You know time flies when you look up and even young Kevin Stefanski has literally become an NFL graybeard.
Yes, it was 12 years ago that the Vikings quarterbacks coach was a 23-year-old kid packing up his car and following Brad Childress from Philadelphia to Minneapolis to be a teeny part of the staff that succeeded Mike Tice.
Today, the 35-year-old Stefanski is the longest-tenured Vikings coach. He’s watched 50 fellow assistants come and go. He’s coached Brett Favre, seen a stadium collapse and survived not one, but two head coaching changes.
And now, depending on how things go with Pat Shurmur and the Bears, Lions, Cardinals and Giants, Stefanski could become a candidate to succeed Shurmur as Vikings offensive coordinator after the season.
“That’s not something I’m even thinking about,” Stefanski said last week while discussing Shurmur and an offense that ranks 10th in the NFL in scoring (23.9).
“One thing I’ve learned in this business is if you keep your head down and work as hard as you possibly can, good things usually happen.”
Stefanski was a standout defensive back at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, he was a senior team captain on a 10-0 team.
The following summer, he interned with the Eagles’ operations department. That’s where he met Childress, who was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator.
After spending the fall of 2005 coordinating day-to-day football operations at his alma mater, Stefanski headed west with Chilly.
No, he wasn’t a coach. Or a member of the front office.
But he did have a desk just outside Childress’ office. And one of those NFL gofer titles: “Assistant to the Head Coach.”
“Brad always was good to me,” said Stefanski, who handled travel itineraries and essentially got whatever Childress told him to fetch.
Stefanski’s father, Ed, held executive positions with the NBA’s Nets, 76ers, Raptors and Grizzlies. But Kevin gravitated more toward the coaching side.
In 2009, Stefanski was promoted to assistant quarterbacks coach. Favre had one of the best seasons of his career at age 40.
But Stefanski did well enough to keep his job when Chilly lost his job to Leslie Frazier, and when Frazier lost his to Mike Zimmer.
Under Zimmer, Stefanski coached tight ends for two years, running backs last season and quarterbacks this season.
Stefanski’s role this season became even more important when Sam Bradford’s Week 1 injury led to career journeyman Case Keenum playing all but six quarters of a 13-3 season.
The Bears, Lions, Cardinals and Giants received permission to interview Shurmur this week for their vacant head coaching positions. Stefanski doesn’t see that distracting from the team’s preparations for next week’s divisional playoff game.
“I don’t think there’s much that will ever faze Pat,” Stefanski said. “If the situation plays out and someone hires him, he deserves it. And I think he’d do great.
“But his focus, my focus, our focus is we got blinders on. We kind of have the prize sitting in front of us, and I think that’s all we’re focused on. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Offensive line coach Tony Sparano has been an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator. But after the job he’s done through injuries on the offensive line this season, the Vikings might be wise to keep his focus there.
There will be outside candidates to consider as well if Shurmur leaves. One possibility could be Titans receivers coach Bob Bratkowski. He’s close to Zimmer, having spent 10 seasons as Bengals offensive coordinator (2001-10).
Bratkowski is 62. But maybe he’s spry like the 61-year-old Zimmer.
If the Vikings do go young, Stefanski is four years younger than cornerback Terence Newman. But the flecks of gray also indicate a dozen seasons of gleaning knowledge from coordinators Darrell Bevell, Bill Musgrave, Norv Turner and Shurmur.
Last summer, tight end Kyle Rudolph went so far as to say it was only a matter of time before Stefanski became an NFL coordinator.
What say you, Kevin?
“All I know is no one’s talking about next year,” Stefanski said. “We’re so immersed in what we have left to accomplish this year.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL