Kevin Stefanski, the longest-tenured Vikings coach, is being asked to salvage a season.
Stefanski was named interim offensive coordinator Tuesday after coach Mike Zimmer fired John DeFilippo following Monday night’s 21-7 loss at Seattle. It was the Vikings’ fourth loss in six games, and the offense hasn’t scored more than 24 points in that stretch.
Stefanski becomes the team’s fourth offensive coordinator in three seasons. The 36-year-old has led quarterbacks for the past two seasons. He’s also coached tight ends and running backs during his 13-year run in Minnesota.
“The biggest thing with Kevin is he’s been here for a long time,” Zimmer said Tuesday. “So, he kind of knows how we do things here, number one. Number two, I think he’s got a good grasp of the players. He’s a very brilliant guy.”
But Stefanski, whom the Vikings felt highly enough to block from becoming the Giants coordinator last offseason, has yet to call plays in an NFL game. Fixing the NFL’s 20th-ranked scoring offense in short order will require the help of a veteran assistant staff that includes former NFL and college coordinators Todd Downing, Kennedy Polamalu and Clancy Barone.
Zimmer said he will also be more involved in the offense. He has been honest about his need to better delegate defensive duties, such as adjustments between series, to spend time on offense and special teams during games.
“We’ve got a lot of smart guys in that room,” Zimmer said. “I’ll try to help him the best I can and hopefully the players will too. This wasn’t really about one guy. This was about a lot of us not holding up our end of the bargain.”
Zimmer did not say whether he wants to conduct another postseason coordinator search regardless of Stefanski’s performance, but it would be surprising if the Vikings don’t look around the league after this season.
Stefanski, the son of Detroit Pistons executive Ed Stefanski, has survived two head coaching changes after first joining the Vikings in 2006 under Brad Childress.
“We’ll see how things develop here,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, it would be in his best interest to do [well].”
Under DeFilippo, the Vikings offense regressed while struggling in a predominantly shotgun, spread offense that minimized the run-heavy, play-action concepts that worked well in 2017 under former coordinator Pat Shurmur.
The Vikings were second in rushing attempts per game last season. They are 31st this season. That has led to fewer play-action passes, a strength of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Case Keenum ranked fourth in play-action percentage a year ago under Shurmur.
So, could we see Cousins move under center as a major adjustment? Zimmer kept his cards close to his vest Tuesday. What’s clear is the Vikings offense can’t start anew in Week 15. Shifts toward last year’s successful approach might be what to expect going forward.
“When guys get a chance to do their thing,” Zimmer said, “they take little pieces and bits of everything they felt was good whether it was John, Pat or anybody else.”