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Zulgad: Chief play staller: Vikings have too much talent to stick with Klint Kubiak as coordinator

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Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak watches pregame warmups prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

As much as Vikings fans would like to see Mike Zimmer removed as coach of their 3-5 team, it seems likely that move won’t be made until after the season. But there is one change owners Zygi and Mark Wilf should have demanded after a 34-31 overtime loss at Baltimore and before the Vikings’ plane landed in the Twin Cities on Sunday evening.

That is the removal of Klint Kubiak as the team’s offensive coordinator and play caller.

It doesn’t take a football savant to realize that the 34-year-old first-time play caller is overmatched on a weekly basis to the point of embarrassment, and that Zimmer is enabling coaching malpractice to occur by continuing to allow his friend’s son to drag down the offense with every play call he makes after the opening script runs out.

Ultimately this is Zimmer’s fault — and it will be one of the reasons he’s fired — but there are still nine games remaining and allowing the young Kubiak to continue in his current role isn’t fair to anyone who plays for the team, or the fans who pay good money to attend games.

It was suggested as a joke earlier this season that Klint’s dad, Gary, sent his son the scripted plays that the Vikings run so efficiently to open games and then when son takes over everything goes down the drain. I’m no longer sure that’s a joke. How else do you explain the continued success of quarterback Kirk Cousins and Co., as they run through the script as if they are the Greatest Show on Turf Rams only to look completely helpless thereafter?

The problem has grown worse the past two weeks. In a 20-16 loss to Dallas last Sunday night, the Vikings completed a seven-play, 75-yard drive with Cousins 20-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen. The precision and efficiency of the drive created the assumption that there was plenty more to come.

It never did.

Three Greg Joseph field goals followed and eight of the Vikings’ final 11 drives consumed five plays or less. Justin Jefferson, one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers, caught two passes for 21 yards and was targeted only four times.

This made such little sense that one had to assume it would be fixed against a Ravens pass defense that was near the bottom of the NFL entering Sunday. Kubiak again went to work with his script and on the fifth play of the opening drive Cousins hit Jefferson for a 50-yard touchdown pass. It was a thing of beauty and the exact type of play both quarterback and receiver are capable of making.

The Vikings’ second drive was even more impressive, going 94 yards in 11 plays and ending with a Cousins 1-yard touchdown plunge. The highlight of that drive was a 66-yard run from Dalvin Cook on third-and-1 that put the ball on the Ravens’ 19-yard line. Zimmer had talked about involving Cook more after he had 18 touches against the Cowboys and this seemed to be the perfect marriage of pass and run to keep the Ravens off balance.

The rest of the game for the Vikings’ offense went like this: Three plays, punt; six plays, punt; four plays, field goal; one play, end of half; seven plays, punt; three plays, punt; 10 plays, touchdown; and three plays, punt in overtime. (The third of the Vikings’ four touchdowns came on a 98-yard kickoff return by Kene Nwangwu to open the second half.)

The four-play drive that was turned into a 36-yard field goal from Joseph came after Camryn Bynum had picked off Lamar Jackson late in the first half and returned the ball to the Ravens 16. A touchdown would have given the Vikings a 21-3 lead, but instead the Ravens had enough time to drive down the field on their ensuing possession and pull within 17-10 at the half.

The 10-play drive that ended with Thielen’s 1-yard touchdown reception with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter to tie the score came out of desperation more than anything. The Vikings ended up running 52 plays to 89 for the Ravens. The shorthanded Vikings defense gave the team a chance to win the game, but the offensive coaching staff had little interest in doing anything to help.

It’s amazing that no player on the offensive side of the ball — Cousins, Thielen or Jefferson — has said anything publicly about the fact that once the script runs out they are being set up to fail. Ultimately, ownership has every right to demand that Zimmer makes a move.

The best idea at this point might be to call his friend, Gary, and convince him to bail out his son by returning to help call plays for the remainder of the season. Gary Kubiak did that last season and the Vikings finished fourth in total offense and 11th in scoring offense. This season they have dropped to ninth in total offense and, more importantly, 17th in scoring. Gary Kubiak could start to fix things by bringing back the play-action to an offense that had favorable results with it last season.

Yes, it might be embarrassing to make the move now, but anything is better than watching an offense that is filled with talent and no one who has a clue what to do with it.