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Zimmer Looking for an OC but What He Really Needs Is…

Mike Zimmer has hired more than a few recruits in his five seasons at the helm of the Vikings’ ship. Let’s see if you can guess which one of his relatively recent hires Zimmer is extolling after we purposely substituted asterisks in place of letters to hide the name: “We are very excited to add **** to our staff. We took our time with the search and made sure we left no stone unturned to get the right fit. He has a track record of success and has proven to be a great teacher. We feel **** will have good chemistry with our team and we are all eager to get to work.”

Less than a year later, that white-hot coaching prospect and object of Zimmer’s adoration, who was wooed away from the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to become the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, was unceremoniously dumped after a 20-7 loss to the Seahawks in Week 14. John DeFilippo, we hardly knew ye. If you were to have clicked on over to Sportsbook Review, a site featuring all of the most respected, reputable and trusted online sportsbooks in the industry, you would have seen that the Vikings were three-point road underdogs pretty much across the board in that game. You could have also read and still can a BetOnline review which illustrates precisely why BOL is considered one of the preeminent online sportsbooks in the market today. Unlike BetOnline, DeFilippo is no longer considered to be among the best in his industry.

Kevin Stefanski was chosen as the interim OC once Johnny D got his pink slip but now it’s time for Zimmer to decide if he will remove the interim tag off Stefanski or let him pursue other opportunities. Zimmer declared he would make a decision before Stefanski’s contract expires on January 8th and said the following about Stefanski, “I’m looking at all kinds of options there. We are sitting down, and again, we are evaluating everything. I think Kevin is a really good football coach. Very smart guy. I thought he did a good job for the three weeks that we were in a tough situation that we had to do. It’s fair to the organization, to myself, to the fans, that we look at everybody.”

Reports are that Zimmer won’t get to make the call because Stefanski is rumored to be pursuing other opportunities outside the Minnesota organization. But does it really matter? The truth be told, Zimmer axed Stefanski’s predecessor, John DeFilippo, because he couldn’t fire his quarterback and it was too late in the season to get a new offensive line. DeFilippo was a fall guy, plain and simple, and Zimmer’s posturing that Stefanski, or whomever gets tapped as the next OC, will be the cure that ails the Minnesota offense is a tired, old, bromide that coaches of underachieving clubs pull from their playbooks. What Zimmer should have done was stuck with DeFilippo, until recently regarded as one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game today, and zeroed in on the real culprit – the offensive line.

More than a few fans will kvetch that Kirk Cousins wasn’t the savior they anticipated when the Vikings’ brass bid adieu to Case Keenum and shelled beaucoup dough to lure the former Redskins signal caller to Minneapolis. However, Cousins gets a bad rap because the Vikings regressed from their NFC championship appearance last season to a playoff bubble team this year. But statistically, he had a better season than Keenum did in 2017 with eight more touchdown passes, 32 more passing yards per game, and connected on over 70 percent of his passes. In fact, Cousins’ completion rate trailed only Drew Brees’ 74.4 percent among starting NFL quarterbacks.

What Mike Zimmer should be focused on is retooling the offensive line and cutting down the 40 sacks that Cousins took in 2018. Minnesota has a boatload of talent at the skill positions who will thrive no matter who’s calling the plays. What Zimmer needs to do is something right out of the Donald Trump playbook – build a wall – in front of Kirk Cousins. Minnesota will pick 18th in the draft, barring a trade, and should use that pick to select a bodyguard for Cousins like Cody Ford of Oklahoma, West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste, or Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom. If the unthinkable happens and Alabama’s stellar tackle Jonah Williams drops in their laps then they won’t need a tick off the draft clock to make that call. Whoever Zimmer hires as his new offensive coordinator is just window dressing because what he really needs to do is buy Cousins’ time in the pocket. We shall see soon enough if he makes that happen.

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Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson started back in May of 2015 and has talked Vikings online since the advent of the internet, namely on Reddit's /r/MinnesotaVikings section under the username p_U_c_K. He purchased before the 2017-18 season, used to write for and is the host of the purpleJOURNAL Podcast, as well.

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  1. Totally agree. The Real problem is fixing the offensive line. If they don’t fi x the offensive line, the ne ed offensive Coordinator is going to face the same problem that former Offensive Coordinator John and Interim Offensive Coordinator Kevin faced with the Offensive line, An offensive line that wasn’t good at run blocking or pass protecting. I don’t understand why so many people cannot see the real problem, it wasn’t Former Offensive Coordinator John, nor Kirk, nor kevin. It was and has been for some years, the offensive line tgat has really been ignored or overlooked for years in free agency and the draft where it was always stated, “We build Through The Draft”. Well, review our draft history from 2005-2018 and see how well we’ve done since we drafted about 19 offensive linemen and see how well they done and what each lineman has done besides Loadhoalt, Sullivan’s and the one good year Kalil had. So far, Brain O’Neill has been our best player on the offensive line. I watched 8 games this year and the games Especially against the Rams, and Bears and any team above 500 our offensive line was basically dominated at the line of scrimmage.

    1. Fusco had an excellent 2013 season that earned him both stellar grades from PFF – best run-blocking guard in the league, if memory serves – and a contract extension.

      What did in our offensive line was injuries to three of its starters – Sullivan, Loadholt and Fusco – and one disastrous bust of a first round left tackle. When the injuries started hitting in 2014 (Loadholt and Fusco), we had Harris and Berger to fill in. In 2015, the team thought both Fusco and Loadholt could come back, and was counting on Fusco to replace Charlie Johnson at LG and Berger to stay at RG. Would you have preferred that we NOT draft Waynes, Kendricks and Hunter that year? Would you have preferred signing outside free agents to replace Fusco and Loadholt, both of whom had been signed to long-term extensions while they were still healthy and playing well? Were you oeof the few ready to give up on Kalil after three seasons? We still had Harris on the bench, and drafted Clemmings as a developmental project, but then the injury bug hit again, knocking out Loadholt, again, and now Sullivan. Luckily, Berger and Harris filled in well at C and RG, respectively. Unluckily, Fusco proved incapable of transitioning to LG, for whatever reason, Clemmings had to be thrown to the wolves at RT, and Kalil proved once and for all to some of us (but not Spielman and Zimmer, unfortunately) that he was an epic bust.

      So Zimmer went out and got a new OL coach and Spielman went out and signed free agents. Boone’s was a popular signing with many, though not all, while Smith’s was not, and Zimmer told us that (a) there would be competition to start at three positions, C, RG and RT, and (b) the skill players would no longer have any excuses now that the OL had been addressed with a new coach and two new FA’s. BUT THE MEDICAL GODS WERE NOT DONE WITH US YET! Harris had to bow out of the RG competiton. Smith and Kalil are both lost for the season, as is LT replacement Jake Long. Sullivan was cut after Berger beat him out for the starting center gig. Fusco can’t return to form at RG. Sirles replaces Smith, plays OK but is benched for Clemmings, who is then shuttled over to LT when Kalil goes down, then shuttled back to RT when Long is signed, is literally shuttled between LT and RT on a play-by-play basis in one game, and finally lands at LT when Long is lost. Bad decisions abounded (signing Smith AND Boone, NOT bringing in competition for Kalil, cutting Sullivan, which forced us to go slow on benching Fusco and sliding Berger out to LG, moving too fast on trying to turn an exceptionally raw Clemmings into a swing tackle, benching Sirles after he had replaced Smith, playing musical chairs with Clemmings), before and during the season, but you can’t say the unit was ignored or overlooked with a new position coach, two free agents and Zimmer’s constant references to competition at three spots.

      2017 featured two more free agents, more competition, another move for Berger and an inexplicable attempt to re-sign Matt Kalil. Reiff and Remmers. Elflein vs. Easton. Berger back to RG. Boone was cut. Kalil, THANK THE GODS, moves on. The line improves. Would you have preferred not drafting Cook?

      Reports before, during and after the 2018 draft indicated that the Vikings were targeting projected interior offensive linemen in the first or second round of the draft, but they were also preparing to move Remmers over to RG to replace Berger, which some of us thought was a terrible idea. Well, Ragnow, Price and Wynn are ALL drafted before we got a shot at them, surprising many, and trade talks for our #30 pick had dried up by the time we’re on the clock. So we pick the BPA at an area of need (Sherels was our de facto CB4 at the moment, Newman remained unsigned, and the shelves were almost bare of young CB’s) and wait for one of the plethora of other projected interior O linemen to fall for us at #62. BIG MISTAKE! Every draft analyst and their third aunt, twice removed, had predicted a run on this exceptionally deep class of interior O linemen AT THE TOP of the second round, but Spielman and his chief scout were “Shocked! Shocked!” by it. Hence, the O’Neill pick, building on the move of Remmers to RG and the possibility that Reiff or Remmers could one day be cap casualties. In the meantime, Compton had been signed to replace Sirles as a swing G/T, and Jones would be traded for a few months later to replace Easton as the back-up center and give us another option at guard. Spielman may have screwed up the second round of the draft – you’d have had to pry a 2019 draft pick out of his cold, dead hand to trade up into the top of the second round – and some of us thought the whole Remmers to guard idea was a bad one, but the team wasn’t sitting on its hands, even when another starting O lineman, Easton, was lost for the season, as they traded for Jones just under three years after they had traded for Easton to join the bench after a previous starting interior offensive lineman was injured.

      The line has not been ignored or overlooked. My only concession on that point is I might have liked to have seen more resources spent to replace Charlie Johnson at LG in either 2014 or 2015. But ultimately, it was injuries, Matt Kalil being an epic bust, a failure to develop any Draft Day 3 offensive linemen since Fusco (2011) into a starter, and a series of bad decisions in 2016 and 2018 that has left us with a mess of an OL, NOT it being somehow ignored or overlooked.

  2. New experienced & accomplished offensive line coach along with 4 new offensive linemen. One or two good free agents and 3 good draft picks so that when injuries happen the Vikings will be in better shape on the O line than they have been in a long time.