With Pat Shurmur leaving Minnesota to take the Giants head coaching job, suddenly there is a major hole in the Vikings’ staff. Sure, Mike Zimmer and company knew this was coming and have likely been preparing accordingly to replace the offensive coordinator. But replacing the schematic brilliance Shurmur brought in 2017 is going to be difficult. Somehow, Shurmur got the most out of every single player on the offense, not the least of which was career journeyman, Case Keenum. He knew exactly how to play to his unit’s strengths while masking their weaknesses.
With the question of quarterback up in the air, the offensive coordinator becomes all the more vital. As a result, Zimmer appears to be focusing on the quarterback position as he conducts interviews. Thus far, four names have been announced as candidates, two of whom are quarterbacks coaches, one a longtime successful coordinator and one a former head coach.
Let’s take a look at each of these names.
Bevell appears to be the top candidate. It makes sense; Bevell is no stranger to the Vikings, as he served as offensive coordinator under Brad Childress from 2006 to 2010. With Brett Favre at quarterback in 2009, he served as play-caller for one of the most productive offensive seasons in Vikings history.
But the former Seahawks coordinator fits not only for his tenure in Minnesota. He has also made a habit of developing and incorporating top-notch running backs into his gameplans. Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch both became All-Pro backs under Bevell’s watch. With a potential star waiting in Dalvin Cook, the fit could be perfect. Remember, it was not long ago that Bevell was a hot head coach candidate, before his offensive line in Seattle went down in flames.
Stefanski is a relative unknown outside of Minnesota as he has spent his entire coaching career with the Vikings. Over the last 12 years, he has worked as tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks coach at various points. He is a young coach despite his experience at just 35 and knows Teddy Bridgewater very well. Whether he is qualified to call plays is yet to be seen and his tenure as running backs coach was not the most productive in 2016. But the performance of the quarterbacks this year under Stefanski cannot be overlooked. Keenum had a breakout year in 2017, Stefanski’s first year as quarterbacks coach. This may be the primary reason why he is getting consideration for the job.
Campbell’s name should ring a bell to hardcore NFL fans. He had a short stint as the Dolphins interim head coach in 2015 after Joe Philbin was fired. Campbell went 5-7 in his short run as coach. Before and since, he has almost exclusively served as tight ends coach, the last two seasons with New Orleans. He has little experience calling plays, and his time as head of Miami provided little optimism as to what kind of schemer he could be. But players reportedly love him; it is rare for a tight end coach to make the immediate jump to head coach.
He also served as assistant head coach in New Orleans under Sean Payton. New Orleans had the number two offense in the league this year, yardage-wise. It is certainly possible that working that closely with one of the league’s best offensive minds could have rubbed off on Campbell.
Ryan screams future coordinator, based on his vast experience and success as a position coach. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants, serving as receivers coach for the second. He coached Eli Manning to a Pro Bowl season as quarterbacks coach and aided the rapid development of Odell Beckham Jr. when he returned to receivers coach in 2014. This past year, Ryan was the Texans’ quarterbacks coach, helping Deshaun Watson excel in his rookie season. Simply put, Ryan has a decade of experience as an offensive coach in the NFL and two rings to show for it.
Like Campbell and Stefanski, he has little to no play-calling experience. Plus, his background is almost exclusively working with the passing game. The Vikings showed that balance is still a vital component to offensive success in today’s NFL, especially without the elite quarterbacks. Ryan would have to prove he can utilize Cook effectively in his gameplan.
The Vikings are in win-now mode. They have the defense and offensive weapons to compete even with the question marks at quarterback. With that in mind, Bevell is the logical choice, given his history of success in Minnesota and Seattle. However, if the Vikings are looking for the young upstart, then Ryan seems to fit the bill best of the position coaches they are interviewing.
Whoever they go with, the Vikings have to get it right. Shurmur’s scheming was a major reason why the Viking had the success they did. Windows in the NFL do not stay open long. This hire has to work immediately.
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