Head Coach Mike Zimmer is excited about what the Vikings are cooking up on offense.
In addition to his turn at the podium in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine, Zimmer also held a session with beat reporters Thursday and joined KFAN’s Paul Allen on 9 to Noon. In all three settings, he spoke highly of Minnesota’s offensive coaching staff, which has a new look heading into 2019.
The Vikings removed the “interim” label from Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s title and also brought in Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak. Drew Petzing made the switch from assistant quarterbacks coach to wide receivers coach, and two offensive quality control coaches were hired in Christian Jones and AC Patterson.
“It has been outstanding, unbelievable,” Zimmer told Allen during the radio show. “I’ve been so impressed with the way Kevin Stefanski has been running the room, the comments that Gary makes about a lot of the things that went on with the system and the way that they’ve done things with that offense.”
Shortly after his interview with Allen, the often-straight-faced coach stood in front of the NFL Combine backdrop and joked with reporters about his love for the communication in offensive meetings.
“The way that Gary talks about, you know, it’s almost romantic for me that I can sit there – there’s a sound bite for ya – that I can sit there and hear about Bill Walsh and that offense and how it evolved [with former 49ers assistant/Denver and Washington Head Coach] Mike Shanahan and so on,” Zimmer said. “For me as a football guy, all those things are just outstanding. How this came about, how that came about, how his play worked in this particular situation, and the way they’re putting this all together.”
Added Zimmer: “I couldn’t be any happier with the way that situation’s been going.”
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman told media members Wednesday that adding Kubiak and Co. worked well because Stefanksi has no ego and was, in fact, the “biggest flag-waver” for bringing in a coach of Kubiak’s stature.
Zimmer echoed those thoughts and said the same of Kubiak – “Gary has zero ego” – joining the staff as an assistant after years as an offensive coordinator or head coach and four total Super Bowl championships.
“I want to bring in the best guys I possibly can. Part of the staff thing is about camaraderie, being able to communicate together, being on the same page,” Zimmer explained. “[Gary] is the most down-to-earth guy, and all of the guys that are in there are like that.
“Even the communication with Rick Dennison talking about protection, talking about techniques with the offensive line, game plans on the running game,” Zimmer continued. “This has been as good as I could ever imagine at this point.”
Zimmer emphasized that Stefanski was “all on board” with adding Kubiak and didn’t feel intimidated by the more-experienced coach.
“I’ve had to compete against Gary many times, and he’s always been outstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever beaten him, really,” Zimmer said. “Kevin felt like it was important to help … and not just work with anybody.”
Zimmer believes the Vikings have combined the best ingredients in Minnesota’s offensive coaching room; the next step will be finding the right roster combinations and seeing if it all pays off where it matters most.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the perfect recipe for success on the field.
“What we’re doing now, we’re going through the plays, right? We’re going through the playbook … Kevin sits here, Gary sits [on one side of him], and I sit [on the other side of him], and the rest of the guys are down there,” Zimmer explained. “They talk about the play and how it’s run, how it’s formatted, how the different things go. Kevin will start it off, and Gary will throw in his things about how it’s kind of evolved, how they’re using it, how they might have that be a killed play if they use a certain defense.
“Then they talk about when they are getting ready to game plan and how they [will integrate that] play,” Zimmer he continued. “There’s good communication between everybody.”
Any concern about too many cooks in the kitchen?
It might have been Zimmer’s easiest question of the morning: “Nah.”