On the surface, it looks like a desperate move. But that doesn’t mean the firing of Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo won’t work. Indeed, six Decembers ago, another team that wears purple made the same move, on almost precisely the same day.
December 10, 2012. Ravens coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, replacing him with Jim Caldwell. And the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
It didn’t look like it would go that way. After a loss to Washington dropped Baltimore to 9-4, the Ravens lost two of three with Caldwell running the offense. But 10-6 was still good enough to win the division, and the fourth-seeded Ravens beat the fifth-seeded Colts at home before going on the road to beat the top-seeded Broncos in double overtime, the second-seeded Patriots in the AFC title game, and the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
The Vikings will need to do a lot better than 1-2 to make it to the playoffs. They likely will need to run the table. And if they fail to quality, don’t be shocked if coach Mike Zimmer becomes this year’s inevitable surprise firing.
Although Zimmer is a great coach and a brilliant defensive tactician, he hired DeFilippo. And Zimmer didn’t do enough to get DeFilippo to run the offense the way it needed to be run, designing plays and concepts aimed at getting the most out of the players they have, and at exploiting the weaknesses and tendencies of every defense they face.
The question now becomes whether interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski can do enough, with Zimmer’s assistance and support, to kick-start an offense that has failed to properly complement one of the best defenses in football. It starts Sunday against the Dolphins, followed by NFC North contests against the Lions and Bears.