The master plan, to date, for the 2021 Minnesota Vikings offense hints at “more of the same,’ or at the very least, a commitment to continuity.
The Vikings have minced through various offensive coordinators since Norv Turner mysteriously exited the franchise in 2016 – men like Pat Shurmur, John DeFilippo, Kevin Stefanski, and Gary Kubiak – to the extent that head coach Mike Zimmer is chided for “not retaining” such men. This is one of the items referenced when folks erroneously spread the “people don’t want to work with Zimmer” talking point.
This offseason was on-brand as Zimmer found another offensive coordinator – this time a younger man named Klint Kubiak, son of Gary, who skippered the Vikings offense in various capacities in 2019 and 2020. The bloodline remains intact for Minnesota’s 2021 offense, signaling to the world that the offense will feel quite similar simply because the name Kubiak is attached to it.
It’s time to formally pump the brakes on that broad generalization.
There are receipts to the contrary, in fact. On Tuesday, Vikings Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen hinted at a subtle change to the offense, effectively calling for a tapering down of the “this offense will be the same as 2020” expectations. Thielen said about Klint Kubiak:
“It’s his playbook, it’s his plays and he’s implementing his offense. It’s not his dads or last year’s offense. It’s the 2021 Vikings’ offense.”
And that’s the antithesis to the supposition of more of the same for Minnesota’s offense. Thielen’s remarks directly contradict the oft-mentioned theory.
Admittedly, Zimmer preaches a familiar feel on offense – establish the run, set up the pass, hang onto the ball, score in the redzone – but Thielen has a boots-on-the-ground perspective on what he’s gleaned from son Kubiak.
Either Thielen is blatantly making stuff up [unlikely] or Klint Kubiak will indeed change the offense up a bit. Onlookers to the Vikings recent offenses yearned for more creativity – especially on 2nd Down – mixing in more passing to join the party leaguewide. Minnesota ran the football the sixth-most in the league during 2020, and throwing the football is the trendy analytical thing to do.
But Klint Kubiak should be careful. His three-OCs-ago predecessor, John DeFilippo, was canned for throwing the ball too much in 2018, a season that ended in utter disappointment.
On the whole, son Kubiak has a reasonable task – replicate an offense from 2020 that finished third in the NFL via yards gained and 11th in points scored. The pieces – Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen – are available clear as day. This Kubiak must merely make them duplicate 2020, a season when the Vikings scored the third-most points in team history.
It’s the defense that requires a look in the mirror. The Vikings touted the NFL’s fourth-worst defense during the pandemic season – a vile departure from any Zimmer defense ever.
In the grand scheme of a Vikings summer, Thielen’s three sentences about Klint Kubiak are rather revealing. Expect a likeminded “feel” for the 2021 Vikings offense. But don’t gamble on a cookie-cutter gig.