The day after the final Sunday of the NFL regular season, known as” Black Monday,” is often oversaturated with news of coach and front office firings around the league.
While most releases are a long time coming for teams that for weeks had been wallowing in futility, a leak coming of the Minnesota Vikings organization came as a surprise.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was reportedly “leaning toward” retirement this offseason, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, who covered the team locally since 2006 before joining the national network.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, a lifelong and, at times transient, Vikings fan corroborated Pelissero’s report and sounded confident in Kubiak’s plans to retire from “a source with knowledge of the situation.”
But on Tuesday, coach Mike Zimmer provided some more intel into the situation which appears to yet be concrete of whether or not Kubiak will maintain the helm of Minnesota’s offense in 2021.
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Kubiak is Taking Time to Figure Out Where he is ‘Health-Wise’
It appears Kubiak’s contemplation of retirement is not a matter of any internal issues with the team or Zimmer but more so his health.
“I love Gary Kubiak. He’s an unbelievable person and an unbelievable coach,” Zimmer said. “He’s taking some time to mentally think about the season and decide where he’s at health-wise. Then he’ll decide what he wants to do.”
Kubiak, 59, has had a string of health issues over the past decade. In 2013, he suffered a mild stroke on the field while coaching the Houston Texans. In 2016, he suffered from a complex migraine condition that resulted in hospitalization while coaching the Denver Broncos. But Kubiak’s health has seemed to hold up over the past few years despite the amount of stress there was in the unprecedented 2020 season.
“I know he’s had some health issues in the past and I think it’s always good to kind of take some time to think about where you’re at mentally and physically,” Zimmer said. “Obviously this year was a major mental and physical drain on all of us … so we’ll just see how that unfolds as we move forward. But he’s the best I’ve ever been around. Great person, terrific coach.”
Vikings Offense Has its Best Showing in Over a Decade With Kubiak
Under Kubiak, Minnesota’s offense finished fourth in the league in total yards of offense and 11th in scoring. The last unit to match those numbers was the 2009 Brett Favre-led Vikings that finished the regular season ranked second in points and fifth in yards.
While the offenses produced at a similar level, the results vary widely. The 2009 Vikings were an overtime field goal away from the Super Bowl, while this year’s unit failed to surpass a .500 record at 7-9 on the season.
This is primarily due to the defense that allowed the third-most points in the league this season after the hard decision to enter a rebuild by releasing five starters from 2019 and then losing four additional starters in Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Michael Pierce.
Zimmer admitted the expectations for the defense this season may have been a “miscalculation” given the losses in both the offseason and regular season.
He hopes to maintain Kubiak’s wide zone scheme regardless of whether his offensive coordinator will return.
“Let’s not deal with what-ifs yet. Let’s wait and see what happens, then we can figure all that stuff out,” Zimmer said. “But I will say this: I love the scheme that we’re running offensively, I love the wide zone offense, I love the play-action passes. All those things.
“I love the scheme that we’re running offensively, I love the wide zone offense, I love the play-action passes. All those things,” Zimmer said. “A coach told me one time that your offense should be what your quarterback is best at. And that’s what I feel Kirk [Cousins] is best at. Those kinds of things are what makes him really good. So to me, that is really important.”
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.