Mike Zimmer will hire new Vikings offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason, but he said continuity is the priority for both jobs. That means the Vikings coach could fill the positions with in-house candidates from a veteran staff.
The offensive coordinator will be the fifth in five years after Kevin Stefanski was hired as the Browns coach following Saturday’s 27-10 playoff loss at San Francisco. The new OC will again call plays for assistant head coach Gary Kubiak’s system, but Zimmer declined to say whether Kubiak — a Super Bowl-winning head coach with Denver — wants the role himself.
“It’ll be the same system,” Zimmer said Monday. “It’s important not just for [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], but for the entire offense to have the same system, same calls and things like that, so when they come in here on Day 1 it’s not completely foreign to them.”
George Edwards, who handled play-calling duties during some preseason games and in moments of the regular season, is also moving on after six seasons as Zimmer’s defensive coordinator.
“He was at the end of his contract, and it was a situation where it was probably best,” Zimmer said. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson is among the in-house candidates for the job.
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray also will not return.
The Vikings’ hiring process for both jobs could take a week or two, Zimmer said. Kubiak and offensive line coach Rick Dennison are likely to be considered for offensive coordinator.
“I want to make sure the fit is right,” Zimmer said of the OC opening. “Those guys over there, they do an outstanding job. I love the way they work together and communicate, so if we do bring somebody in from the outside — I want to make sure it’s the correct fit.”
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander already underwent knee surgery, but among players who finished the season in Saturday’s loss, there are no planned offseason surgeries “that I know of,” Zimmer said. That includes running back Dalvin Cook, who played through two injuries — to his right collarbone and left shoulder — at the end of the season.
Cornerback Mike Hughes was placed on injured reserve Jan. 3 because of a neck injury, an ambiguous designation that could be as severe as a spinal injury, but Zimmer said he expects Hughes to be ready for spring workouts.
“He should be good to go,” Zimmer said. “I mean, it’ll heal.”
‘A buzz saw’
Zimmer spent an hour on the phone Monday morning with mentor and Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells discussing what Zimmer needs to get the Vikings “over the hump,” having lost in every NFC playoff round — conference championship, divisional and wild-card — without reaching a Super Bowl in six seasons here.
Zimmer declined to elaborate on the conversation, but said the Vikings caught a “buzz saw” in the 49ers.
“We didn’t look as fresh in that ballgame as we did the week before,” he said. “I’m obviously not making any excuses, they’re a good football team. They played really, really well.”
Cousins’ best year?
Zimmer defended his search for continuity this offseason by saying Cousins had his best year in his eighth NFL season, during which he posted a career-high 107.4 quarterback rating and had his fewest turnovers (nine) as an NFL starter.
“It may have been the best year that he’s played in the NFL,” Zimmer said.
On Monday, Cousins wrote on Twitter (@kirkcousins8): “Not the ending we wanted, but it was a privilege to play on this incredible team all season. To the fans who supported us all year ... you are the best in the NFL and we appreciate you. Looking forward to the 2020 season!”
The Browns requested permission to interview Vikings assistant general manager George Paton for Cleveland’s GM vacancy. Paton just wrapped his 13th season with the Vikings and has previously interviewed for GM jobs, including the 49ers’ opening in 2017. He also has turned down interviews, including one for the Jets’ opening last year.