EAGAN, Minn. — In the wake of the Vikings making a switch at offensive coordinator with three games remaining, quarterback Kirk Cousins is taking “ownership” for the state of Minnesota’s struggling offense that cost John DeFilippo his job.
“Myself, I’d be the first one to say if I had played at a higher level, we’re probably not talking about the things we’re talking about,” Cousins said Wednesday. “I take ownership, as well. Yet, big picture why? I don’t know. I do point to the fact that we played at Chicago, who’s a good defense. You saw what they did to the Rams. We played at Seattle and at New England, those aren’t places you walk into as of late and just walk out with a win without breaking a sweat. Those are tough places to play, good teams. I’m sure there’s a part of that, that you have to look at as well.
“You look at, ‘What do I need to do better? How can I be better?’ The nature of the quarterback position is that the ball is in your hands. So you’re going to be easily able to say that so many times. That was one of the things I did communicate to Coach Flip yesterday was, I believe with the ball in my hand, had I played at my fullest potential play-in and play-out, we’re probably not having this conversation right now. That’s something I take personally and is certainly tough for me, and keeps you up at night. But at the same time, all you can do now is go forward and you know, ‘Hey, faced adversity before, been able to overcome it, been able to push through it.’ As Coach Shanahan always told me, ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do.’ I’m going to choose to be a tough person, keep going and believe if we do that, if I do that, good things are in store.”
Even with a brand-new quarterback in a new system, the Vikings offense performed at a high level during the first eight weeks of the season, ranking in the top 10 in total offense, passing, completion percentage and passer rating while setting a handful of team and league-wide records. But in light of the team’s recent struggles, relieving DeFilippo of his duties was the shake-up coach Mike Zimmer felt needed to take place given he wasn’t happy with the direction the offense was heading.
The Vikings, currently the NFC’s sixth seed at 6-6-1, will move forward with Kevin Stefanski as interim offensive coordinator. With so little of the season left, Cousins said the Vikings aren’t going to reinvent their offense, but that the team’s focus is on better execution, mainly in the form of scoring more points.
Zimmer, however, feels that a more philosophical change could benefit Cousins in his dealings with the offense and Stefanski, who has been the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2017.
“Number one, they have a good working relationship,” Zimmer said. “They sit in meetings all the time and talk a lot. There is a lot of back-and-forth with those guys. I feel like Kirk will be open to suggesting things a little bit more.”
Eyeing a postseason berth in back-to-back seasons, the Vikings offense won’t make wholesale changes across the board but will begin to shift their mindset in a different direction. Tight end Kyle Rudolph spoke with Sirius XM Radio the day of DeFilippo’s firing, noting his frustrations within the offense and suggesting that the unit “really didn’t have an identity.”
How soon it takes the Vikings to find the cohesiveness some felt they lacked will be examined over the next three weeks.
“I think we just want to be a balanced offense,” center Pat Elflein said. “We want to run the ball and do play actions and drop back and we want to be able to be efficient in all areas of offense, and there’s some that we are doing well at and some that we’re not doing well at. So, we’ve just got to get back to work and find some balance and work those specific areas that we need to get better at.”