The Minnesota Vikings have something this season that they haven’t had since Kirk Cousins joined the team, continuity of the offensive system. Gary Kubiak joined Mike Zimmer’s staff last off-sesaon as assistant head coach and offensive advisor, but it was pretty obvious from day one that the Vikings would be running his offense. This was despite long-time staff member, and now head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kevin Stefanski being the official offensive coordinator.
During Zimmer’s tenure as head coach, the Vikings have only had one offensive coordinator that stuck around for multiple seasons. That was Norv Turner from 2014-week eight of 2016. Pat Shurmur took over in 2016 and coordinated the offense during the magical 2017 run to the NFC Championship, but was snatched up by the New York Giants, who only gave him two years as their head coach.
Another complete regime change came in 2018, the first season of the Kirk Cousins era, with the Vikings signing John DeFilipo as their offensive coordinator. The man who was known affectionately, and then disappointedly and finally angrily as Flip, came to the Vikings after being the quarterbacks coach of the super bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Unsurprisingly, the former QB coach wanted to throw the ball 70% of the time and that didn’t sit well with Mike “grind it out” Zimmer.
This led to Defilipo being cut loose by the team and Keving Stefanski taking over the reigns for the last few weeks of 2018. Just in time for the Vikings to miss the playoffs after a terrible showing against the Chicago Bears.
Like I said initially, the Vikings kept Stefanski as their offensive coordinator last season and let him call plays. It was Kubiak’s system they were running complete with tons of play action passes, zone runs, and two tight end looks.
That means that despite the coaching change, the offense is going to run pretty much the same as it did last season. In an article this January on Vikings.com, Cousins made some comments on Kubiak becoming offensive coordinator. “I think first of all, it helps that there’s going to be continuity,” Cousins said. “This is going to be my fifth voice in my helmet calling the plays in five years, so I was hoping for continuity, and we’re going to be able to have that.
This can only be a good thing for Cousins and players like Garret Bradbury who are entering their second season in Kubiak’s system. The Vikings improved significantly on the offensive side in 2019, and that was mostly due to a newly balanced approach. They improved from 17th overall in total offense to 8th overall, and 30th in rushing all the way to 3rd in the league in rushing.
This is part of why the Vikings defense has been so good. Zimmer has kept a similar defensive system since he came to Minnesota in 2014, with tweaks and changes in tendency to match opponents. That has allowed players like Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith to grow and become stars.