Kevin Stefanski will be staying put.
The Vikings’ longtime assistant coach, who replaced John DeFilippo as the team’s interim offensive coordinator for the final three games of the season, will remain as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. The Vikings made the hire official on Wednesday afternoon.
“Kevin is a smart young coach with a bright future,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said in a statement on the team’s website. “I’m happy to have him take over the offensive coordinator job. His work ethic and teaching ability have been obvious to me behind the scenes since I came here five years ago. He’s well respected by coaches and players both and I know he’s up to the task.”
Stefanski reportedly was headed back to Cleveland on Tuesday for a second interview for the Browns’ head coaching job. His initial interview with the team came late last week. ESPN reported Wednesday that Freddie Kitchens, who was Cleveland’s interim offensive coordinator for the final eight games of the season, will be named the Browns’ coach.
Stefanski, 36, joined the Vikings in 2006 as an assistant to then head coach Brad Childress. He was promoted to assistant quarterbacks coach by Childress in 2009, and remained in that job after Leslie Frazier took over for Childress during the 2010 season.
When Zimmer was hired as Vikings’ coach in 2014 he moved Stefanski to tight ends coach. Stefanski shifted to quarterbacks coach in 2017.
Pat Shurmur had interest in making Stefanski his offensive coordinator after Shurmur left as the Vikings’ OC following 2017 to become the Giants’ head coach. Stefanski, however, was under contract to the Vikings and they used their ability to block him from leaving.
Stefanski’s contract with the Vikings expired on Tuesday and the feeling was he might explore other opportunities. The fact he was a candidate for the Browns’ head coaching job added more intrigue to the situation.
The Vikings reportedly were interested in former NFL head coaches Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter for the offensive coordinator position, but the Atlanta Falcons hired both on Tuesday. Koetter will be the Falcons’ offensive coordinator and Mularkey will be their tight ends coach.
Stefanski’s familiarity with quarterback Kirk Cousins played a role in the Vikings’ decision to make him the fourth offensive coordinator under Zimmer. That list includes Norv Turner, Shurmur and DeFilippo.
After the Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Bears to end the regular season, Cousins was asked if he wanted Stefanski to return.
“I enjoyed working with Kevin,” said Cousins, who signed a three-year, $84 million free-agent contract last March. “He’s a great person, a great football mind. He’s been here a long time. But he’s going to have options, too. So hopefully he wants to work with me. It goes both ways. But he’s been a joy to work with.”
Stefanski is likely to use a similar scheme to what Shurmur employed during the 2017 season, when the Vikings went 13-3 and made a run to the NFC title game. The Vikings finished 11th in total offense and 10th in scoring offense in 2017. They were 11th in passing and seventh in rushing on 501 rushing attempts. That was second in the NFL.
This season, the Vikings were 20th in total offense and 19th in scoring as they finished 8-7-1. They were 13th in passing and 30th in rushing. Minnesota’s 357 rushing attempts were 27th in the NFL.
As the season progressed, Zimmer frequently mentioned he wanted to run the ball more. When that did not happen, DeFilippo was fired in December after a 21-7 Monday night loss in Seattle. The Vikings posted back-to-back victories with Stefanski calling plays — 41-17 over Miami and 27-8 at Detroit — before being eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to the Bears.