EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are turning to their longest-tenured coach to call offensive plays in the final three regular-season games of the 2018 season.
Minnesota announced Tuesday — amidst a playoff race — that Kevin Stefanski is the Interim Offensive Coordinator and will take over play-calling duties after the Vikings relieved John DeFilippo of those duties.
Stefanski, who was in his second year as the quarterbacks coach, is in his 13th season with the Vikings. He was a candidate for Minnesota’s vacant offensive coordinator job this offseason before the gig went to DeFilippo.
“I think the biggest thing with Kevin is that he’s been here for a long time. He kind of knows how we do things here, No. 1,” Zimmer said. “And No. 2, I think he’s got a great grasp of the players.
“He’s a very brilliant guy. I interviewed him for the coordinator job this past offseason,” Zimmer added.
Stefanski has coached almost every position on the offensive side of the ball.
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 was the assistant quarterbacks coach from 2009 to 2013.
Stefanksi joined the organization in 2006 and spent the first three seasons as an assistant to former Head Coach Brad Childress.
Zimmer said the 36-year-old “knows the ins and outs” of the organization and that Stefanski’s all-around knowledge will hopefully impact the offense in a positive manner.
“I think anytime you’ve been involved in the running game and the passing game and the protection game with the tight ends, that always helps,” Zimmer said. “He’s a well-rounded coach, and hopefully we can get this thing turned around.”
The Vikings currently rank 17th overall in yards per game (354.4), 20th in points per game (21.7), 22nd in third-down percentage (37.7) and 30th in rushing yards per game (85.4).
Zimmer said it was “a possibility” that Stefanski would draw from offensive coordinators that he’s worked under, whether it be DeFilippo or Pat Shurmur, who is now the Giants Head Coach, or others.
“I’m not going to get into it because I don’t want to say what we’re going to do moving forward,” Zimmer said. “But I think when guys get a chance to do their thing, they take little bits of pieces of what they felt was good throughout … whether it was with John or Pat or anybody else.”
Stefanski’s first role in the NFL was as a football operations intern with Philadelphia in 2005. He had played defensive back at the University of Pennsylvania and was a two-time All-Ivy League selection.
“I can’t tell you that it was a grand plan [to end up with the Vikings],” Stefanski told Vikings.com in June of 2017. “But I can tell you that when the opportunity was there, I jumped on it because I thought it might be once-in-a-lifetime.”
Zimmer said he was unsure if Stefanski would be the long-term answer at offensive coordinator.
“We’ll see how things develop here,” Zimmer said.
But with the Vikings sitting at 6-6-1 and in a Wild Card spot in the NFC Playoffs with three games remaining, Stefanski is now the offensive play caller as Minnesota looks for a third postseason berth since 2015.
“We’ve got a lot of smart guys in that room, and I’ll try to help him the best I can,” Zimmer said. “So will everybody else and hopefully the players will, too.”