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Vikings Players React to Kevin Stefanski’s Hire as Offensive Coordinator

Running Back Dalvin Cook

Q: What is your initial reaction to Kevin Stefanski being named the full-time offensive coordinator?

A: Going into the offseason just knowing what kind of offense we’re getting ourselves into, we know what Coach expects from us and we know how he wants it done.”

Q: What did you like the most about the last three games when Stefanski was calling plays?

A: I just liked how he just let us play free … that’s Coach. Coach likes to have fun. He lets his playmakers do all the talking for him. He’s not a big rah-rah guy, he just wants us to have fun and play at a high level, and he knows we can.

Q: Can you appreciate Stefanski’s even-keeled personality?

A: When you’ve got a coach like that, you should want to play for him. You should want to go out there and make plays and want to go out there and have fun. You should want to go out there and practice … it just makes everything easy.

Q: Did you like how Stefanski used you in the last three games?

A: Yeah, Coach came to me. He’s hands on, so he came to me and said, ‘We’re going to get you the ball. Make a play.’ When your coach looks at you and tells you that, you’re going to go out and give 110 percent and run through a wall or something. He’ll come to certain guys and say, ‘We’re going to come to you this drive, so make a play.’ I love that and love our coaches getting me the ball and getting me the touches.

Q: Will the familiarity with Stefanski be helpful going into next season?

A: That’s the good thing about it. I was talking with my mom last night and I was telling her that I’d never went through a coaching change. This was the first time it has happened back-to-back, and that’s part of the NFL. To have Coach back, we’re just picking up where we left off at and getting even better. Having a whole offseason with him is going to be special, it’s going to be good.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts on the hiring?

A: When we do get back, we’re going to be 110 percent in for him. Everything we’re going to do, we’re going to have fun. But we’re going to raise the bar up to his level.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

Q: What was your reaction when you heard that Stefanski had been hired?

A: I was thrilled to hear that he’d be back. We feel like the continuity is very important, not only for me at the quarterback position but for our entire offense, for the young players learning the system and for our coaching staff to have the familiarity, as well. Kevin’s proven over many years in the Vikings facility that he’s a great coach, a great leader, carries himself well and is the right person to lead our offense going forward.

Q: What have been your early impressions of Stefanski?

A: I don’t know what the personality trait is, but when you carry yourself well and relate well to players, that’s a very valuable trait in a coach – and not every coach has that trait. And I first met Kevin and saw that he had that trait back at the Senior Bowl in 2012, and ever since then I’ve really followed his path and really felt that he’d be a coach I’d enjoy working with because of the experience I had at the Senior Bowl, and I always felt like he was an up-and-coming coach in the league. I’m sure, I know that his interview with Cleveland went as far as it did for good reason, and I think that he’ll have other opportunities like that in the future, especially if we as an offense are able to do the job we’re expecting to do this next fall.

Q: How do you think Stefanski handled the final three games of the season?

A: He handled it well. He really was the same person he had always been, which is important to have that consistency, and I think the players look forward to working with him. We did a lot of good things on offense in those three weeks – certainly we can point to places where we came up short, but I think there’s quite a bit to be excited about going forward.

Q: How would you characterize his coaching style on game day? How does that benefit you?

A: Well, I think it’s important to note that while he doesn’t ride the roller coaster emotionally and he does have a consistent demeanor about him, he also has a strength of personality that would suggest he’s not a pushover or somebody that players can take advantage of. So it’s something, I go back to that it’s the right balance of personality. I think players appreciate his demeanor, his level-headedness, but at the same time, he has convictions and he has a plan, and he’ll communicate that plan effectively as we get back here this spring. We understand the strength of our defense, we understand that there’s a lot of talent on the team, and I believe that if our offensive plan can be tight and the players can execute it well, that’s where we have a lot of excitement for what this team can do in the years ahead.

Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs

Q: What is your initial reaction to Kevin Stefanski being named the full-time offensive coordinator?

A: Just like before – we had a hundred-percent confidence in him before when he got the job [on an interim basis], and it’s not going to change. Buying in won’t be hard because we’ve seen him do it, we’ve had him, and it’s going to be a good place just to get the ball rolling.

Q: There’s been a lot of change on offense recently. Does this bring consistency?

A: At all positions, you know, when you’re going into a new year, having some familiarity with a guy you’ve been working with, and he’s been here for a while, so it’s not like he’s a brand-new guy. For us, it’s nothing really new. It’s just for us to go out and kind of continue to build that relationship and keep working at it – that’s going to be the key part.

Q: Have you had time to reflect on the changes that were made?

A: Just as far as him and how he commands the meeting room and his approach to each and every day. He’s the same guy, you know what you’re going to get out of him, and he’s a guy you want to play for. He believes in his players. And he’s going to push you. He’s going to want the most out of you every day, and when it’s time to make plays, he’s going to let his playmakers just play.

Q: Simplifying the offense was said to be a key at the end of the season. Did a reduction of plays help you play any faster?

A: Not really. Just from my standpoint and a receiver in general, you just take what’s thrown at you. So as far as it being a little bit or a lot, you just have to handle it the best way you can. You know, we’re not really big on excuses, so you just have to make it work.

Q: What has been your favorite part of working with Stefanski?

A: Just his approach to the game. On game day, he’s riding with all his guys, and he plays aggressive. He’s not scared of anything, and he believes we can do anything, as far as running the ball well, throwing the ball well, whatever it is, he has confidence in us, and we appreciate it.

Tight End Kyle Rudolph

Q: What is your initial reaction to Kevin Stefanski being named the full-time offensive coordinator?

A: I think it’s good for our team and especially good for our offense, a guy that has a lot of familiarity with our roster. Obviously, he was our play caller for three weeks at the end of the year, and I thought he did a phenomenal job after taking over in tough circumstances. Now, he will have the opportunity to be the guy and to run things his way for an entire offseason and have all of that extra preparation that comes along with it and not just be thrown into action in the middle of a season.

Q: How much will Stefanski’s familiarity with the roster and experience coaching multiple positions help?

A: I think it will be huge. I think Kevin has done a great job in his 13 years that he’s been with the Vikings organization. Obviously, not any of our guys on offense have been around that long, but being in so many different roles on offense, he sees how everything works, but then going back to when he took over as a position coach in the tight end room, he’s coached the running backs and also quarterbacks. I think his familiarity with the different position groups will be huge in the way that he decides he wants to go moving forward.

Q: What was he like in the tight ends room and what did you look forward to in your interactions with him during that time?

A: I think one of the biggest things that always stood out to me in working with Kevin was how prepared he was on a weekly basis in making sure he provided us with every resource that we needed as players to be prepared to go out and win games on Sundays. He did a phenomenal job, whether it was cut-ups, handouts, whatever we needed to feel like we were most prepared to go out and play our best on Sunday, he provided for us.

Q: When you see qualities like that in a position coach, do you start to consider that he could be a coordinator one day?

A: Definitely. In working with Kevin and seeing the way that he’s grown as a coach over our time together in the last eight years, you knew that he would be an offensive coordinator and a great offensive coordinator. Then, you see his name start to be mentioned in head coaching interviews, and that’s just a matter of time. He’s a great football coach, a guy that’s been around sports his whole life, obviously, with his dad being extremely successful with the 76ers, so he’s a guy that understands this business and the nature of this business. Him being a good coordinator like he was for us three weeks this year was no surprise to me.

Q: It’s only January, but does this news give you excitement for when OTAs return?

A: Definitely. I think any time you don’t meet expectations and your season ends before you think it will, there’s a sense of disappointment and bitterness initially, but then you shift to excitement for the opportunity of the next year. For us, I think I speak for a lot of guys on the team, that we can’t wait to get back to work in April and start building toward this team and what we can be in 2019 because we do realize the amount of talent that we have on our roster and the kind of guys that we have and the work ethic that guys have.

Q: Once he took over in the interim capacity, was there anything that surprised you or something that aligned with what you expected from him?

A: One of the things I knew he would do well was his command of the room. Going from a position coach when you’re dealing with a couple of guys to when you’re in charge of the entire offense, you’re in charge of 35 guys and you’ve got to sit in front of a room and deliver for every offensive coach on the staff, every offensive player. That role is not too big for him. It wasn’t the three weeks that he took over as interim offensive coordinator, and you knew that, just because of how prepared he was as a position coach. It was always easy for Kevin when he had his part of the game plan that he had to get up in front of the room and present, he was always confident in his preparation and work presentation, that you knew he was going to do it well when he had to do it full-time.

Q: Did you have a personal point of emphasis to help him succeed during the interim period?

A: We wanted to win as many games as possible and hopefully go on a big playoff run, so for us, it was all about working together to figure out, ‘What’s the best way to help our offense? What’s the best way to help us win games?’ Now, we’ll have an entire offseason to try to figure that out, but at the time, it was, ‘How can we get the most out of all of this potential and talent that we have on offense to allow us to help our team win games on Sundays?’

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