The Vikings introduced their new offensive coaching staff Thursday and the only thing missing was a group hug.
Everybody is getting along just fine.
Perfect. Now, fix the offensive line, solve Kirk Cousins’ anxiousness in the pocket, find a No. 3 receiver and win some games.
That’s the bottom line, whether Gary Kubiak is coming here to be an adviser, de facto coordinator or confidant to Mike Zimmer.
The pressure to win necessitates bold action, even if the move creates skepticism about motive or what might happen if things fall apart again in 2019.
Zimmer is entering the final year on his contract. He has a young offensive coordinator who has been responsible for constructing the game plan and calling plays for exactly three games.
Bringing in Kubiak as a security blanket makes sense. This is no time for egos getting in the way of potentially saving jobs.
“I like to be surrounded by smart people,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said.
Kubiak is a smart coach. He won a Super Bowl as head coach in Denver and is widely respected for his schemes as a coordinator and play-caller.
Hiring him as an assistant head coach/offensive adviser accomplishes three things:
He can serve as a mentor to Stefanski, allowing him to work beside a veteran coach who has a wealth of knowledge and experience.
If the offense nose-dives under Stefanski, Zimmer can turn things over to Kubiak. That’s a worst-case scenario that no one wants to happen, but the option is there, if needed.
And Kubiak can act as a liaison to Zimmer to prevent the sort of meddling that created confusion last season about how the offense should function.
Stefanski described the dynamics between all parties so far as a “very unified vision.”
“We all kind of see the game the same way,” he said. “There is no secret among the staff [with] who we are and what we’re going to be.”
Kubiak resigned as Broncos coach in early 2017 because of health reasons. He had several health scares in recent years, including one episode that was diagnosed as a “complex migraine.”
Kubiak said Thursday that he feels “great,” other than a hip replacement a few months ago. He spent the past two seasons working in scouting and personnel for the Broncos but missed coaching.
“I knew I didn’t want to come back and be a head coach,” he said. “This gives me an opportunity at this stage of my career to still be involved. And it’s a unique opportunity the way this thing is set up.”
Unique, yes. Kubiak is not the coordinator, play-caller or position coach, but he will have an integral role in trying to squeeze more production out of the offense.
Stefanski described Kubiak as a “resource” for him.
“As a first-time coordinator, I would have been foolish not to do everything in our power to bring in a guy who has been to seven Super Bowls as a player and coach,” he said. “I can’t tell you how lucky I am.”
Not by coincidence, Kubiak already speaks Zimmer’s language.
“Every good offense I’ve ever been around runs the ball pretty good,” he said. “I believe in that.”
The two Super Bowl teams, the Patriots and Rams, finished top-five in rushing this season, but the NFL has become a passing league and the Vikings underperformed in that area. Zimmer’s obsession with running the ball fails to remedy that part.
Maybe Kubiak can pull something out of Kirk Cousins that was missing, but the passing game problems were comprehensive — a combination of scheme, personnel and play-calling.
Both Stefanski and Kubiak used the word “marriage” multiple times in addressing their views on run-pass balance. It remains to be seen what they deem to be a happy marriage in game plan.
Their working relationship seems happy so far, the young coordinator and veteran adviser. Stefanski will continue to call plays but wouldn’t call it his offense.
“It’s the Vikings offense,” he said.
Hiring a coach with Kubiak’s résumé reflects an urgency to fix that offense in a win-or-else season. It’s worth a shot, even if the job description and circumstances look unique.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org