MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings have fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, whose first season on the job ended after just 13 games amid a sharp decline in production by the offense over the past six weeks.
Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski was made interim offensive coordinator on Tuesday morning, following a 21-7 loss at Seattle on Monday night .
Stefanski will take over the play-calling duty from DeFilippo, whose work with new quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t materialize into consistent success.
The Vikings (6-6-1) have been held to under 300 total yards in four of their past five games. They’ve scored an average of 12.8 points in those four games.
Thanks to the struggles of several of their NFC competitors, though, they’re still in control of the second wild-card spot with three games to go.
“I think the added piece of the disappointment is when your defense is playing so well,” Cousins said after the Vikings went scoreless against the Seahawks until a garbage-time touchdown with 1:10 left in the game.
Stefanski has been an assistant coach with the Vikings since 2006, surviving two head coaching changes. He’ll be the fourth play-caller in five years under Zimmer, whose first offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, resigned halfway through the 2016 season.
Pat Shurmur thrived in the role last year, with a career-best season for fill-in quarterback Case Keenum and a 13-3 record that propelled the Vikings to the NFC championship game.
Shurmur, however, was hired as head coach of the New York Giants. He wanted to bring Stefanski with him, but Zimmer blocked that move out of a desire to keep him on his own staff.
The 40-year-old DeFilippo came from Philadelphia, lauded for his work as quarterbacks coach with Carson Wentz and then Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. He had previously served one season as an offensive coordinator, in 2015 with Cleveland.
The Vikings, who committed a guaranteed $84 million to Cousins on an unprecedented three-year contract, piled up the passing yards over the first eight games. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were dominating opposing teams, and the Vikings topped 400 total yards four times.
Lately, though, they’ve been unable to generate nearly enough points to complement another by effective run by Zimmer’s renowned defense.
Zimmer publicly questioned DeFilippo’s decision-making more than once over the past month, stressing his interest in more of a run-pass balance and chiding him at one point for essentially trying to trick too many teams rather than relying on the offense’s strengths.
Asked after the game in Seattle how the offense could be fixed, Zimmer said, “That’s a good question.”