Kirk Cousins isn’t the Vikings problem this season, Gary Kubiak is

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Gary Kubiak
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Gary Kubiak /

The play-calling for the Minnesota Vikings has been atrocious this season.

Prior to the start to the start of the current season, an impression was given that not much was going to change with the Minnesota Vikings offense despite the departure of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

We were made to believe that the Vikings were pretty much already using Gary Kubiak’s offensive schemes and his transition to becoming the team’s new play-caller wouldn’t be very noticeable.

Well, two games into Minnesota’s 2020 season and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Since Kubiak has taken over as the play-caller this year, the Vikings have seen their offense take way too many steps in the wrong direction.

The Minnesota Vikings need to fix their play-calling quickly

Minnesota has only played two games this season, but it’s already clear that Kubiak is trying to force the team’s offense to do things that don’t fit with the personnel on the roster.

Dalvin Cook hasn’t been much of a factor, C.J. Ham has seen a decrease in his snaps, and the Vikings are running fewer plays with two tight ends out on the field. These are all things that helped Minnesota’s offense finish eighth in scoring last year.

Instead, Kubiak has been trying to center the Vikings offense around their passing attack. So far this season, 58 percent of Minnesota’s plays have come with them using 1-1 personnel, meaning there is one running back, one tight end, and three receivers on the field. In 2019, only 25 percent of the Vikings plays used this personnel grouping.

And some might be thinking that Minnesota has to have more receivers on the field because they’ve been trailing late in their games. But even when looking at the second quarter from their Week 2 matchup with the Colts when they only trailed by six points until there were less than two minutes remaining in the half, 75 percent of the Vikings plays during this quarter still utilized 1-1 personnel.

In case anyone was wondering, John DeFilippo utilized 1-1 personnel on 70 percent of his play-calls in 2018 when he was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. How did that work out?

As for Minnesota’s tight ends, they are pretty much non-existent this season as only 29 percent of the team’s offensive plays have featured two tight ends or more on the field. Compare this to 2019 when 54 percent of the Vikings’ offensive plays featured at least two tight ends.

The types of plays being called by Kubiak this year are also quite confusing. Only 13.7 percent of Minnesota’s pass plays have used play-action this season, compared to 27.9 percent in 2019. The Vikings have also elected to call a pass play during six the eight times in which they’ve faced a 3rd or 4th down with three yards or less required to gain a first down.

Minnesota’s situational play-calling has also been very puzzling at times during their first two games of the year.

During their first offensive drive against Indianapolis last Sunday, the Vikings faced a 3rd-and-goal from the Colts 3-yard line in the first quarter and they elected to call a play that featured three receivers and no one lined up in the backfield. Unsurprisingly, Minnesota was not able to find the end zone on this drive.

Then during the second quarter against Indianapolis when the Vikings were backed up on their own 5-yard line, Kubiak called a play on 3rd-and-7 that featured no one in the backfield (again) and five pass-catchers lined up out wide (three to the left and two to the right). The play resulted in a safety and part of the blame can be placed on Kirk Cousins for not getting the ball out, but that play in that situation should have never been called.

Much of the reasons behind Minnesota’s struggles on offense this year are similar to the struggles they experienced during the early part of last season, specifically in Weeks 2 and 4.

During those games in Week 2 and in Week 4, the Vikings were utilizing 1-1 personnel too much (36 percent) and not enough plays featuring at least two tight ends were called (36 percent). After their loss in Week 4 to the Chicago Bears, Minnesota fixed their offense and for the remainder of the season, they saw a decrease in 1-1 personnel usage (20 percent in Week 5 to 17) and an increase plays featuring two tight ends or more (59 percent in Week 5 to 17).

It’s really not that hard to figure out what the Vikings offense is good at. They are not a spread-offense that is going to beat a team with an aerial attack. Minnesota is at its best when centering their game-plan around the run, utilizing play-action, and calling more plays that feature at least two tight ends.

The Vikings need to get back to the basics and do what worked well for them in 2019 before things really spiral out of control and the season is lost.

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If Minnesota’s offense doesn’t improve and it continues to perform like it has during the last two games, Kubiak might be looking for a new job before the team finishes their 2020 schedule.