Stefanski to 'pull apart' Vikings offense

- Kevin Stefanski doesn’t know yet what the Vikings’ offense will look like in 2019, but he knows one thing: He wants to get the ball to the team’s playmakers and “score a bunch of points.”

Stefanski was introduced Friday as Minnesota’s permanent offensive coordinator after finishing 2018, his 13th season with the Vikings, as the interim leader of the offense. He’s Minnesota’s longest-tenured head coach. The promotion is a year removed from Mike Zimmer choosing John DeFilippo over him for the job, and blocking him from interviewing with other teams for the same position after the 2017 season.

Stefanski interviewed recently for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job, which went to Freddie Kitchens. The Vikings named Stefanski offensive coordinator earlier this week.

“It was a good experience, and I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m happy to have gone through it, but this is a special opportunity here with a special group of people and I’m excited to get started,” Stefanski said Friday.

Stefanski’s three games as the interim offensive coordinator this season left mixed reviews. The Vikings ran for 220 yards and put up 41 points in a win over the Miami Dolphins. Kirk Cousins threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, and the Vikings ran for 100 yards in Week 16 win at Detroit.

But the run game was stifled for just 53 yards in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears, a 24-10 loss that knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.

“He’s a bright young coach, very detailed. He’s already given me a list of everything that we’ve got to go through now until training camp,” Zimmer said. “He’s been here for a long time and been a great addition to our staff.”

The Vikings top priority offensively will be addressing the offensive line, which was inconsistent most of the season. The Vikings finished 30th of 32 teams in rushing at 93.3 yards per game. They only had individual running backs go over 100 yards rushing twice this season, Latavius Murray against the Cardinals and Dalvin Cook against the Dolphins.

Zimmer said after the season the team lost the “chip on its shoulder.” Now it’s up to Stefanski to get the offensive line to play more physical, open run lanes and give Kirk Cousins time to throw.

“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,” Stefanski said. “Certainly when you talk about the offensive line and defensive line it starts there.”

Cousins had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2018. He threw for nearly 4,300 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He completed 70 percent of his passes, but often had to resort to short throws due to pressure. He was sacked 40 times, the second-highest number in his career.

The Vikings finished the season 20th in scoring at 22.5 points per game and 13th in passing at 252.2 yards per game.

So what should we expect from the Vikings in 2019? Stefanski says we don’t know yet, and likely won’t have a concrete idea until training camp.

“We’re going to look at everything. We’re really going to pull this thing apart and be very diligent about that. 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,” Stefanski said.

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