Is John DeFilippo firing bad news for Mike Zimmer’s future?

Minnesota Vikings

After another bad offensive performance and the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the future of Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer can be now be questioned.

The Minnesota Vikings were nearly shut out by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, scoring a touchdown with a little over a minute to go in a 21-7 loss. That added to the list of dismal offensive performances and meaningless touchdowns this season for the Vikings, despite having a lot of talent in place, and on Tuesday morning offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired.

DeFilippo came to the Vikings after being quarterbacks coach for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. He had one season on his resume as an offensive coordinator, with the Cleveland Browns in 2015, and his status as a head coaching candidate may have invited getting cute with play-calling this season.

In recent weeks, Zimmer has consistently lamented how little the Vikings run the ball. A bad offensive line and negative game scripts have necessarily limited the use of the ground game at times, but things reached a real head in Week 13 against the New England Patriots in a game that was close into the fourth quarter.

To his great credit upon becoming a head coach for the first time in 2014, and with a nod to his own background on the defensive side of the ball, Mike Zimmer hired Norv Turner to be the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. But that relationship dissolved enough that Turner left in the middle of the 2016 season, amid apparent “philosophical differences.” Pat Shurmur stepped in, and he left to become head coach of the New York Giants after last season. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is stepping in now on an interim basis for DeFilippo, as the Vikings’ fourth offensive coordinator and play caller over the last three seasons.

At least as it seems publicly, Zimmer has mostly taken a hands-off approach to the Vikings’ offense while at times offering blunt criticism to the media on the back end. When it comes down to it he has to offer greater input behind closed doors, with his defensive acumen informing what might work.

DeFilippo paid the price for Minnesota’s underachievement offensively, with bad offensive line play and the shortcomings of Kirk Cousins part of the blame tree beyond play-calling.

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It’s worth wondering when heavier blame will fall on Zimmer. Unless the Vikings somehow lose out, it doesn’t seem he’s in real danger of being fired after this season. But it will be essential to get his next offensive coordinator hire right, with Cousins in place for two more seasons, even if it means elevating Stefanski to the permanent post and avoiding a big name or someone closely associated with success elsewhere.

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