Mike Zimmer Has Plethora of OC Options But No Room For Error
Word leaked today that Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak was retiring from the game of football. This isn’t a shock, after hearing Kubiak’s final game-week press conference.
But if last weekend was the last time Gary puts on an NFL headset, then he has one hell of a Super Bowl winning career to be proud of.
From The Aftermath on @nflnetwork: #Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is leaning towards retirement — a decision that would force Mike Zimmer to seek his sixth OC in six years. pic.twitter.com/IlsMQ7u6w0— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 4, 2021
Gary Kubiak via KFAN:— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) January 4, 2021
“What they went through on the defensive side of the ball personnel-wise & the people they lost, I’ve never seen it in my years of football… I think the world of [Mike Zimmer], his leadership and how he tries to win games. The #Vikings are in good hands.”
Mike Zimmer has a big decision to make now
With Gary on his way out, Mike Zimmer is coming to a crossroad with his offense. Kirk Cousins put up some of the best numbers of his career last season but the offense still felt held back by a predictably ‘run early and pass only when you need to’ gameplan.
A lot of fans really hate the way the Minnesota Vikings offense operates under Zimmer, Cousins and Kubiak. The stats and numbers tell a different story.
Justin Jefferson broke just about every rookie receiving record in the books, Dalvin Cook finished as the best running back in the NFL and, as previously mentioned, Kirk Cousins had a BIG season, even by his stat-padding standards.
Conservative Options (status quo)
I wouldn’t blame Mike one bit if he decided to keep the offensive side of the ball as “status quo” as possible. Kirk has already dealt with new OC’s every season he’s been in purple. Changing things up more than necessary, could take this offense in the wrong direction.
If Zim wants to keep his offense operating in that same fashion, he has in-house options to choose from, and even an outside plan C.
Of note: QB coach Klint Kubiak, O-line coach Rick Dennison, and TE coach Brian Pariani all followed Gary Kubiak to Minnesota.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) January 4, 2021
If Mike Zimmer picks an outside coach as OC, do they all stick around? Or does Zimmer choose Klint Kubiak and keep the scheme/coaches intact.
Another potential OC option for the Vikings is Anthony Lynn. He knows Gary Kubiak well and both of them learned under Mike Shanahan.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) January 4, 2021
I expect Anthony Lynn to be the next Offensive Coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 4, 2021
Terminology and scheme are identical to Kubiak, whom Minnesota did not want to lose.
Graff and others mentioned the in-house favorite as Klint Kubiak. Remember, many thought he might get the job after Stefanski was hired by the Browns, before the job was given to Klint’s father.
If Mike Zimmer wants to keep the offense as 2020-21 as possible, Gary’s son seems like the natural choice. I could also see Zim being a bit excited about some different wrinkles that Klint might bring to his father’s style of offense.
Anthony Lynn was fired by the Chargers today and he is the outside wildcard who the Vikings could bring in, if they thought the offense needed a fresh voice but the same roots.
Outside options of intrigue
The Minnesota Vikings organization could really use this opportunity to try to take a step into the future, if they feel a different approach is necessary. Sure, they’ve drafted offensive lineman of a certain style but Kubiak’s scheme isn’t the only zone running offense that likes to get athletic linemen out in space.
Really, there are A LOT of intriguing offensive minds out on the market place, or expected to be soon.
Zim’s old friends
Mike Zimmer has all sorts of “old friends” that he is well-connected with throughout the NFL. Those names include more former head coach retreads like Hue Jackson and Jay Gruden both who Zim coached with in Cincinnati.
Jay Gruden intrigues me but we don’t know what his status with Jacksonville is.
I think the top candidates should go as— Deshawn Vaughan NFL (@vikingsfans16) January 4, 2021
1. Mike Kafka- Cheifs QB Coach
2. Klint Kubiak- internal
3. Anthony Lynn
4. Mike Lafleur- 49ers passing coordinator
5. Ken Dorsey- bills QB coach
Of course, Twitter is obsessed with some of the names you see listed above. I’m seeing Mike Kafka and Mike Lafleur everywhere. LaFleur coaches under Mike Shanahan in San Francisco, which is the exact type of futuristic zone scheme many Vikings fans dream of.
Could Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman hand the reins of this offense over to a young offensive zone mind of the future?
The Vikings did what?! options
This would probably be the most controversial name the Vikings could hire. Gase was fired on Sunday by the New York Jets after two miserable seasons as their head coach.
He was HC in Miami for three mediocre years, prior to that, so his head coaching acumen isn’t highly thought of. Before his promotion, Adam Gase was a rising star in the coaching world as an OC.
But when you look back at his career, the coaches he came up under (Mike Martz, Nick Saban, Steve Mariucci) are much more impressive than what he has contributed. His best years as an offensive coordinator were in Denver and he had Peyton Manning as his quarterback.
Wealth of options
The Minnesota Vikings couldn’t have picked a better year to be in the market for an offensive coordinator. There are a lot of good options out there.
But at the end of the day, Mike Zimmer hasn’t been keen on futuristic offensive schemes so I’d be surprised if he makes a splash hire. I put Klint Kubiak as betting favorite by quite a large margin.
One thing is for sure, the decision will make or break Mike Zimmer’s future with the Vikings. The right hire will give him time to raise his young defense and possibly push them deep into the playoffs.
The wrong hire could mean another missed postseason in 2021 and a probable Zimmer exit afterward.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan