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Minnesota: More Governors than Vikings Head Coaches Since 1961

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Vikings rank fourth for the longest average coaching tenure in the NFL over the past 50 years; gubernatorial turnover in Gopher State is 25 percent higher than Vikings head coaches

While Brad Childress might feel the Minnesota Vikings were a little quick on the draw to fire him mid-way through the 2010 campaign (after a 12-4 record in 2009), he can take some solace in the fact that he lasted longer than the average coach in the National Football League.

Childress' 4.5-seasons with Minnesota was almost one full year longer than the 3.8-year league average dating back to the Vikings' first season some 50 years ago.

During that five-decade stretch, the Vikings - fresh off the signing of former interim head coach Leslie Frazier - have demonstrated themselves to be one of the most gun-shy (or loyal) franchises in the NFL.

A Smart Politics review of NFL historical records finds that Minnesota ranks fourth for the longest average tenure of its coaches since joining the league in 1961, with 6.3 average years of service for the eight different coaches in team history.

Only the Pittsburgh Steelers (with six coaches at an average of 8.5 years per coach), the Jacksonville Jaguars (with two coaches at an average of 8.0 years per coach since the franchise formed in 1995), and the Dallas Cowboys (eight coaches, 6.4 years per coach) have given their coaches more rope across the last five decades.

In fact, Minnesota, which inaugurated a new governor last week in DFLer Mark Dayton, has actually had more stability at the Vikings head coaching position than it has in the governor's mansion over the last fifty years - despite three of its last four governors recording eight-year stints at the helm.

Minnesota has had 10 different governors since 1961, when Republican Elmer Anderson took office - or 25 percent more than the number of Vikings head coaches (eight).

The last time the Vikings and the Gopher State began the year with a new head coach and governor was in 1967 - when the legendary Bud Grant took the reigns from Norm Van Brocklin and Republican Harold LeVander defeated incumbent DFLer Karl Rolvaag in the 1966 election.

Of course, part of the reason the Vikings' average coaching tenure is so high is due to the 17-season stretch notched by Grant from 1967 through 1983.

When factoring in Grant's brief return to coaching duties in 1985 (after a one-year stint by Les Steckel), the Vikings have made just nine coaching moves since 1961, or an average of one change per 5.6 years - good for 5th longest in the NFL (behind Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Dallas, and Chicago, and tied with Miami).

The Vikings are one of seven teams to have hired the same coach more than one time since 1960, along with the San Diego Chargers (Sid Gillman), Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams (Chuck Knox), Buffalo Bills (Lou Saban and Harvey Johnson), Oakland Raiders (Art Shell), Atlanta Falcons (Marion Campbell), and Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (Ted Marchibroda).

On the gubernatorial side, although the Gopher State has had 10 different governors since 1961 there have been 11 changes of the guard - with DFLer Rudy Perpich's tenure stretched out before (1976-1978) and after (1983-1990) Al Quie's single term.

Loyalty to head coaches seems to run deep in the Black and Blue Division.

Of the 22 NFL and AFL teams in existence since 1961, the Vikings, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers all rank among the Top 5 teams with stability at the head coaching position.

Minnesota has had eight different head coaches (tied with Dallas for second fewest), followed by Chicago at #4 with nine, and Green Bay at #5 with 10. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the way with just six coaches.

All but one of Minnesota's head coaches - excluding the newly hired Frazier - recorded coaching tenures with a greater length of service than the 3.8-year league average.

After Grant's 18 years of service, next best is Dennis Green with nearly 10 (1992-2001), Norm Van Brocklin (1961-1966) and Jerry Burns (1986-1991) with six each, Brad Childress with 4.5 (2006-2010), Mike Tice with 4+ (2001-2005), and Les Steckel with one (1984).

The fourth team in the NFC Central, the frequently maligned Detroit Lions, ranks near the bottom in coaching stability, with 16 coaches during this 50-year span.

Overall, the teams with the highest turnover of head coaches since 1960 have been the Arizona/St. Louis Cardinals (with 19 coaches, at 2.7 years per coach), the New York Jets and Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts (17 coaches, at 3.0 years per coach), and the Atlanta Falcons (15 coaches since 1966, at 3.0 years per coach). (Note: Arizona/St. Louis' tally includes three co-coaches during the 1961 season).

There have been more than 360 head coaches in the NFL (and AFL) across these 50 years.

Number of Head Coaches in the National Football League by Team, 1960-Present

Rank
Team
Since
Coaches
Years per
1
Pittsburgh Steelers
1960
6
8.5
2
Jacksonville Jaguars
1995
2
8.0
3
Dallas Cowboys
1960
8
6.4
4
Minnesota Vikings
1961
8
6.3
5
Chicago Bears
1960
9
5.7
6
Miami Dolphins
1966
8
5.6
7
Green Bay Packers
1960
10
5.1
8
Baltimore Ravens
1996
3
5.0
9
Cincinnati Bengals
1968
9
4.8
10
Kansas City Chiefs
1960
11
4.6
10
New York Giants
1960
11
4.6
12
Houston Texans
2002
2
4.5
13
Seattle Seahawks
1976
8
4.4
13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1976
8
4.4
15
Carolina Panthers*
1995
4
4.0
16
Denver Broncos
1960
13
3.9
16
Philadelphia Eagles
1960
13
3.9
18
San Diego Chargers
1960
14
3.6
18
San Francisco 49ers
1960
14
3.6
18
St. Louis Rams (Los Angeles)
1960
14
3.6
21
New England Patriots**
1960
15
3.4
21
Tennessee Titans (Houston Oilers)
1960
15
3.4
21
Washington Redskins
1960
15
3.4
24
Cleveland Browns*
1960
16
3.2
24
Buffalo Bills
1960
16
3.2
24
Detroit Lions
1960
16
3.2
27
New Orleans Saints
1967
14
3.1
28
Oakland Raiders (Los Angeles)*
1960
17
3.0
28
Atlanta Falcons
1966
15
3.0
28
Indianapolis Colts (Baltimore)
1960
17
3.0
28
New York Jets
1960
17
3.0
32
Arizona Cardinals (St. Louis)***
1960
19
2.7
 
Total
 
367
3.8
* Carolina, Cleveland, and Oakland coaching tallies include as of yet unnamed head coaches to fill the vacancies left at each franchise at the end of the 2010 season (tallies presume the forthcoming individual has not yet coached for the team). ** Hank Bullough and Ron Erhardt were co-coaches for New England for one game in 1978. *** Ray Prochaska, Ray Willsey, and Chuck Drullis were co-coaches for the St. Louis Cardinals for six games in 1961. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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1 Comment


  • Hopefully Leslie Frazier can have a long future as a Vikings head coach. He seems to be putting a great coaching staff together and now we just have to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.

  • Leave a comment


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