Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
Photo Credit: Kyle Hansen
The Minnesota Vikings added three to their offensive staff on Monday with potential to add a fourth soon, continuing the coaching staff carousel that’s seemingly been spinning for several years.
Former Texans and Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak signed on to be an offensive advisor. His son, Klint Kubiak, joined the staff as the Vikings’ new quarterbacks coach. Brian Pariani, a former member of Kubiak’s staff, agreed to be the tight ends coach. And another Kubiak staffer, Rick Dennison, is reported to be in talks as the next offensive line coach.
The futures of 2018 offensive line coaches Clancy Barone and Andrew Janocko, as well as last year’s tight ends coach Todd Downing, are unclear, but coaching shakeup on the offensive side of the ball has become commonplace for the Vikings over the last five years.
|2014||Norv Turner||Scott Turner||Kirby Wilson||George Stewart||Kevin Stefanski||Jeff Davidson|
|2015||Norv Turner||Scott Turner||Kirby Wilson||George Stewart||Kevin Stefanski||Jeff Davidson|
|2016||Norv Turner/Pat Shurmur||Scott Turner||Kevin Stefanski||George Stewart||Pat Shurmur||Tony Sparano|
|2017||Pat Shurmur||Kevin Stefanski||Kennedy Polamalu||Darrell Hazell||Clancy Barone||Tony Sparano|
|2018||John DeFilippo/Kevin Stefanski||Kevin Stefanski||Kennedy Polamalu||Darrell Hazell||Clancy Barone/Todd Downing||Tony Sparano/Clancy Barone & Andrew Janocko|
|2019||Kevin Stefanski||Klint Kubiak||Kennedy Polamalu||TBD*||Brian Pariani||TBD**|
* Reports Tuesday indicated Darrell Hazell would not return as WR coach
**Reports indicate Rick Dennison may be chosen
There is reason to believe the hiring of Kubiak alone could be a difference maker in helping offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski strategize in his first full season of calling plays. Pariani and, potentially, Dennison have familiarity with Kubiak and could help reshape Minnesota’s identity in the trenches, where head coach Mike Zimmer believed the Vikings lost their edge after the sudden passing of offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
It is the latest attempt by the Vikings to reconfigure their offensive staff to spark an offense that has finished out of the top 15 in offensive DVOA in four of five seasons under Zimmer.
To some extent, the coaching staff turnover Minnesota has experienced is normal in a league that often fires quickly and is always looking for assistants that can climb the ladder and fill open positions. Though the Vikings’ three changes at offensive coordinator in three seasons created a domino effect where position coaches were forced to change position groups and new positions opened up.
Perhaps the greater anomaly is Minnesota’s continuity on the defensive side of the ball, where the coordinator and all three primary position coaches have remained with the team since Zimmer’s inaugural season.
|2014||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
|2015||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
|2016||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
|2017||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
|2018||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
|2019||George Edwards||Andre Patterson||Adam Zimmer||Jerry Gray|
Barring any unforeseen departures, the Vikings will have their core defensive staff back for a sixth straight season. Despite interviewing for multiple head coaching positions, defensive coordinator George Edwards has yet to land a promotion, likely because Zimmer is widely considered the orchestrator of Minnesota’s defense.
Adam Zimmer, being Mike Zimmer’s son, has a clear family connection that has kept him with the franchise. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson, 58, has spent longer with the Vikings than he has anywhere in his 35-plus-year career. Having never been an NFL defensive coordinator, it’s likely he is content being lauded by his players as the best in the league at his job. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, 56, is in a similar boat, having found the most secure job of his 20-year coaching career.
While nothing is precluding them from continuing to climb the ladder in their late 50s, not every coach wants to be a Zimmer or a Vic Fangio, who got their first head coaching break at the age when many folks are contemplating retirement.
And, of course, there’s the part about success. The Vikings defense has been top 15 in DVOA each of the past four years, top 10 each of the past three years and is widely considered one of the league’s strongest from top to bottom. In a circular sense, the success promotes continuity, and the continuity promotes success.
Meanwhile, the offense has been a revolving door at the quarterback position, and the head coach and offensive coordinator haven’t always seen eye to eye. A respected, veteran hire like Kubiak could have a positive effect on the offense — much like Sparano did — assuming Kubiak works well with Stefanski.
In many ways, the coaching staff is easier to adjust than the salary-cap-restricted roster, especially when one of those players, Kirk Cousins, is guaranteed another two years at quarterback.
Tweaking the voices around Cousins seems to be the first step in progressing from a 8-7-1 non-playoff season.
Revision: A previous version did not include the news of Darrell Hazell’s contract expiring.