Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Q. How does your life change as the offensive coordinator versus what you did last year?
A. My life hasn't changed much, just back to work. No, I'm really excited about it. I had a great time last year. Obviously, the role I was asked to take on last year with Kevin (Stefanski) and the offense is something I really enjoyed. We had a great group and, obviously, with Kevin leaving, the group hasn't changed, so just feel very fortunate that Zim (Mike Zimmer) and Rick (Spielman) asked me to do this and after a couple of days, I thought let's go to work. I really had a good time, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Is play calling a big part of what you're doing again?
A. When you've done that for so long, I think that keeps you motivated. Obviously, being in the box last year with Kevin (Stefanski) as he called the game, being a part of that, down in and down out, keeps those juices flowing so to speak. I just feel good about our group. I love our players, loved working with them last year and the group of coaches we have, so I'm looking forward to growing on that.
Q. Was any part of you hesitant to come back to being offensive play caller or coordinator?
A. No, I wasn't hesitant at all, honestly. I think the circumstances were interesting how they took place. For me to be here, first off to be a big part of the group of guys I've coached with for a long, long time, and I get here, we put a system in place, we go to work, we do a job throughout the course of the year and one thing changed. One guy got a head coaching job, so for me, it's very familiar. I didn't have to go back to work a month ago and say start over with a new group of coaches. We're way ahead. We can go right back to work and try to make up some more ground here. I think all those things together kind of, a little fuel to the fire so to speak, made it easy for me to say, "Zim (Mike Zimmer), I appreciate the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."
Q. What's your reaction to Kevin Stefanski getting the job in Cleveland?
A. I'm happy for him. There's a lot of great coaches on this staff, a lot of veteran football coaches. I think all of us work and try to work in the direction of having an opportunity like that someday, so I think we're all happy for him and also understand what he's taken on. I talk to him quite a bit, talked to him last night, so got his hands full from that standpoint but I think we're all proud of the fact that this football team gave him that opportunity by the way they played and the way the coaches worked with him. I think we're always proud when one of our buddies gets a chance to do that.
Q. What did you see as the difference between the Super Bowl teams and where you guys are?
A. I don't know, that's what we're trying to figure out right now. It ends up being about two weeks, two games, that's the way it is in this league. You get yourself in position and can you being playing better than anybody else for a month? That's what it boils down to, so we had our chances. We played well in New Orleans and San Francisco not as well. They played extremely, extremely good as a football team, so we're trying to evaluate that right now, see how we get better. That starts with me. How do I get better for the players, the coaches, get better offensively for the players and then when they come back in here two months from now, we can present that them to them and say here's how we think we can move forward. It's all part of the process.
Q. How special for you is it that you're finding this joy again in the game?
A. I never lost the joy. I just think I made the decision that I knew I didn't want to be a head coach again. I've been through that with you all. For me, it was trying to find a way to continue a career. What was that going to be? Was it going to be in personnel? Was it going to be some form of coaching? This opportunity came up. It was a unique opportunity that basically Rick (Spielman) and Zim (Mike Zimmer), they created that opportunity for me, so I've got them to thank for that. The way it led to this with Kevin (Stefanski) leaving, it's just interesting how things worked out. I just feel very fortunate. I feel good. I'm very motivated each day.
Q. Why does this offense work so well for Kirk Cousins?
A. I think you have to give him and his teammates credit. He played extremely well, had a lot of help around him, the guys up front, Dalvin (Cook), the way he played, Diggsy (Stefon Diggs), the receivers, Adam (Thielen). I mean he got a lot of help from Rudy (Kyle Rudolph), a good group. I also think that we worked really hard to try to figure out what we think he does best and how he can grow from that standpoint. I think the number one thing Kirk (Cousins) did last year, he got rid of the football and it's hard in this league to get that mentality that the ball has got to come out for your team to be successful. I think he took a step in that direction, but now it's time for us to grow off of that and how do we get better? He's in the prime of his career. He's a good football player. This is a good football team and the better he plays, the better we coach, the further we have a chance to go in this business. We'll keep pushing on that, but he's definitely doing his part.
Q. What do you attribute your overall success in the run game to last year?
A. Well, the first thing I would say it's commitment. You have to be committed to running the football, being physical. That starts with Zim (Mike Zimmer), "Hey, this is what I want to be. This is what I want you guys to work on." I think we made a commitment in the offseason. We stuck with it through training camp. It's not always easy. It doesn't go perfect during a season, but we stayed with it even when we lost Dalvin (Cook), when we tried to stay with it. We struggled for a couple weeks. I just think committing to doing it is what's best for our team. We'll stay committed to it. Hopefully, we can find a way to get better, make some big plays off of it.
Q. Do you think going back to calling plays will be an adjustment or is it like riding a bike?
A. I look forward to it. It's something I've done for what 26-27 years, so I've done it, but I also think it's something you have to prepare to do. Zim's (Mike Zimmer) got to put me back to work, put me in situations in practice where I'm getting going again, but I feel very comfortable because of the group I'm around. Being with Rick (Dennison) all these years, with these young coaches on our staff that test me each day when I'm in that meeting room, very bright minds. I think all of us together have to find a way to put our best foot forward, so I look forward to that.
Q. What was the one thing you had to think about before accepting the position?
A. I think you're all tired after the season. The NFL season is a grind. When it all went own really quickly when we got back from San Francisco and Coach (Mike Zimmer) had given us some time off and I just said, "Coach, mind if I go back home, and mow some grass for a couple days or something and think about it?" But I told him two days and I think I called him in about a day and a half, so I was just really excited to do it.
Q. Where have you grown in your ability to teach the players and how does that help you as a coordinator?
A. Let me say this, the players here give you an opportunity to communicate with them. We have some great guys. That's something I really enjoyed last year probably as much any, just the type of players I was working with every day. Their willingness to come in here every day and try to get better. I want to give them the credit from that standpoint. I think we're all in this business because we enjoy teaching, we enjoy taking a player out of college, watching him grow, watching him become Pro Bowl player, those type of things. That's what motivates me. I get excited when I see Kirk (Cousins) play well, see Dalvin (Cook) play well, see our offensive line play well. All those things keep me going, so that's what motivates me each and every day.
Q. How do you expect the offense to change now that you're the one calling the plays again?
A. The good news is all the verbiage and stuff's not (going to change), so it's going to be easy for us to go back to work here in six-eight weeks, whenever we get started again. I think we can grow from that standpoint rather quickly. Last year, we started from scratch with verbiage and all those things, starting over. Every year is different. You have to find a way to get better. How do we get better? We've got to find some new things to do, some new ways to go out there to try to move the football. We all start in the same place this year rather quickly. I think that's going to be a good thing moving forward.
Q. Do you still want to be 50/50 pass-run?
A. I think you love to be balanced. Each given day in this league, you don't know how you're going to win. Sometimes you show up and you can run the ball a lot an find a way to get out with the W. Some weeks you get behind and you have to throw the ball. I think you have to build to do both, but I know one thing. You have to be physical to be successful in this business. Coach (Mike Zimmer) wants to be physical, so we'll start with that.
Q. How will your day to day look during the season now that you're a coordinator?
A. I think it will look pretty much like last year. Other than finishing scripts at night with Kevin (Stefanski), those type of things, that's something I'll be doing on a regular basis. I think time-wise and all those other things will look pretty much the same. I'll lean heavily on the group that I have. I have a really good group and, like I said, some guys that are very familiar with how I work, how I go about getting ready to go each week. I don't think it will change that much.
Q. Is there one thing you can remember from the championship teams you've been a part of that got them over the hump?
A. That's a great question. The only way I know how to get over the hump is to keep going back to the hump. You have to be good enough to get there every year and find a way to be playing in January. I used to always used to preach to my teams, "Hey, the bottom line, can we get ourselves in? Can we play better than anybody else for one month?" That's what this league boils down to, a lot of good coaches, a lot of good players, a very fine line between being really successful and being successful. I think we're all searching for that, but we'll work toward that and stay committed to each day and try not to get ahead of ourselves.
Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach
Good afternoon everyone, how are you doing? Alright, it's not going to be doom and gloom and with me up here. Get a smile on your face, life is too short. It's a great day here in the Minnesota Vikings building. I'm a Minnesota Viking still, I'm pumped about that, so I'm glad to be here. So lets go with the questions and let's have this thing be fun.
Q. How do you see this situation working with Mike Zimmer and Adam Zimmer?
A. It's no issue at all. It's like Adam (Zimmer) said, I've known Adam since he was a little boy. That tells you how old I am. Obviously, Zim (Mike Zimmer) and I have coached together a long time, so other than his three children and his mom, I'm probably the only other person that knows him better than he knows him. So to me, that transition is very smooth. Adam and I have had great communication in the six years that we've been together. When Mike called us both in and asked if we would consider doing this, Adam and I got together and talked a lot of things through, and I think it's going to be great thing for our players, for our defense, and for the Minnesota Vikings. I have no concerns about it whatsoever.
Q. You've talked before about wanting to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL. What was it like for you to hear that from Zimmer and get that promotion?
A. Well it was a proud moment for me. I've been doing this a long time, and anybody that does this, just like (Gary) Kubiak said, always wants to try to find a way to advance in their career. For me, I had two opportunities with other teams in the league to coordinate, and they wouldn't let me out of my contract to go do that, so it felt good that Zim (Mike Zimmer) has given me this opportunity, and it's definitely something that I wanted to do, and I'm very prideful that it happened. I'm going to do the best of my abilities to make sure that we do the best job we can to make the Viking family proud.
Q. Were those opportunities during this offseason?
A. No, this is when I was with other teams. It happened when I was in Cleveland and in Denver, so I was offered an opportunity to be a coordinator, but when you're under contract, the team has to let you out. So people always tell me, my problem is that I do too good of a job, so they won't let me out. So fortunately, Zim gave me the opportunity, and I'm very thankful for that and I'll give him everything I got.
Q. It's almost like you get the best of both worlds – you get to stay where you are, and you get to continue working with players that have been like your family. Could you have envisioned it to be better than this?
A. No. You know how you feel about my guys. Those are my boys, and I never would want to walk out of that room if I'm in this building. Never want to walk out of that room. So I take a lot of pride in how they play and how they develop, and so to be able to do both is great for me. I think it's great for the guys in the room.
Q. As you share the workload with Adam Zimmer, do you think there are areas of emphasis that you'll each focus on?
A. Yeah. They'll be aspects of the game plan and the other game that we both will focus on, and then come together and put it all together. That's what we've been doing so far the last couple of weeks as we go through all the cutups and try to find the areas that we can improve.
Q. How does your philosophy and coaching style on defense match Mike Zimmer's?
A. You've heard of good cop, bad cop, right? You know, I think it's like that. There's no gray with Mike Zimmer. There's no gray. You know where you fit. He's going to tell you, whether you want to hear it or not, he's going to tell you the truth of what you're doing good, what you're doing bad and what you need to improve on. I'm more of the motherly type. I'm going to put my arm around you and teach you just like I did when I was a teacher. So I always use the analogy of if I was a math teacher and you were having problems with something, I wouldn't stand by you and hit you in the back of the head and cuss you out. I'd pull up a chair and sit down and show you how to figure out the problem. That's my philosophy as a coach. If a guy is having a hard time getting his feet on the ground right, or putting his hands in the right place, or having his eyes in the right place, it's my job to figure out a way to help him improve in that area. Now, if he continues to mess it up, then I become the bad cop, and he's going to get the mean side of me. So I think that's why we work so well together. We have a common bond that we both strive every day to be great, and we both stride every day to try and overturn every rock that we can to put our players in a better position so they can succeed. From the first day we got together at Weber State, I think that's the thing that we both looked at each other and said we're pretty similar in that thought. So all the years we've been together, it's always been about that. It's always been about how we can put our players in a better position to succeed. What can we put in to help our players play better. That's the way we go about everything every single day.
Q. What is the toughest part of this job?
A. I think the toughest part is going to be more demand on my time. Before, I can spend a lot of time just really focusing in on the other team's offensive line. What they were doing in the run game, how are they trying to protect this, how can I get Danielle (Hunter) and Everson (Griffen) a mismatch? Those kind of things. Now it becomes more of an overview of the whole defense. So I would just say me being able to manage my time correctly is going to be the big thing.
Q. What kind of things did you and Adam Zimmer have to talk through and figure out when you were named to this position?
A. Well for me number one, it's to make sure that we both wanted to do it. You know, that we both were comfortable with doing that. And then number two, defining our roles. What part of the defense did Adam feel was his strength, what part of the defense did I feel was my strength, and then how we can bring that together to where we become one strong fist. So we had several conversations about it, and I feel very strongly that we're in a great situation.
Q. When was the last time you were a school teacher?
A. I coached general science and physical education.
Q. Where was that at?
A. I was at Renton High School. I was at Renton High School for three years and then I was Dean of Students at St. Monica High School in Santa Monica, California, and head football coach. That's where it all started.
Q. So you're a teacher at heart then?
A. That's what I do. I mean, that's what I do. To me that's what a football coach is. It's funny, you know, me and Zim (Mike Zimmer) have been around for so long, a lot of the young guys – young guys, don't get mad at me – but a lot of the young guys, if the power went off in this building and the computers would shut down, they're done. They're done. All I need is a marker and a grease board. You give me a marker and a grease board, that's what I'm going to do. So if you go into our installs when the rookies come up here, you walk in some rooms, everything is up on the board and they got their deal going and the slides going. You walk into my room, and I'm sweating. It's up on the board. I'm scratching stuff up with my hands. That's how you coach. That's how I was brought up, you see what I'm saying? That's all I know how to do, and that's how I believe that you're successful at it. That's how I believe you take guys that come in with talent, but have a long way to go, and you get them to improve and you get them to be better, because they have to accept the grind. They got to accept the grind, and that it's not going to come easy. Usually when you get a player at this level, it's always pretty much come easy for them. They were the best at their high school. They go to college, they were the best at their college. And when they walk into this building, this is the first time they're not the best anymore, and they have a hard time figuring out why it's not that way. So it's my job to get them to figure it out. You got to work, son, for the first time in your life, you got to work. You got to put in the time to find out a way to become a technician, because in this league, you're not going to get by on your God-given talent anymore. The best technician is the one that wins, so that's what it comes down to.
Q. Robert Rodriguez just left your staff to become the defensive line coach at Arizona State. While it's a loss for you guys, how proud are you of him?
A. I'm very proud of that. I'm so excited for Rob. He worked his tail off for me. My guys appreciate him, respect him big time. He walked in here five years ago and had never coached the defensive line. He listened to every word I had to say, he bought in to the style of play that I believe in, and he became a master of it. So for him to get his own room for the first time, I'm real excited for him. He's going to do a great job, and I told him yesterday when he left, "You're going to pass me some day." You're going to pass me, and I'm going to end up calling you and saying, "Hey, do you remember what I did for you? Now it's time for you to get me a job." So I'm excited for him, and I'm very, very proud.
Q. What do you think that Dom Capers brings to the room?
A. Oh a lot of knowledge, a lot of knowledge. He's been in this league a long time. He's seen a lot. To have a voice in the room like that with us, to give us different ideas, I think is outstanding. I think it was very, very smart of Mike (Zimmer) to look to do something like that. Just in the short time he's been here, he brings up suggestions. He can remember plays back from when he was in Pittsburgh. He's bringing up names of guys that I thought were star players when I was a high school coach or in high school. To have that kind of knowledge in that room is just going to help us.
Q. How much does it help the transition that there has been so much continuity on the defense with the players and the system?
A. I think we've been very fortunate that we've been able to have the same group of guys here for so long. That's very uncommon in the National Football League. That's been great for us to be able to have. I think that plays a big part, too, in the decision that Zim (Mike Zimmer) made to do what he did. He knows that Adam (Zimmer) and I understand what it's supposed to look like. I think that's the biggest thing. You can't achieve it until you know what it's supposed to look like and Adam and I know when this defense is right, what it's supposed to look like. I think Mike understands that and because we've had our players here for so long, that's made it easy. I'm glad that we had that situation, but things always change in this league and you just go the way you go.
Q. How tough will it be for you if things do have to change with some of the payers you have had for a long time?
A. Personally, it'll be tough because I have relationships with those guys, but we understand that it's all part of the business. However Rick (Spielman) and the front office feel we have to do to field our team for 2020, we accept that challenge and we go with it. I can remember when we first showed up here seven years ago. On defense, everybody was pretty much gone. Nobody knew Everson Griffen was going to become Everson Griffen. Nobody knew Linval Joseph was going to become Linval Joseph, okay? We drafted Danielle (Hunter). Nobody knew he was going to become what he's become. Now Anthony Barr was a first round pick, so it's a little bit different. The expectation's a little bit higher, so we've proven since we've been here that we've been able to take players and develop them into players that can win in this league. However Rick and the front office decides we need to do this in order to give our team a chance to win, I accept the challenge and I'm very comfortable that we'll get it done.
Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach
Great to be here. Excited to work with you guys throughout the year, and excited to get to work with Andre (Patterson) and Coach (Mike) Zimmer. Excited about this opportunity to make the Vikings (defense) the best defense that we can have in 2020.
Q. What is it like for you to work for your dad, Mike Zimmer?
A. It's good. We have a great relationship, great communication. It was an adjustment at first when we were in Cincinnati, but we've been doing it seven years now, so I know how to approach him. I know how he thinks, and I think we have a great working relationship, one where I can learn a lot from him.
Q. What does it mean to you to get a promotion like this?
A. It's really exciting. It's something as a young coach you always work for, to try and keep moving up in the business. For me to have this opportunity is really exciting. It's something I've been working for, something I think about a lot. It's just something you work for, and you're excited for, but you still got to keep working and keep grinding away to be the best you can be.
Q. How helpful is it for you to take on this role with Andre Patterson?
A. I think it's great having Dre (Andre Patterson) with me. I go way back with Dre, when I was real little at Washington State. I know him really well, and we have great communication. Him coaching the defensive line and me coaching the linebackers, we've already worked really closely together, so I don't think that will be much of a change now that we're both trying to put this in the grand scheme of things all together.
Q. Was it Mike Zimmer's idea to keep you both with your position groups?
A. I'll do whatever he (Mike Zimmer) wants me to do, and I think I do have a great relationship with my players and I do enjoy working with the linebackers. Ultimately it's his decision on how he wants to have the dynamic, but I do think keeping the continuity of me coaching the linebackers and Dre coaching the defensive line, I think that's really good for us, because we have been pretty good at those positions.
Q. Is there an added pressure to keep the family's reputation for coaching quality defense going?
A. I really don't think about the added pressure. I think about doing the best we can to make this defense the best it can be. Whatever role that has for me, whatever role that has for how we play defense and how coach wants to play defense, that's the goal; to be the best defense in the NFL.
Q. What are you most proud of seeing the linebackers develop in your six years of working with them?
A. We've had some tremendous growth from all of our guys. From Anthony Barr being a Pro Bowler, Eric Kendricks has gotten better each and every year, and he's now an All-Pro, which hasn't happened for the Vikings (at linebacker) in a long time. I think I was told it was Matt Blair who did it way back in the day. The improvements, to see these guys go from where they were as a rookie to where they are now, and their communication and their understanding of the defense, understanding of the game, has been really impressive. Even young guys like Eric Wilson who had to come step in for us last year and has done a heck of a job for us. Ben Gedeon, I really like him. We've developed some young talent that is kind of the core of our group right now.
Q. How do you see this transition working with Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson together?
A. Yeah, I think it's a collaborative effort. We're going to be in there, Dre and I are going to make this transition as smooth as possible. We'll work together on the game plans, I know Coach (Mike Zimmer) will be involved a lot in them. I think that the more we can collaborate and work together, the better it's going to be, because we've all been through a lot of games in this league.
Q. Do you see a day where Mike Zimmer has someone else calls plays?
A. That's up to him. Whatever he thinks is best for the Vikings. If he thinks it's best for him to continue to call plays, we'll help him as much as we can. If it's best for me or Andre to call it, we're open to that possibility. Whatever we go through in training camp and OTAs and however he feels comfortable, I think that's how we're going to approach it.
Q. Did Mike Zimmer have any conversation with you as to why he thought you were ready for this opportunity?
A. Not really. I think he's been talking to me about a lot of different things and how to approach things as my career goes along, so I know he wouldn't have made this move if he didn't think I was ready. He's just like that. He's not just going to do something because I'm his son or anything like that. He believes that this is the time and I'm ready, and I'm going to try and prove him right.
Q. What is it about this defense that has made it consistently successful?
A. Number one, I think we have really good players. They really do a great job trying to execute the scheme. They study, they're in to it. I think being in the same scheme for so long helps, because they understand the little details of how we play, but again, it comes back to the consistency of the roster. We've had a lot of the same guys around here a long time, and we do have a lot of corrections we need to make. Our expectations are higher than fifth in the league in points, we want to be the best in everything. I think we can still get better, but the consistency of the players, the work ethic of the players, and I think the scheme is good, but we can always keep tinkering with that.