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Monday Morning Mailbag: Examining Vikings OC Options & Potential Backup QB Battle

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

Hi Eric. Well, the search is on for our [sixth] offensive coordinator in [six] years. There are names like Mike Kafka, Bill Callahan and Josh McDaniel. Kafka should be at the head of the class ... he's much like Klint Kubiak but with the Chiefs experience. Your thoughts?

— Nicholas Balkou

Nicholas starts us off with the big news from last week that Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak has chosen to retire after 36 total seasons in the NFL, including 25 as a coach.

Kubiak, of course, called offensive plays for the Vikings in 2020 and had a heavy influence on Minnesota's offensive scheme in his two seasons in Purple. And yes, his retirement means that the Vikings will once again have a new offensive coordinator … and that Kirk Cousins will have a fourth play caller in his helmet in as many seasons.

It remains to be seen who that person will be. We do know that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said at the end of the 2020 season that the basis of Kubiak's scheme — with outside zone runs and deep play-action shots — won't be going anywhere.

And it likely shouldn't after how well the offense played in 2020, especially the individual performances from the likes of Dalvin Cook, Cousins, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and others.

With Kubiak's retirement official, the Vikings will now turn the attention to the next offensive coordinator. Klint Kubiak and Rick Dennsion are certainly internal options, as both are well-versed in the offensive system.

As for the coaches mentioned in the question, Kafka was actually with Minnesota for the 2015 offseason and preseason as a backup quarterback. Callahan coached the Browns offensive line in 2020, and McDaniels was elevated to the Patriots offensive coordinator position in 2020.

View the best quarterback photos from the 2020 season from Vikings photographers including stories behind the photos.

Do you think we will take a QB in the draft this year?

— Demarous Davis

With the success numerous teams have had with their backups (the infamous Nick Foles Super Bowl run, Taylor Heinicke's near upset of the Bucs, and now Chad Henne's play to take the Chiefs to the AFC Championship), is it time for the Vikings to finally move on from Sean Mannion and get someone who can actually carry the team if Cousins goes down?

— Jon S. in Watertown, South Dakota

I'm combining the questions from Demarous and Jon because they both pertain to Minnesota's quarterback situation behind Kirk Cousins.

To start, who knows if the Vikings will draft a quarterback. So much can happen with the roster between now and the draft, but it's worth restating that Cousins will certainly be the starter in 2021 and has delivered a rare degree of durability among Vikings quarterbacks.

As for the backups, that's where the intrigue lies. Mannion is scheduled to be a free agent, but is also a trusted and respected backup. He's also hardly played in his Vikings tenure (just 54 offensive snaps), so I wouldn't go as far to say he can't carry the team in case Cousins couldn't play.

Foles' run was unprecedented and also improbable, and while Heinicke played well, he also wasn't on an NFL roster for almost all of the 2020 season. Henne played 20 snaps in a game where his team already had the lead. Credit to him for a pair of big plays late in the game, but it wasn't as if he rallied the Chiefs to a victory.

Jake Browning and Nate Stanley spent all of 2020 on the practice squad and were recently signed to Reserve/Futures contracts, meaning they'll be with the team again this offseason. Since we didn't see either of them in game action because there was no preseason, it's tough to evaluate how much progress they made this past year.

The quarterback position will always be in the spotlight, whether it's in Minnesota or elsewhere. And we'll just have to give it time to see how the Vikings approach that spot this offseason.

We were at mediocre at best this past season. What will it take to get the cobwebs cleared prior to kickoff in Week 1? Why can't we get the meld going during preseason so we can rock 'n roll like Green Bay did against us for Week 1 in 2020?

— BethAnne

No doubt that the 2020 season was frustrating for all involved. The Vikings clearly came into the season with playoff aspirations, but fell short with a 7-9 season. A lot of factors went into that, and you could put youth and injuries at the top for the defense, while a touch of inconsistency hampered the offense. Special teams was also too much of a roller-coaster ride.

You can bet that players and coaches will spend the offseason getting rejuvenated and looking for better results in 2021. The Vikings have shown an ability to bounce back in recent years after non-playoff seasons, and perhaps that's the case again.

Sure, the Vikings opened 2020 with a loss at home to the Packers. But prior to that season opener, the Vikings had won five of their past six season openers.

Plus, that game came after no preseason contests, and was the first without fans in an eerily quiet U.S. Bank Stadium. We don't know Minnesota's 2021 schedule yet — you can find next season's opponents here — but getting off to a 1-0 start is always a priority of Coach Zimmer.