EAGAN, Minn. — Pat Shurmur is approaching folklore status at this point.
Throughout the year, the Minnesota Vikings’ 2017 offense under Shurmur has been the bar in which recently-fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was judged. Shurmur coach guided them to 10th in scoring despite losing the starting quarterback and rising-star running back last year, which certainly helped him land a head coaching job with the New York Giants.
Shurmur wanted to interview quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for the OC job in New York, but that move was blocked by the Vikings.
In his first press conference since being handed the offense, Stefanski referenced the team’s former offensive coordinator.
“To steal a line from Pat Shurmur, it’s about the players not the plays,” he said.
Stefanski is facing an uphill battle in his first week in charge. Not only do the Vikings face off with a team battling for the playoffs, but he is tasked with getting the team ready on a short week. Head coach Mike Zimmer relieved DeFilippo from his duties following a Monday Night Football loss in Seattle in which the Vikings produced just seven points.
“We’re not looking to change anything, we’re looking to put together a gameplan that gives us some success on Sunday,” Stefanski said.
The Vikings currently rank 20th in points and 28th in percentage of drives with points produced. One of the areas that Zimmer has highlighted during the weeks leading up to DeFilippo’s firing was the need for an effective run attack. Under Shurmur the Vikings ranked seventh in rushing attempts.
Asked what the identity of the offense will be, Stefanski said:
“I think coach Zim has been pretty clear since he’s been here what he wants in his offense. It’s the Minnesota Vikings offense, it’s a physical group and it just matches the players and coach Zim and Rick have acquired here. It’s a physical group, it’s a smart group and hopefully we’re a versatile enough to make it hard on the defense.”
Zimmer has been criticized for being hands off on the offense during his tenure, but Stefanski said the Vikings’ defensive-minded head coach has given a helping hand.
“Coach has always been that way,” he said. “I’ve been lucky, we’ve been lucky, you go out there to OTAs and your’e going up against his defense every day. If you want to get good on offense, you want experience going against good [defense]. He’s always eager to help give us an idea of what hurts his defense and what he’s seeing, helping out at practice in the meeting room. It’s something I look forward to because it’s all hands on deck, we’re a little shorthanded.”
Zimmer said Wednesday that that quarterback Kirk Cousins may have more of a say in offensive decisions now that his quarterbacks coach has taken the reins. Stefanski talked about what he’s learned working with the Vikings’ franchise QB.
“Kirk is very cerebral, he understands the game, there’s no shortage of film that you can watch with him,” Stefanski said. “I really appreciate that he’s a grinder, that kind of matches our head coach, matches our team. He’s ready to do whatever it takes to win and in particular his preparation is extremely impressive.”
Stefanski dodged questions about his future, but Zimmer said Monday that it would be beneficial for the new play caller if he had success over the final stretch. The long-time position coach for the Vikings said he’s been too focused on Miami to look forward or toward the past.
“We don’t have time to look behind us, so we’re moving on and we’ve got a big one on Sunday,” he said.