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Don’t be mad at the Vikings, be mad at the assistant coach policy

Minnesota was within the rules to deny Giants permission to interview Kevin Stefanski

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Those blankety-blank-blank Vikings! How dare they deny the New York Giants permission to interview quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for the Giants’ offensive coordinator job! That’s a promotion. Minnesota is denying Stefanski a chance to advance his career. That’s a classless move!

That is how the reaction went both in the comments here at Big Blue View and from Giants fans on Twitter Saturday evening after the Vikings rebuffed the Giants’ advances on Stefanski.

Well, the emotion is understandable. It seems like Stefanski was Pat Shurmur’s first choice for offensive coordinator. It seems like denying Stefanski the right to interview elsewhere after bypassing him for offensive coordinator in favor of John DeFilippo is a crummy thing to do.

Maybe it is. That, however, is how the NFL anti-tampering policy works. And the more you look at the situation the more you realize teams do this all the time.

Here is the policy:

If an inquiring club wishes to discuss an assistant coaching position with an assistant coach who is under contract to another club at any time prior to the opening of the employer club’s training camp, it will be considered a lateral move, and the employer club is under no obligation to grant the assistant coach permission to discuss the position with the interested club. At the discretion of the employer club, however, such permission may be voluntarily granted.

The deal is this — the NFL considers going from one assistant coaching job to another a lateral move, even if it is from position coach to coordinator. It is only an upward move if you are interviewing to go from assistant coach — position coach or coordinator — to head coach.

Teams deny assistant coaches the opportunity to interview elsewhere all the time. A year ago, the Eagles did it to DeFilippo. He got his chance this time because his contract was expiring.

I’ll admit that when this news came down I was in the “that’s a crappy thing to do to Stefanski” camp. This, though, is how the league works. Assistant coaches are vagabonds who end up moving from city to city every time the head coach they hitched their wagon to gets fired or needs to shake up his staff to save his own hide.

They know the drill. Sign that multi-year deal rather than a one-year deal that gives you the right to move but might also leave you jobless in a year, or trade a bit of freedom for the security of an extra year on a contract.

You can argue, and perhaps you would be right, that the league needs to adjust this policy to make a distinction between position coaches and coordinators. That is perhaps a slippery slope, though. Is a move from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach without the responsibility of designing the offense or calling the plays a step up or a lateral move? Where do the running game and passing game coordinators some teams use fit on the assistant coaching ladder?

Minnesota played by the rules as they are currently written. So, be mad at the rule if you have to be and not at the Vikings.

What now for the Giants?

Eagles’ running backs coach Duce Staley and former Vikings and Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have for a while now been considered the other likely candidates for the job.

Like the Vikings did with Stefanski, the Eagles could block Staley from interviewing with the Giants. Staley is under contract in Philly. The Super Bowl champs have already lost DeFilippo, who was their quarterbacks coach. They may also lose offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a candidate for head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. They may want to make sure they hang on to Staley.

Staley played for the Eagles and has been on the team’s coaching staff since 2011, serving as running backs coach since 2013. He worked with Pat Shurmur for three seasons in Philly, so there is an obvious connection.

Staley, 42, has only coached running backs so a move to OC with the Giants would advance his career. That can also be looked at as a potential drawback.

There are no availability issues with Bevell. The Seahawks fired him last month after seven seasons as their offensive coordinator. He was Vikings’ offensive coordinator from 2006-2010 before going to Seattle.

Bevell, then, has been installing his own offense and calling his own plays since 2006. How well would he adapt to a role with the Giants where Shurmur is going to be in charge of the offense?

Other thoughts

A few random thoughts to leave you with on this Sunday.

  • The $137 million deal Jimmy Garappolo signed with the San Francisco 49ers almost makes the $21 million the Giants have to pay Eli Manning in 2018 look like a bargain price. Manning is the 10th-highest paid quarterback right now based on annual salary, and he will drop a spot when Kirk Cousins signs somewhere.
  • Have you had enough Baker Mayfield stories yet? Chris has been banging that drum for a while, and now Dan Pizzuta [here] and Jesse Bartolis [here] have added their $.02.
  • After my post on the need to improve at linebacker a Twitter follower mentioned that Reese did sign Michael Boley. That, actually, helps make my point. Boley had some good moments but was nothing special. If he is the best Giants’ linebacker of the Jerry Reese era that’s not a good thing.

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