Vikings would not have been better with Kevin Stefanski in 2020

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Kevin Stefanski
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Kevin Stefanski /

After spending more than a decade with the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin Stefanski was given an opportunity by the Cleveland Browns to become a head coach in the NFL after the 2019 season.

Stefanski’s first year with the Browns really couldn’t have turned out any better. The former Vikings offensive coordinator was able to help lead Cleveland to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and the franchise won 11 games for the first time since 1994.

Meanwhile, Stefanski’s old team in Minnesota failed to earn a spot in the postseason and they finished with a losing record for just the second time since 2014. Understandably, the Browns’ success has some wondering if the Vikings made a mistake by not promoting Stefanski to be their head coach before the 2020 season.

Minnesota Vikings still have the right guy leading the charge

While it’s fine to question Minnesota’s decision to let Stefanski walk out the door after the 2019 campaign, it’s difficult to believe that the Vikings would have been better off with him as their head coach this past season instead of Mike Zimmer. The easiest way to figure this out is to look at each team’s roster heading into the 2020 campaign.

Cleveland had a ton of talent on both sides of the ball that featured some of the NFL’s best players, including Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., and Myles Garrett, while also having one of the top offensive lines in the entire league. Beckham ended up missing nine games after tearing his ACL, but the majority of the Browns’ other top players were able to remain healthy for most of the season.

Then there’s Minnesota, who had to deal with a large amount of inexperience on defense in addition to some injuries and opt-outs that were tremendously impactful to their performance on that side of the ball.

Without Stefanski calling the plays in 2020, the Vikings offense actually performed better. Minnesota ended up with higher points and yards per game averages this past season than the numbers they put up in 2019 with the current Cleveland head coach as their offensive coordinator.

What about the Vikings’ 1-5 start in 2020? Is Stefanski able to pull Minnesota out of their hole and help lead them to wins in five of their first six games after their bye like Zimmer was able to?

Until Eric Kendricks went down with an injury in Week 13, Zimmer had the Vikings’ defense playing much better after their bye than how they performed during their first six matchups of the season. It’s hard to imagine Stefanski would be able to make the same adjustments to fix Minnesota’s defense since his coaching background is on the offensive side of the ball.

While Stefanski was able to help the Browns achieve a bunch of success during his first year with the franchise, the team still struggled in their division and their passing offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL.

Stefanski is in a great situation with Cleveland and he’s got a chance to do some pretty incredible things for the franchise during the next few years. But to think that the Vikings would finish with a better record than 7-9 in 2020 if he was the head coach instead of Zimmer is just flat-out foolish.