The Minnesota Vikings were left without a running backs coach when Kirby Wilson left for the Cleveland Browns to become their running backs coach/run game coordinator. There were a lot of questions about what the Vikings would decide to do, but they ultimately decided to name Kevin Stefanski the running backs coach after coaching tight ends the two previous seasons.
Stefanski is heading into his 11th season with the Vikings and has spent time coaching all over the offense. From 2006-08 he worked as an assistant to the head coach, worked as an assistant quarterbacks coach from 2009-13 and then took over as the team’s tight ends coach in 2014.
As the team’s new running backs coach, the most important piece Stefanski has to deal with is Adrian Peterson, and by the sounds of it he has already earned his respect.
“He’s reminding me of E.B. [former running backs coach Eric Bieniemy], but we haven’t taken a step back at all,” Peterson said of Stefanski. “We’re actually doing a great job. If anything, we took a couple steps forward.”
Peterson said that Stefanski puts the running backs through a lot more drills during team’s offseason workouts than Wilson used to do, but that is not always a bad thing. His teaching style as a coach, and his history working throughout the offense has really helped entrench the Vikings running backs into the offense.
“His style and being able to move to different positions and, really, just understanding the entire offense,” Peterson said. “He presents so much to the group, and that’s good for not only the young guys that are trying to pick up everything fast, but for the veteran guys and everything as well. People have different teaching styles, and his is one that is really helpful for our group and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
While some of the drills and techniques Stefanski has been teaching the running backs may differ from what he taught tight ends, many are the same. Both positions have to work in pass protection, route running and catching the ball. But Stefanski has his own ways of teaching these things, so some of the techniques have changed compared to how Wilson used to teach the position group.
Jerick McKinnon is entering into his third season with the Vikings and he said that the new running backs coach has everyone looking good so far through offseason workouts, but he knows there is still a long way for them to go.
“We do a lot of things. I’d probably say we do a lot more,” McKinnon said of the workouts and drills they run. “Some are variations and then some other stuff that he put in. It’s good work. You need the individual period to do those things, so I think it’s been going along good.”
Stefanski has worked all over the Viking’s offense during his 11 years with the team, but this is his first time working as the running backs coach. It is still early in the year and there could very well be some ups and downs waiting for him on the horizon, but so far the transition has been going without a hitch.