Head Coach: Mike Zimmer
Zimmer was a long-time defensive coordinator in the NFL. He directed defenses for the Dallas Cowboys (1994-2006), Atlanta Falcons (2007), and Cinncinati Bengals (2008-2013) before becoming the Vikings head coach in 2014. He originally handed the offense over to Norv Turner.
In 2016, Turner quit the team during Week 9 and Pat Shurmur took over. He led the offense last year during their trip to the NFC Championship game. Shurmur was lured to New York to become the head coach. Zimmer’s history was only with defense and the Vikings sport a top-ranked unit.
Zimmer doesn’t hand 100% of the offense over to the coordinator as evidenced by the disgruntled Norv Turner. But Zimmer will rely extensively on the offensive coordinator to install the scheme and call the plays.
Offensive Coordinator: John DeFilippo
DeFilippo spent the first 14 years of his career as a position coach in both college and NFL ranks. He became the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator for 2015 and then was the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-2017) until recently tabbed for the Vikings coordinator job.
DeFilippo interviewed for the head coach job in Arizona and Chicago before accepting this position. He was considered a hot coaching candidate after not only helping Carson Wentz to develop quickly but then transitioned the offense over to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
He had far less success in his one-year stint in Cleveland when Johnny Manziel crashed and burned, and Josh McCown was no savior. In fairness, eight different wideouts played that year and all but Travis Benjamin ended under 550 yards. The Browns turnstile for coaches has made them a way to pay your dues in the NFL before heading off to a talented offense. To his credit, the dysfunctional Browns had their first season with over 4,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in over 20 years with the only time that DeFilippo was an NFL offensive coordinator.
DeFilippo is considered a rising star among younger NFL coaches and he did himself great favor last year in Philadelphia.
The Vikings rushing offense lost Dalvin Cook after four games in 2017 but still ended Top 5 in rushes, rushing yardage and touchdowns last year. The tandem of Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray were enough to get the job done but will step back and allow Cook to resume his promising career.
The quarterback situation is a problem and is exactly why DeFilippo was brought on board. The Vikings currently have Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all ready to become free agents. There is a chance that Bridgewater’s knee injury and resulting lost season could dial his contract back into essentially repeating the terms of last year.
DeFilippo was a part of bringing Carson Wentz to the Eagles and Derek Carr to the Raiders. He said that the quarterback search is his primary job which could result in either a free agent like Kirk Cousins or a high pick in the NFL draft. Especially in the case of a rookie quarterback, the Vikings will remain one of the more run-heavy offenses. DeFilippo was on the Raiders staff for Latavius Murray’s first two seasons.
While Manzell was a dud, perhaps DeFilippo got as much from him as possible. His work with the Eagles quarterbacks resulted in 38 passing scores last year. The Philly scheme was controlled by Frank Reich last year but DeFlippio was a part of Carson Wentz’s development into a diverse passer that did not rely on any single receiver much.
There’s less history to consider than most new coordinators provide. With DeFilippo, the passing game should produce at least incrementally better stats than the middle-of-the-road results from last year. The defense will continue to keep game scores lower and the rushing game should maintain their lofty results from last year. That alone should prevent the Vikings from becoming a top passing team.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will remain the primary receivers but any development behind them is less likely to carry any fantasy relevancy. In his only year running an offense, at least DeFilippo gave previously-unknown Gary Barnridge a career season (79-1,043-9) though that was partially from a lack of other credible targets. It bodes better for Kyle Rudolph to at least maintain his role.
As with many other offenses, the most critical factor will be the impact of a new quarterback in the offense. Any improvements will all stem from the selection and development of a new signal-caller. And that’s exactly why DeFilippo landed in Minnesota.