A Thursday afternoon press conference in Minnesota introduced Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison to the public. By all appearances, it now seems the Minnesota Vikings will have three coaches making significant offensive decisions in 2019.
New Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is young and good-looking. He has a formidable beard. He is intelligent, well-spoken and indicates he comes from a family of strong character.
What else is he? What else has he really done? Who has he coached under, learned from? What are the principles of his future game-plans as the Vikings’ new offensive coordinator?
Go online and try and find out. Here’s what you’ll get:
- He just finished his 13th season in Minnesota
- He spent three seasons (2006-2009) as an assistant to Brad Childress
- He was the Vikings’ assistant quarterback coach from 2010-2013
- Vikings tight ends coach from 2014-2015
- Vikings running backs coach in 2016
- Vikings quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018
Before joining Minnesota’s staff, Stefanski played defensive back at the University of Pennsylvania. He has explained in the past why he decided to enter the coaching ranks.
"“There’s this saying: ‘Those who can’t, teach. I think for me it was, Those who can’t, coach.’”"
Stefanski’s father has been an executive in the NBA for almost 20 years. His dad started out as a general manager with the New Jersey Nets, moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers, got fired, became the executive vice president for the Toronto Raptors, got fired, and he is now a “special advisor” for the Detroit Pistons.
Stefanski has admitted that his father has inspired some his own career ambitions.
"“I saw him doing it at the professional level, and I thought that I could, too, if I just chased it.”"
So why is Kevin Stefanski the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings?
Who brought in Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison (a tandem with a roomful of Super Bowl rings between them), to be the “offensive advisor” and “run game coordinator” when Stefanski has spent the last 13 years looking over the Vikings’ offense?
The truth is, Kubiak and Dennison are exactly what the Minnesota offense needs. Immensely successful veteran coaches that have traditionally established a powerful and versatile rushing attack to open up play-action and the vertical passing game.
Stefanski is a sharp, good-looking guy who was coaching running backs a couple of years ago and has to call Brad Childress as one his chief mentors.
In addition to the unorthodox facade that all this presents, Stefanski obviously has the delusion that he will someday soon be an NFL head coach, having already interviewed for such a vacancy in Cleveland.
Best case scenario for Stefanski would be to see the 2019 Vikings return to form, go deep into the playoffs with their proposed coaching chemistry and he will be off to coach the San Francisco 49ers or the Buffalo Bills, or whoever else has a crappy season.
Or will Mike Zimmer retire and see the Wilfs’ venture into the future with Stefanski as Minnesota’s new head coach?
The former is possible. There are enough naive owners and even general managers that will take a chance on what could be perceived as the “next Sean McVay” and give a guy with absolutely zero experience in running the whole show his big break on the NFL stage.
The latter is almost impossible, as Zimmer is too young and passionate as a coach to retire. If the Vikings return to excellence next season, he is extended. If they repeat their 2018 mistakes, most likely everybody will get shown the door.
Back To The Future
2019 will be about results in Minnesota. Zimmer called in Kubiak because he had lost a wealth of coaching experience that he truly relied upon when Par Shurmur went to New York and Tony Sparano suddenly passed away.
Perhaps Sparano could have been a tamper or regulator to John DeFilippo’s compulsive aerial game-plans in 2018 and afforded the Vikings more success on offense? We’ll never know.
Zimmer isn’t going to make the same mistakes with another young coach who’s only real experience is as an assistant. This team will be run by the “old heads” despite what is printed in the game programs.
So, Stefanski will probably enter the 2019 football season as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator just as George Edwards is the team’s defensive coordinator.
It doesn’t take a detective to understand this. Someone in the Wilf, Spielman, or Zimmer family is truly fond of Stefanski. They want him around. That’s fine, and the hope should be that they are rewarded for their devotion to this young coach. But the executive decisions in offensive strategy will likely run down a totem pole in the order of Kubiak, Dennison and then Stefanski.
Stefanski will call the plays, but they will come from packages that the three of them have agreed upon.
Everyone wishes Stefanski all the success in the world, but the NFL is not about ambition and upward mobility. It’s about hard-fought contests where coaching experience very often proves to be the difference between winning and losing.
In that proven sense, the Vikings are taking a gamble on Stefanski, but clearly insuring their bet.