EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have handed the keys to the offense to Kevin Stefanski, their longest-tenured coach who is now the Offensive Coordinator.
Stefanski impressed Minnesota’s front office with recent interviews, plus a three-game sample size at the end of the 2018 season when he held the role of interim offensive coordinator.
And it was clear Friday morning that the 36-year-old’s vision for the 2019 season has already been communicated with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
“He is a bright, young coach. Very detailed,” Zimmer said. “He has already given me a list of everything that we have to go over from now until training camp.”
Zimmer gave a noticeable smile when mentioning the list Stefanski gave him, as it seemed to indicate his new coordinator’s preparedness for what lies ahead.
At one point Friday morning, Stefanski said he was going to get right back to work following the press conference and keep digging into what the Vikings offense could look like going forward.
“The plan is to pull this thing apart, see what we did well and then add some things. We are not going to just change for the sake of change,” Stefanski said. “We are going to change it for the better. That is the goal.
“We’ll try to do absolutely everything, we’re going to look at everything, we’re going to really pull this thing apart and be diligent about that aspect of it,” Stefanski later added. “What it ends up looking like, I think, remains to be seen. I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like and what Coach wants it to look like, but we’re going to work through that process and not skip any steps.”
Stefanski will have plenty of tools to work with in a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, a 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown quarterback in Kirk Cousins and a multi-purpose threat in running back Dalvin Cook.
Minnesota’s offense was slightly worse than middle-of-the-pack in 2018, as the Vikings ranked 19th with 22.5 points per game and were 20th overall with an average of 345.6 yards per game.
The Vikings endured a coordinator change in the final month of the season, as Stefanski took over the role for the final three games of 2018.
As he takes over the position on a full-time basis, Stefanski said he was on the same page with Zimmer for what the offense could look like. Stefanski mentioned that the offense is “going to be a physical group” since the Vikings are in the NFC North.
“I would go back to a shared vision. Having worked with Coach for a bunch of years now, I understand him and he understands me,” Stefanski said. “I think we both understand what gives defenses problems, and as Coach being a [former] defensive coordinator, he understands real well what is hard on a defense.
“He’s someone that we’re going to use as a resource, certainly, and we’re going to put together game plans in a system and offense that we feel like gives our players the best chance to succeed on Sunday,” Stefanski added.
The Vikings averaged 27.6 rushing attempts per game in the three contests Stefanski was in charge of Minnesota’s offense, an uptick from the 21.1 rushing attempts per game in the 13 contests of the season.
Minnesota ranked sixth overall in pass attempts as Cousins had all 606 of them in 2018.
“I think what Coach Zim’ talked [during the 2018 season] about was balance, and that’s going to be what we want to do moving forward,” Stefanski said. “We just don’t want to be predictable.
“I can’t tell you that we’re always going to run it or we’re always going to pass it,” Stefanski added. “We’re going to try to be balanced and not be predictable.”
Stefanski has three months to craft his vision for the Vikings offense, as players are scheduled to return in mid-April for offseason workouts.
When they do, they will look to Stefanski for direction to help the Vikings get back to the postseason after missing out on the dance in 2018 with an 8-7-1 record.
Stefanksi joined the organization in 2006 and spent the first three seasons as an assistant to former Head Coach Brad Childress. Stefanski has held a variety of roles since then, as he was Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach in 2017 and through this season after coaching the running backs in 2016.
Stefanski was the Vikings tight ends coach in 2014 and 2015, and he was the assistant quarterbacks coach from 2009 to 2013.
Yet as he enters his 14th season in Minnesota, Stefanski now has the chance to start from scratch and make the offense his own while pulling from all the coaches he’s worked with over the years.
“Our goal is to put together a foundational scheme,” Stefanski said. “Start at the bottom and build something, then week-to-week, we can always pull from our foundation.”