Another lackluster offensive showing against the Seahawks has sparked fresh criticism of Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the presumed future NFL head coach who is struggling in his first year coaching all of an NFL offense. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said after the 21-7 loss in Seattle that the criticism shouldn’t be directed at the guy designing and calling the plays.
“You hear the [offensive] coordinator is getting a lot of ridicule but it’s about the players,” Thielen said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Players got to make the plays. It doesn’t matter what play is called, you have to run that play and you have to be successful on it and it just comes down to execution.”
It’s admirable for Thielen to take the blame (then again, it’s not as if he’s in danger of being fired), but he’s incorrect. Yes, the players need to execute the plays. But the job of the coordinator is to come up with ideas and concepts that will work against a given opponent, and to pick the right plays to use at the right time.
The goal is to exploit the weaknesses of a defense, to keep it guessing as to whether the next play will be a run or a pass, and to otherwise win the psychological battle that happens throughout the three hours during which the game unfolds. The defense needs to be constantly on its heels, constantly wondering what’s going on and what’s going to happen next, constantly going to the sidelines after a drive to try to pick up the pieces and stop the bleeding.
The Vikings failed to do that to the Seattle defense last night, at any time during the game that it mattered. Thielen can try to blame it on the players for not executing the plays. The truth is that DeFilippo failed to design and to call the right plays at the right time.
The broader truth is that coach Mike Zimmer has failed to entrust the offense to someone who can consistently do what needs to be done to complement a defense that somehow kept the Vikings in the game until the dam finally broke late in the fourth quarter.