Tuesday for further talks with team brass.
Another candidate working with Wooten is former Indianapolis coach and current Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who has previously interviewed with the Lions.
“We think that Jim is right in the thick of this thing,” Wooten said.
One of Spielman’s favorite terms is “due diligence.” His public declaration when the process began was that he wouldn’t let a particular category, circumstance or deadline limit his options for Leslie Frazier’s successor. Spielman, though, said his preference was to make the hire prior to the Senior Bowl, a prime period of draft prospect evaluation for coaching staffs around the league. Practices for the annual college all-star game in Mobile, Ala., begin next week.
The Vikings aren’t publicizing any information about the search. Zimmer’s agent, David Dunn, didn’t immediately return messages left on Monday.
They’ve already interviewed, according to various reports: Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and San Francisco defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, in addition to Bowles and Zimmer.
With the Seahawks and 49ers playing this Sunday for the NFC championship, the Vikings couldn’t talk to any of those four candidates again until next week.