One day after the NFL came down with a ruling that teams will forfeit games that can’t be rescheduled if unvaccinated players or coaches cause a COVID outbreak and cancellation, the Minnesota Vikings are reportedly making changes among their coaching staff.
This is certain uncharted waters for all:
Breaking: Rick Dennison is out as Vikings offensive line coach/run game coordinator after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. MIN will promote assistant OL coach Phil Rauscher to replace Dennison, hired Auburn special teams analyst Ben Steele as an assistant. https://t.co/3oOgXHsaMr
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) July 23, 2021
Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison is out after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dennison, 63, has served as Minnesota’s OL Coach/Run Game Coordinator for the last two seasons and has more than 25 years of NFL coaching experience, most of which has come on the offensive side of the ball (with a vast majority of his time spent coaching up linemen). He has also been on three Super Bowl winning coaching staffs. So, all things considered, this is a very notable loss for the team, particularly this close to the start of camp.
However, in the wake of yesterday’s news, this parting of ways seems fitting. Perhaps even significant.
This year, the NFL is requiring all Tier 1 employees (i.e. coaches, trainers, and staffers of the like) to get vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated, you cannot be with the team (if you’re wondering, the league cannot do the same thing with players due to agreements with the NFLPA). And that fact really puts the firing in perspective.
Let’s think about it this way: In order to coach in person in the NFL this year, Dennison must be vaccinated. But he is not vaccinated and is refusing to get vaccinated. Thus, he will not be able to coach the team in person this year. Those are all just facts of the matter. So from a purely football/organizational perspective, Dennison would have been (1) a less effective coach for his team this season, because he literally can’t be there in person and (2) a health and safety risk to other players and coaches whenever he is/would be around. And when you consider it that way, the firing is completely reasonable from the Vikings perspective, regardless of where you may fall on his own person decision to refuse the vaccine.
In any case, this is very big news, and, if I had to guess, not the end of the story. But even sticking to just the football implications … well, as we discussed, this is a big loss this close to the season.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.