The Minnesota Vikings appear to need not one, but two new coordinators for the 2021 season.
After news broke that offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was considering retirement on Monday, coach Mike Zimmer addressed local media, airing out that special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf would not be re-signed by the team on Tuesday.
Coach Zimmer announces that Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf's contract will expire and not be renewed.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 5, 2021
The team hasn’t let any other coaches go thus far, per the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling.
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Special Teams Struggled in 2020
The special teams unit was an issue for the Vikings throughout the 2020 season but was exacerbated by kicking problems down the final stretch.
Dan Bailey missed three kicks against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12 before booting an overtime game-winning field goal — a feat that did not relieve the 10-year veteran kicker of his struggles. Bailey went on to miss three field goals and an extra point in a 12-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccanneers the next week.
Bailey retained his job for the remainder of the season, but the kicking issues were seemingly Zimmer’s last straw with Maalouf. Bailey is still under contract for another year and is guaranteed $1.05 million. The Vikings will likely roll with Bailey into 2021 as one of the league’s most cap-strapped teams this offseason.
There were several other plays throughout the season that could have aided Minnesota, which has seen a recent decline in special teams since ranking fourth in the NFL in 2015, per Football Outsiders. The Vikings finished the 2020 season ranked 31st in special teams, its worst performance since 2008.
Kris Boyd committed back-to-back mistakes on the punt team against the Dallas Cowboys that proved costly in Week 11. Boyd, who was uncovered on a fake punt, was uncontrollably jitterbugging at the line of scrimmage, waving that he would be open, and never set himself for as a route runner on a play that would have been good for 23 yards on fourth down. Instead, Boyd was called for an illegal shift and proceeded to commit a block in the back penalty on the ensuing punt, which the Cowboys took for a go-ahead score in the second quarter of an eventual 31-28 upset over Minnesota four days before Thanksgiving.
At that point in the season, Bailey was a lone bright spot on special teams, but that soon unraveled. The Vikings finished with the worst efficiency rating in place-kicking and second-worst on kickoff, punts and punt returns. In total, the special teams unit cost Minnesota nearly 47 points this season, according to Football Outsiders.
A bright spot? Chad Beebe notched the longest punt return of the season against the Detroit Lions in Week 17. It was 13 yards…
There are many problems with the Vikings’ special teams that will need to be addressed in the offseason, and some can’t reverse the course of the unit immediately. The unit features many young, inexperienced players after regular contributors like Eric Wilson and Anthony Harris were elevated into starting roles.
But Minnesota should begin shopping for a new punter, possibly a new long snapper and, most importantly, a new coordinator.
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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.