The last time the Minnesota Vikings(10-4) faced the Green Bay Packers(11-3) was in Week 2, and at that time, Minnesota’s offense was struggling, including their quarterback Kirk Cousins. In that game against the Packers, Cousins struggled early, played better later, but ultimately was picked off in the end zone with an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter, as the Packers defeated Minnesota 21-16.
On Monday night, the Vikings get a chance to avenge their loss to the Packers when Green Bay travels to Minnesota to battle the Vikings.
For the Packers, who have already clinched a playoff spot, if they win, they win the NFC North. The Vikings can still win the NFC North, but Minnesota would need some help. Minnesota would have to defeat the Packers and Chicago in the season finale and hope that the Packers lose to the Lions in Week 17. With those scenarios, more than likely, the Vikings will make the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, which will happen with a win in the next two weeks or a Rams’ loss.
A lot has changed since the Vikings played the Packers in Week 2. Cousins is playing at an elite level. He is seventh in touchdown passes(25) with only five interceptions, and more importantly, the Vikings are 9-3 since their loss to Green Bay, including a 39-10 victory over the Chargers last Sunday.
“He’s playing at a high level,” Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski said about Cousins on Friday. “He’s doing the things that we’re asking him to do. He’s the same guy walking into the building, and he’s putting in the effort every day.
“I just think Kirk (Cousins), individually, collectively as an offensive, I think the guys are playing fast. I think they’re playing to their strengths, and I think you’ve seen over the course of the season, Kirk’s play has been stellar. I think you can go across the board and point out a bunch of guys that have really rose to the occasion.”
Offensively, the Vikings have a lot of weapons. They can run the ball with Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, and they have weapons on the outside with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, which means Cousins just has to get the ball to his playmakers and let them do their thing.
The Vikings will go as far as Cousins will take them, and if how he has played this season is any indication, maybe Minnesota is in a good place right now.
The month of October was a special month for Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, and because he played so well, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
Cousins finished the month 91-of-116 (78.4%) for 1,262 yards, ten touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 137.1 while leading the Vikings to a perfect 4-0 record. The Michigan State graduate’s 78.4 completion percentage led the NFL, while his ten passing touchdowns tied for the league lead. His 137.1 passer rating in October marked the second-highest passer rating in any month in NFL history (minimum 100 attempts), trailing only Peyton Manning’s 138.0 passer rating in September of 2013.
The eighth-year veteran helped the Vikings offense record 1,875 yards of total offense in four October games, the second-highest yardage total in any four-game span in franchise history (1,968 yards in Weeks 2-6 of the 2004 season).
Obviously, for Cousins to have success, everybody on the offense has to be playing well, and according to Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, this award about the whole offense.
I think it’s a great individual honor, but I think even Kirk (Cousins) would tell you, it reflects on your teammates,” Stefanski said on Thursday. “Somebody has to catch those balls. Somebody is protecting for him. I know he would tell you that. Proud of him and I think he earned that, but that’s really as much as it is an individual honor, I think the rest of the offensive players can take pride in that achievement.”
Everybody on the offensive side of the ball should get credit for Cousins winning this award, but Cousins really stepped up his play this month, and that’s one of the reasons the Vikings are in 6-2 and playing some big-time football right now.
If the preseason is any indication, RB Dalvin Cook could have a breakout season in 2019 for the Minnesota Vikings. In his only preseason action, the third-year back ripped off an 85-yard TD run against the Cardinals. Cook, who was 41st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, entered the 2018 season coming off a torn ACL in his rookie season. In 2018, Cook was solid as he rushed for 615 yards, including two rushing touchdowns, but the Vikings are hoping to get more out him this season.
Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski can’t wait to see Cook this weekend as Minnesota hosts the Atlanta Falcons.
“I’m really excited to see Dalvin (Cook) out there on Sunday,” Stefanski said on Thursday. “He’s a kid that, as you all know, works really hard and has worked his tail off to get back from injury so now he’s feeling healthy. He’s raring to go.”
According to Stefanski, Cook has shown that he has some leadership skills as well.
“The Dalvin Cook that I’m so impressed with is the leader, is the guy that works and leads by example, maybe not vocally all the time,” Stefanski said. “Our players are very well aware of that guy when he’s on the practice field because you see him not only doing his job but doing it with great passion and working. We’re in a drill, and he’ll go take a run and burst for an extra 50 yards because he’s getting into that shape. The guys just see a worker. I think he really fits the mentality of our offense, the mentality of our team.”
The best friend to any quarterback is a running game, and Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has had a lot of success with throws coming off of play-action throughout his career. If Cook can stay healthy and be productive, Cousins and the Vikings’ offense could have a lot of success on the offensive side of the ball this season.
On Wednesday, the Vikings announced that Kevin Stefanski will be the team’s permanent offensive coordinator. The 36-year-old Stefanski was named the interim offensive coordinator back in December when the team dismissed former OC John DeFilippo.
Stefanski, the longest-tenured coach on the Vikings staff, completed his 13th season with the club in 2018 and has coached quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs in his dozen-plus seasons with the team. Stefanski served as the quarterbacks coach in 2017 and most of 2018.
Today, Stefanski and Mike Zimmer addressed the media.
Here is what they had to say:
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer:
“After going through the process of talking to different people and sitting through some other interviews and things like that and talking to a lot of people, I’ve decided that we are going to hire Kevin Stefanski as the offensive coordinator. He is a bright, young coach. Very detailed. He has already given me a list of everything that we have to go over from now until training camp. He’s been good. He’s been here for a long time. He’s a great addition to our staff and we are excited to have him so I will introduce Kevin.”
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski:
“Exciting time for me and my family. Like Coach [Mike] Zimmer mentioned, I’ve been here a long time. Had three kids born here so we are entrenched in the community here. I am excited for the opportunity. I go back to our ownership group with the Wilf family, our entire ownership group, Mark [Wilf] and Zygi [Wilf] having been so supportive of me over the years. I appreciate them. This is a family as they say and it’s the truth. I am very appreciative of that. Then with Coach Zimmer and Rick [Spielman], I appreciate them giving me this opportunity and I don’t take it lightly. There is a lot of work to be done and luckily it’s January and we are going to get to it. The plan is to pull this thing apart, see what we did well and then add some things. We are not going to just change for the sake of change. We are going to change it for the better. That’s the goal.”
Q: What is the most important thing a coordinator does for the offense? Strategy? Motivation?
Stefanski: “I don’t know if there is one most important thing. I think probably just getting our best players in positions to make plays is the lead goal, but certainly the other things you mentioned are part of it. As I look at this thing, it is my goal to make sure our best players, our playmakers, are getting the ball to score a bunch of points. That is the goal. You score more than the other team and you get a W. It’s kind of simple as I look at it. When you pull it apart and you identify your guys that is going to be our goal, play to our strengths.”
Q: What was it like going through the interview with the Cleveland Browns and what were the motions like when you got this job here permanently?
Stefanski: “Sure. It was a good experience to go through. I am exactly where I need to be. I am exactly where I want to be. I am happy to have gone through it. But this is a special opportunity here. It’s a special group that we have. I am excited to get started.”
Q: Why do you feel that this is the right place for you?”
Stefanski: “With Coach Zimmer and Rick, we’ve been in constant communication. I believe in this organization. I believe in Coach Zimmer. We have a shared vision of what this offense is going to look like. We are really excited to get started.”
Q: How critical is that Kirk Cousins, Kevin Stefanski relationship and how does that evolve and the important components to that?
Stefanski: “I hope to have a good relationship with all of our players on offense. Quite honestly, I know the quarterback position is pretty important in this league. Kirk and I spent a year together just now. I got to know him a little bit more. He got to know me a little bit more. That is something that we can build off of. Just like every player, and I texted a bunch of them these last few days, just like every player, I hope to develop a relationship with them and find out what we can get, how we can get the most out of each player.”
Q: How do you balance what you and Coach Zimmer want to do with the offense and how do you find that balance?
Stefanski: “I would go back to a shared vision. Having worked with Coach for a bunch of years now, I understand him and he understands me. I think we both understand what gives defenses problems, and as Coach being a defensive coordinator, understands real well what is hard on a defense. He’s someone that we’re going to use as a resource, certainly, and we’re going to put together game plans and a system and offense that we feel like gives our players the best chance to succeed on Sunday.”
Q: What piece of the three-game stint at the end of the season was most important in giving you a jump start?
Stefanski: “I don’t know [if I would say] anything specifically. I’m glad that I got an opportunity to do that. I wish I could have done better, I wish we could have done better, but certainly it was a good experience for me having not called plays before. But we’re really focused more on moving forward now and what’s next for us in terms of pulling this thing apart and getting something going when the players get back here April 15th.”
Q: Do you envision this being a whole new offense, or do you take bits and pieces of things that have been around since you’ve been here?
Stefanski: “I go back to [the fact] that we’re early in that process. I think I could better answer that in the spring, really. We’ll try to do absolutely everything, we’re going to look at everything, we’re going to really pull this thing apart and be very diligent about that aspect of it. What it ends up looking like I think remains to be seen. I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to look like and what Coach wants it to look like, but we’re going to work through that process and not skip any steps.”
Q: As you develop your offensive philosophy, who has been your biggest influences that you’ve worked with?
Stefanski: “I’ve had so many, I wouldn’t want to single any of them out. I’ve just been so fortunate to work with a bunch of really smart guys, and that’s at the coordinator level, the position coach level, different defensive coaches have had a big impact on me. So I wouldn’t single anybody out, I just would say that I’ve been very fortunate to have been around a lot of smart coaches.”
Q: While you were interviewing for the Browns job, what was the communication like with the Vikings?
Stefanski: “I would just tell you it was constant. Constantly talking to Coach Zimmer and Rick [Spielman] throughout that.”
Q: Was there anything you learned going through the interview process for a head coaching job?
Stefanski: “Again, interesting process, but really, really excited to be here and standing here. There’s a ton of work that needs to get done, and like Coach was just saying, we’ve went over some of it already. It’s going to be a process, but we’re going to make sure we don’t skip any steps as we put this thing together.”
Q: What do you want to see from the offensive line coach when that coach is hired?
Stefanski: “I would defer to Coach [Zimmer] when it comes to that. I just know as an offense, not necessarily as an offensive line, as an offense, this is the NFC North, so we’re going to be a physical group. Certainly when you talk about the offensive line and defensive line it starts there. That’s kind of going to be our thing moving forward.”
Q: How do you help the offense get that nasty edge back?
Stefanski: “I think it’s like Coach said, that’s going to be something that we do as a team. I kind of go back to the style of offense that we play will vary by game, but at the end of the day we’ll make sure that this is a physical unit.”
Q: What does the offensive line need to do to be better?
Stefanski: “I would say that we’re real early in that process of identifying and looking at last year and doing a scheme evaluation, so it’s too soon for me to say exactly.”
Q: Can you teach guys to be physical on the offensive line or is that something they have or don’t when they get here?
Stefanski: “I think Rick and the personnel department does a nice job of identify those traits in those guys and like Coach Zim has said, he wants smart, tough players that we are passionate about this game.”
Q: What advantage does it give you to be only in one place for so long here and putting roots down here?
Stefanski: “It’s very unique for sure. My approach has been from day one is get in here, keep my head down and work. I’m not going to change that approach, it’s gotten me this far. I’m appreciate to be in one spot for so long and again, I go back to we have a pretty special group with the ownership. Again, I feel very comfortable in this community – my wife, my kids, this has been home. I’ve raised three kids here, they were all born here so it’s important for me to be here, it’s important for me to have this job that’s going to be something that moving forward we’re going to have a lot of work to do. Looking forward to the challenge.”
Q: What will your plans for the quarterbacks coach be?
Stefanski: “Again, I think we’re working through all that. Coach Zimmer I’ll defer to him on those type of questions, but everything we’re working through.”
Q: How do you incorporate analytics when constructing a game plan?
Stefanski: “I think, like we always do, we look for any tool that can help us. Certainly analytics is one part of it. It is a tool, it’s not the end all be all, obviously. But it is something that both sides of the ball, offense and defense, try to use to our advantage and information is key.”
Q: Coach Zimmer talked about wanting to run the ball more, but it still is a passing league, where is the place in today’s game to run the football?
Stefanski: “I think what Coach Zim talked about was balance and that’s going to be what we want to do moving forward. We just don’t want to be predictable. I can’t tell you that we’re always going to run it or we’re always going to pass it. We’re going to try to be balanced and not be predictable.”
Q: How many times have you moved houses?
Stefanski: That’s a good question. Four.
Q: Who are some of the people that have reached out to you around the league to offer congratulations on this job?
Stefanski: “Yeah, I’m so fortunate, again, to have been around some special people here and you know as coaches you get to know some different people around the league and I’ve got nothing but support from around the league and from my past. Again, appreciate those people and once I walk out of here it’s getting back to work.”
Q: Could you name any of those people, maybe Brad Childress?
Stefanski: “He would be one, yes.”
Q: Is that going to be a challenge for you as you build a bigger offense to it simple?
Stefanski: “That part won’t be challenging. Our goal is to put together a foundational scheme, right. Start at the bottom and build something, then week-to-week we can always pull from our foundation. But no, I don’t see that as a challenge.”
Q: How does it benefit a quarterback to stay within the same system and not move through offensive coordinators?
Stefanski: “Yeah, I think certainly every player is going to want some bit of continuity, but that’s not realistic often times in the NFL. We’re going to use this year as he got to know me and I got to know him. We’re going to use this offseason and have some open discussions and some dialogue as we put this thing together. It’s like any other player see what he’s comfortable with, see what we can do to maximize his potential.”
The Minnesota Vikings have named Kevin Stefanski offensive coordinator.
Stefanski took over as offensive coordinator on an interim basis after the team fired former OC John DeFilippo back in December.
“Kevin is a smart young coach with a bright future,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “I’m happy to have him take over the offensive coordinator job. His work ethic and teaching ability have been obvious to me behind the scenes since I came here five years ago. He’s well respected by coaches and players both and I know he’s up to the task.”
Stefanski, the longest-tenured coach on the Vikings staff, completed his 13th season with the club in 2018 and has coached quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs in his dozen-plus seasons with the team. Stefanski served as the quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018 before being elevated to interim offensive coordinator for the final three games of the 2018 season.
In Stefanski’s first season working with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the veteran had a career year setting season bests in completion percentage (70.1 percent) and passing touchdowns (30) and threw the fewest interceptions (10) since becoming a full-time starter in 2015. Cousins reached benchmarks under the tutelage of Stefanski that no other quarterback in NFL history had, becoming the first ever to throw for at least 4,000 yards, at least 30 passing touchdowns, 10 or fewer interceptions and complete at least 70.0 percent of his passes in a season.
In Week 15 vs. the Dolphins, Stefanski’s first game as interim offensive coordinator, he guided the Vikings offense to a season-high 41 points and 418 yards of offense in a win over Miami. In his second game calling plays, a 27-9 road win at Detroit, Stefanski led the offense to 340 yards of offense and 27 points, giving the Vikings consecutive games of at least 27 points and at least 100 rushing yards for only the second time in a single season since Mike Zimmer was hired as head coach in 2014.
From 2009-13, Stefanski served as the Vikings assistant quarterbacks coach prior to coaching tight ends (2014-15) and running backs (2016) in Minnesota.
Stefanski started his Vikings career working directly with then-Head Coach Brad Childress on administrative duties and special projects from 2006-08. Stefanski became acquainted with Childress during Philadelphia Eagles training camp in 2005 while working with the team’s operations department.
Stefanski spent the 2005 season at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as assistant director of football operations. He coordinated all aspects of the Quaker football team’s day-to-day operations of the football team.
A team captain as a senior in 2004, Stefanski was part of one of the most successful stretches in the history of the Quakers football program. The team won Ivy League titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003, and the squad went undefeated in league play during 2002 and 2003.
Twice honored as an Honorable Mention All-Ivy choice in 2002 and 2004, he was named Penn’s Defensive Rookie of the Year as a freshman in 2000. During Stefanski’s tenure, the squad posted a 42-7 overall record and a 32-3 mark in Ivy League play. When Stefanski was a senior, the Quakers went 10-0 to become the 1st undefeated Penn team in a decade.
2000-04……………….. Pennsylvania // DB
2005……………………. Pennsylvania // Football Operations
2006-08……………….. Minnesota Vikings // Assistant to the Head Coach
2009-13……………….. Minnesota Vikings // Assistant Quarterbacks
2014-15……………….. Minnesota Vikings // Tight Ends
2016……………………. Minnesota Vikings // Running Backs
2017-18……………….. Minnesota Vikings // Quarterbacks (Interim Offensive Coordinator for the final three games of 2018)
2019……………………. Minnesota Vikings // Offensive Coordinator