The Vikings might take their time before hiring an offensive coordinator, but, if that’s the case, Kevin Stefanski likely will land elsewhere.
Coach Mike Zimmer said at his season-ending press conference on Thursday that Stefanski is under contract with the Vikings until Tuesday so, “obviously, I’ll decide before then,” on whether he will have the interim tag removed from his title.
Stefanski can’t talk to other teams before then about becoming their offensive coordinator. Stefanski, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator for the final three games of the season after John DeFilippo was fired, reportedly was set to interview for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job on Thursday.
The Vikings have no power to block an assistant from interviewing for a head coaching job, but can do so when it comes to a position coach being a coordinator. That’s what the Vikings did last year when Pat Shurmur was interested in hiring Stefanski as his offensive coordinator after Shurmur left Minnesota to become coach of the New York Giants.
Stefanski, however, did not get the job as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. That went to DeFilippo, who had been the quarterbacks coach with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Zimmer did not give any clues as to what his plan is at offensive coordinator.
“I’m looking at all kind of options there,” said Zimmer, who has had three offensive coordinators since becoming the Vikings coach in 2014. “We’re sitting down and we’re evaluating everything. I think Kevin’s a really good football coach, a very smart guy. I thought he did a good job for the three weeks that were in a tough situation that we had to do. But it’s fair to the organization, to myself, to the fans that we look at everybody.”
There has been speculation that Zimmer will hire former Browns coach Hue Jackson as his coordinator because the two worked together while with the Bengals and remain friends. Zimmer, though, said little when was asked about hiring people he knows.
“I know where you’re going with that question, but that’s not a good question,” Zimmer said. “I mean it’s a good question, it’s just that you’re probably fishing in the wrong pond.”
As far as what went wrong when it came to DeFilippo, and what Zimmer learned from that hire, Zimmer said he still thinks DeFilippo “is a good football coach.”
“I just didn’t like the direction it was going at the time, and I was trying to make something (happen) to get us going again and get us going back in the right direction,” Zimmer said. “Trying to get us out of that little tailspin that we were in. … I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve learned a lot about the questions, the interview process, about things that I probably should do a lot better than what I did and hopefully I’ll do better this next time.”
Still, Zimmer said he didn’t think he missed anything in particular in the process of hiring DeFilippo. “Not necessarily that,” he said. “I just don’t think I asked enough questions as far as what we were trying to get done. Not with him personally, probably with everybody that we talked to.”
Zimmer made it clear he still wants to see his offense run the ball more and use play action in 2019, something he criticized DeFilippo for not doing more of this season.
“I think that’s the most effective way to affect a defense,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t score enough points in the red zone, we weren’t good enough on third downs. There were a lot of things that we need to improve on so that’s going to be big. Part of it is making sure that we’re able to. … Without getting too complicated with X’s and O’s, but a lot of things I’ve been thinking is, ‘We’ve got this great player, how are we going to block him?’ Let’s get innovative with this so that we can protect and be able to throw the ball or protect and be able to run the ball to a different spot.”