Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is now the former offensive coordinator. The Super Bowl champion head coach with the 2015 Denver Broncos is retiring for the second time in five years – this time with presumed permanence.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will now forage for his sixth offensive coordinator in eight years.
Kubiak succeeded Kevin Stefanski – who is on the cusp of winning the NFL’s Coach of the Year honor with Cleveland Browns – about one year ago. He accompanied Stefanski in a mysterious role as assistant head coach while most of the time onlookers perceived him as a co-offensive coordinator. Some even hypothesized that Kubiak was the puppet master.
The Vikings 2020 season becomes a swan song for John Elway’s former backup. Kubiak, 59, led Minnesota’s offense to its third-best points-scored total in franchise history. Only the 1998 and 2009 Vikings scored more points than the 2020 team. And, his offense was efficient. Doors were not blown off opposing defense from a yards-gained perspective (11th in the NFL), but Kirk Cousins and his playmakers were ultra-effective in redzone situations. It’s how they tabulated 430 points.
Apprehension engulfs Kubiak’s retirement. Zimmer is lumped in with a narrative that proclaims the longtime Vikings skipper is difficult to work with – even though three out of the five preceding offensive coordinator departures are attributable to head-coach promotion or retirement.
There is also fear that the offense will “take a while” to coagulate this September. The latter is a fair concern as memories of 2018 remain fresh. The offensive coordinator during that campaign, John DeFilippo, never gained his footing with Zimmer and was terminated midseason.
But the team’s signal-caller, Kirk Cousins, will thrive – again – and here’s why.
Consistency Despite Change
Cousins is not universally heralded as an upper-echelon quarterback. One can type his name into Twitter’s main search field and subsequently find insults and jokes galore. Cousins never propped up the Washington Football Team on a sexy win-loss record, so a talking point was conjured that “Cousins ain’t it.”
In an examination of his numbers, however, Cousins “is it.” In the last five seasons, he has tossed more completions north of 25 yards than anyone in the NFL. Yes, the man that is coined a “dink and dunk” merchant tops the NFL in completions over 25 yards. Strange.
The 32-year-old also authors stellar seasons each year. He didn’t spring up one season, excel, and collapse into mediocrity. Annually, Cousins does basically the same thing – a statline in the ballpark of 3,800-4,200 passing yards and 25-35 touchdowns. Still, that is called “pedestrian.”
Cousins is the only quarterback in the NFL to throw 25 or more touchdown passes in every season since 2015. That is six straight years of consistent output. No one else has matched this metric.
Ergo, Cousins will not whimsically forget his skill set because a new offensive coordinator arrived – especially if that new man is the son of the former one.
OC Turnover Habitual for Cousins
For Cousins, change is constant.
The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson exhumed the history of Cousins and his offensive coordinators:
Since Sean McVay took the big job with Los Angeles Rams, a different offensive coordinator each season is normal. It would be bizarre for Cousins to have the same offensive coordinatorsuccessively if history is a reasonable indicator.
So, the aforementioned production – particularly the touchdown passes – keeps occurring no matter the offensive system on the menu. There are no outlying seasons on Cousins’ resume to prognosticate a plunge. Instead, the emphasis should lie with optimistic possibility. If Cousins can throw 27 touchdowns passes in his sleep, perhaps a different play-caller can nudge that to 35+ annually.
The scary what-if need not be accentuated with Cousins.
New OC Won’t Rock the Boat
Kubiak’s replacement will likely be the man he created on a May evening in 1986. Klint Kubiak, son of Gary, is the frontrunner to replace his father. Klint’s first stint with the Vikings dawned in 2013, long before Gary had anything at all to do with the Vikings. He, the son, later joined Gary in Denver for a while before returning to the Vikings with his old man in 2019.
The probable transaction will have an aroma of nepotism. It’s a rational observation, chiefly because nepotistic dealing permeates the NFL’s coaching ranks. Remember, though, Klint garnered the interest of the Vikings six years before Gary joined the organization.
If Minnesota swerves and hires a non-Klint, it will not be an offensive coordinator that fancies an Air Raid scheme or something trendy. Zimmer has spoken straightforwardly of building on the success of the 2020 offense. His next move will adhere to this sentiment.
But no matter the decision on offensive coordinator – Cousins will be Cousins. 3,500+ passing yards and 25+ touchdowns. Clockwork.