It's officially over. The Vikings held a season-ending press conference with head coach Mike Zimmer Monday morning, paving the way to what is expected to be an offseason filled with change.
The next three months will be filled with speculation leading up to the beginning of free agency March 18 and the April 23-25 NFL Draft. Between now and then the Vikings will have to announce coaching hires, with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski now the head coach of the Browns and defensive coordinator George Edwards not returning.
Who will be the offensive coordinator?
It certainly sounds like the Vikings plan to hire from within. Zimmer made it clear that he liked the scheme and doesn't want to change much going into the 2020 season.
"I like the scheme, I like the continuity that we have offensively with the coaches, and I feel like if we add a couple more pieces and continue to work on the execution of staying with the same play calls, the same system, the same motions and formations and things like that, it’ll definitely help the offensive players," Zimmer said Monday.
Asked if assistant head coach Gary Kubiak or quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak could take the reins as offensive coordinator, Zimmer said he prefers to keep those conversations private for the time being.
Another candidate could be run-game coordinator Rick Dennison.
Kirk Cousins will be the QB in 2020
Cousins, entering the final year of his three-year, $84 million contract, shouldn't have to answer any questions about his immediate future as Zimmer made it clear he'll be the man under center in 2020.
"Yeah, it’ll be the same system. Obviously he (Kirk Cousins) is going to have a new offensive coordinator. It’ll be his fifth coordinator in five years, I think he told me yesterday, or at least voice in his ear on game day," Zimmer said.
"So I mean there’s nothing I can do about that, but I think it’s important not just for Kirk, but for the entire offense, to have the same system, the same calls and things like that so that when they come in here on day one it’s not completely foreign to them."
That quote also speaks volumes about the likelihood of the offensive coordinator being an internal candidate.
Zimmer declined to discuss any possible contract negotiations with Cousins.
"You know, if you win, everything is great, if you lose, everything is the worst in the world, so I think it’s important that we take our time, get away from it for a few days, then we evaluate and we’ll go from there. Not just on Kirk, on everybody," Zimmer said.
Searching for ways to get over the hump
"I was on the phone with Coach (Bill) Parcells for an hour this morning talking about trying to get over the hump of we’ve been to the conference championship, we’ve been to the divisional game, we’ve been in a wild-card game where we lost by a field goal, and just trying to figure out how do we get over this hump of getting to the next level and eventually winning this thing," said Zimmer, who has two playoff wins in six seasons as Vikings coach.
Asked what they can do to get over the hump, Zimmer said "we’re not going to talk about it."
2019 rookies to improve the 2020 offensive line?
Indicating that the NFL is a "young man's game," Zimmer applauded the development of young guys on the offensive line who didn't get much action in the regular season.
"I think we’ve got some young guys that we basically redshirted this year that I think are going to have opportunities to be good football players," said Zimmer, likely referring to rookies Dru Samia and Oli Udoh, who essentially redshirted as rookies this season.
"I’m hoping that becomes even more of a strength for us next year, and we’ll be looking to continually try to improve not just that position, but all of them."
Samia and Udoh each started in Minnesota's Week 17 game against the Bears as key starters rested for the playoffs.
Samia could compete for a starting guard position next season while Udoh might make for an ideal right tackle if Brian O'Neill is moved to left tackle.
Zimmer preparing for contract extension?
Already knowing that team ownership supports his return in 2020 "and beyond," Zimmer is likely on the brink of getting a contract extension.
"First of all, like I said a couple weeks ago when we were talking about this, I love these players, this organization," said Zimmer. "The owners have been outstanding to me. I believe that there will be conversations here in the near future and whatever happens, I’m happy with it."