Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
First of all, as you know we’ve relieved John DeFilippo as the offensive coordinator. John is a good football coach. He is a good man, hard worker. Was a very difficult decision. I felt like we always had really good dialogue. I felt like there was a sense of urgency here in the last three weeks of the season of trying to improve, offensively especially, and trying to win these final three games of the season. I made the decision to do that and then promote Kevin [Stefanski] as the offensive coordinator.
Q: What are some of your specific concerns the way the offense was heading under Coach DeFilippo?
A: I just didn’t think we were making enough advancement in this part of the season to continue to go forward the way we want to go forward. I’m not going to get into specifics about some of the things. I just felt it was in the best interest of the team to make this move now.
Q: Was there anything in the past couple of weeks that brought this decision on?
A: No, not really. At the end of the day it is a production business. It’s difficult. It’s hard thinking about it, hard making the decision, hard trying to. I have a lot of respect for John. I think he is a very, very brilliant mind. But we weren’t producing is the end of it.
Q: What will the learning curve be like for Kevin Stefanski to pick up play calling and what kind of help will he have from yourself and other staff members?
A: I think the biggest thing with Kevin is he has been here for a long time so he knows how we do things here, number one. Number two, I think he has a good grasp of his players. Kevin is a very brilliant guy. I interviewed him for the coordinator job this past offseason. We’ve got a lot of smart guys in that room. I will try to help him the best I can and so will everybody else and hopefully the players will, too. This really wasn’t about one guy. This was about a lot of us not holding up our end of the bargain. It was more of a corrective thing than anything else. It’s unfortunate in this business but sometimes it looks like it was one guy but it really isn’t.
Q: Will your role change in the involvement in the offense?
A: Yes, I will be a little bit more involved. We’ve talked about that some.
Q: Are there certain things you are going to want to see Kevin do differently?
A: I think everybody is going to be a little bit different with what they are doing, when they’re calling plays, when they’re game planning. So I think everybody is going to be a little bit different with what they are doing. I am not going to discuss it, what I think and what I want.
Q: What are the challenges this week in making the transition and does it help you’ve experienced this two years ago?
A: I don’t think two years ago has anything to do with this year. Kevin has been here so he has been through all of this. He knows the ins and outs of everything that is going on there. I don’t think two years ago has anything to do with this year. That wasn’t my decision two years ago.
Q: Over the five years that you’ve worked with different offensive coordinators, have you gone back and forth with how involved you are with the offense as you find your rhythm working with different coaches?
A: Yes, as I said to the TV people the other day, with my involvement so much in the defense, my communication is a lot during the week and some on game day with the offense. During the course of the game, if things are going smoothly it’s no issue. A lot of times when I’m trying to make corrections and think about calls for the next series on defense and things like that, I need to do a better job of delegating a little bit more on the defense.
Q: Did you talk to some of the players to get their input before making this decision?
A: No, not really. I’m always talking to players, but this was my decision. It wasn’t anybody else’s as far as players or other coaches or anything like that. I just felt like in the best interest of the team in these last three weeks, which are important weeks for us during the season, we had to shake things up and try to get better as a football team together. I didn’t feel like we were going in that direction based on the past four or five weeks. And really honestly, it wasn’t about one game. It’s about the direction we were going throughout the latter part of the season.
Q: Is it fair to say that Kevin Stefanski is auditioning for the long-term offensive coordinator job, or are you still going to want to do a search regardless?
A: I don’t know, we’ll see how things develop here. Obviously it would be in his best interest to do well.
Q: When you look at the overall situation, how disappointed are you that you’ve had to come to this decision after thinking you made the right hire in the offseason?
A: It was an extremely difficult decision. I went around and around about it, because I feel like I hired him, it’s my job to try to help him continue to get better. I obviously didn’t do a good enough job there. I’ve always felt like if you hire a guy you should stick with him and try to help him and help him mature as a coach. This one unfortunately with the timing and the situation with the last three ballgames here, with us still having an opportunity to do something, I felt like I don’t want the season to be wasted. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but these three games to me are very, very critical and we need to play good. Again, it’s not just one person, it doesn’t fall all on him, it falls on myself and everybody else that has anything to do with this team, because we didn’t get it done. It was an extremely difficult day and extremely difficult decision.
Q: Was there anything about Kirk Cousins’ play last night that played a role in this decision?
A: No, not really. There was a lot of things that happened offensively last night that was not good enough play. I wouldn’t put that all on the quarterback. There were times where we didn’t get in the right situations, and there were times where we didn’t get open in other situations. This really didn’t have anything to do with the quarterback or last night.
Q: How much does it help Kevin Stefanski to have coached so many different position groups throughout his time with the team?
A: I think anytime you’ve been involved in the running game and the passing game and the protection game with the tight ends, I think that always helps. He’s a well-rounded coach, and hopefully we can get this thing turned around.
Q: With Kevin Stefanksi’s involvement with Pat Shurmur’s offensive scheme in previous years, do you see some of those principles being reincorporated?
A: That’s a possibility. I’m not going to get into it, because I don’t want to say what we’re going to do moving forward, but I think when guys get a chance to do their thing they take little pieces and bits of everything they’ve felt was good, whether it’s from John [DeFilippo] or Pat [Shurmur] or anybody else.
Q: Mike what have you learned about yourself as a coach having to navigate the challenges of having so much offensive coordinator turnover over the last three seasons?
A: You know, I try to learn something about myself every day. I know this isn’t an easy job, and I think that we have good coaches here and a good support system. I do think that we’re all trying to get better every day.
Q: How is the vibe in the building today as you get ready on a short week? How much is there pressure now from everybody else there to get this thing turned around?
A: There’s been pressure on us all along. There’s not any more pressure than there was when we played Seattle on Monday night, but I talked to some of the players afterward and they all feel bad for John because no one believes it was one person’s fault. But I think they probably understand the sense of urgency going forward.