Despite their efforts, the Minnesota Vikings were never able to recover from the sudden death of offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
It was news that sent shockwaves throughout the entire Minnesota Vikings franchise. Something that absolutely no one saw coming as the team was preparing for a potential run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
On the morning of Sunday, July 22, Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano was found unconscious in the kitchen of his Minnesota home. Sparano was later pronounced dead at the age of 56.
Just like that, the Vikings had not only lost their offensive line coach, but a mentor and a friend as well.
Three days later, as the team was arriving for training camp, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer had to answer questions about his friend and co-worker who first teamed up together on the coaching staff of the Dallas Cowboys in 2003.
Zimmer and the Vikings didn’t even really get a chance to grieve as training camp was getting underway and the 2018 regular season was quickly approaching. Minnesota had to scramble to figure out who would takeover Sparano’s spot on the staff (Andrew Janocko and Clancy Barone were eventually appointed as the team’s co-offensive line coaches).
Gone was a coach in Sparano who worked together with Pat Shurmur in 2017 to help build the Vikings’ rushing attack into one of the best in the NFL. Gone was a coach in Sparano who was supposed to help his friend and new Minnesota offensive coordinator John DeFilippo get on the same page as Zimmer.
Little did the Vikings know, the sudden passing of their offensive line coach would have a tremendous impact on their entire 2018 season.
Minnesota’s offensive line was never able to consistently perform well this year, the Vikings’ running game was nowhere close to being as productive as it was a season ago, and the relationship between DeFilippo and Zimmer ended up only lasting 13 games.
All of these happenings can be traced back to the passing of Sparano in some way or another. His death had an effect on more than just the Vikings’ offensive line and the team was never able to recover from his loss in 2018.
Is it crazy to think that Minnesota could be in the playoffs this season if Sparano was still alive and a part of the team’s coaching staff?
Obviously there still would have probably been some hiccups during the Vikings’ adjustment to DeFilippo’s offense, but Sparano could have played a vital role in helping eliminate some of the constant problems the team faced on the offensive side of the ball this year.
So go ahead and blame Zimmer, Rick Spielman, or Kirk Cousins for Minnesota missing out on the playoffs this season. But the Vikings didn’t have much of a chance to do anything in 2018 once Sparano was taken away from them.