The constant struggles of the Vikings’ special teams this year led to speculation that coordinator Marwan Maalouf might be fired during the season. That did not happen, but it was clear the clock was ticking on Maalouf’s time in Minnesota. On Tuesday, it came to an end when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced that Maalouf’s contract will not be renewed after two seasons.
“I don’t really want to get into the specifics too much on that but we obviously didn’t play very well,” Zimmer said during his season-ending press conference. “A lot of the guys that should have been playing on special teams were playing on defense but we are going to shore up that area. That will be a major emphasis as well.”
The Vikings’ struggles on special teams were widespread and included the return and coverage units. Minnesota also made a late-season change at long snapper, jettisoning Austin Cutting and replacing him with veteran Andrew DePaola. Cutting was replaced after he had two bad snaps in a three-game stretch.
The Vikings also were awful on punt returns, finishing near the bottom of the NFL with 69 return yards and last in the league with an average of 4.3 yards per return. Punter Britton Colquitt had two punts blocked in the same game.
The most significant meltdown came as veteran kicker Dan Bailey fell apart in the final five games of the season. Bailey missed five field-goal attempts and five extra-point attempts during that time. In the Vikings’ 26-14 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 14, Bailey missed three field-goal attempts and an extra point. Bailey had made 10-of-12 field goal attempts and 26-of-27 extra points in the 11 games before his slump.