Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is leaving to become the next coach of the Cleveland Browns, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Stefanski had been with the Vikings since 2006 coaching numerous position groups, including quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends, as well as being assistant to the head coach when he first arrived.
As Kevin Stefanski Leaves For Cleveland, What Now For the Minnesota Vikings?
Leaving Behind a Balanced Offense
Stefanski departs after the Vikings ranked eighth in scoring offense in 2019. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had the best season of his career, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. Perhaps most importantly, he leaned on the running game as Dalvin Cook led the way on the league’s sixth-ranked rushing offense. With Stefanski leaving, the Vikings will have their fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons when the 2020 season begins.
In fact, Stefanski took over late in the 2018 season when former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired with three games remaining in the season because DeFilippo refused to run the football despite head coach Mike Zimmer publicly calling him out. Stefanski called a much more balanced attack which not only meshed with Zimmer’s wishes but also with the offensive personnel.
Bringing Back a Familiar Face?
The Vikings could look to bring in former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was recently fired by the New York Giants after two seasons as their head coach. Before taking the Giants job, he served as the Vikings tight end coach in 2016 before becoming the interim offensive coordinator when Norv Turner abruptly left mid-season. Shurmur held the job through 2017 as the Vikings went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum at quarterback. The Vikings ranked 10th in total yards that season and leaned on their seventh-ranked rush offense. His playcalling, much like Stefanski, played to the strengths of a talented yet flawed offensive lineup. A reunion would be welcome.
However, when Shurmur was hired by the Giants, he wanted to bring Stefanski onto his staff. The Vikings blocked the move from happening. Now that Stefanski runs things in Cleveland, he could bring Shurmur onto his own staff. While Shurmur and Mike Zimmer got along during their two seasons together, chances are that Shurmur would have more freedom with Stefanski. Zimmer, a defensive coach, wants to employ a more conservative ground-and-pound attack.
Promoting Klint Kubiak
The final obvious move the Vikings could make is promoting quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak to offensive coordinator. With his father Gary serving as an offensive advisor in 2019 and assistant head coach, Minnesota would be able to employ the same system in 2020. Cousins and Stefanski both lauded Kubiak for his attention to detail. After Zimmer said earlier this season that hiring Gary Kubiak was the greatest thing to happen to him since becoming the Vikings head coach, promoting Klint would make this perhaps the most likely outcome in the weeks ahead.