What does building an organization around Justin Jefferson look like?
After Sunday night’s debacle at Lambeau Field, demands for top-down organizational change continue to circulate among Minnesota Vikings fans. After falling to the Green Bay Packers 37-10, Week 17 was the 13th time Minnesota’s defense allowed more than 30 points since the start of last season. In two games this season, the Vikings have given up 68 points and 968 yards to the Packers. Overall, Minnesota ranks 31st in yards allowed. And for a franchise led by a defensive-minded head coach, it’s hard to argue that change isn’t necessary in the wake of these recurring issues.
While the disappointment of another unsuccessful season certainly stings – especially when the Skoldiers stalwarts are set for a potential rebuild – the Vikings are in a desirable position among teams facing potential head coaching changes. Last week, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell identified Minnesota as the most desirable destination for incoming head coaches.
Make no mistake about it; there are areas the property needs to address for the Vikings to be taken seriously as NFC contenders. But with a list that includes Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith, that’s about as good as a potential new head coach could ask for.
With the Wilfs currently at an organizational crossroads, it goes without saying that the decision-making process over the next few weeks will be critical. And with the NFL experiencing a league-wide shift to the offensive side of the ball, most Vikings fans seem to be hoping their team will follow suit, prioritizing offense with a potential replacement for Mike Zimmer. .
With Jefferson cementing his status as one of the league’s biggest and brightest stars, Skoliders can’t help but feel jaded after watching other superstar receivers Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, and Stefan Diggs thrive elsewhere after their big outings from Minneapolis.
But instead of living in our fears, what if the Wilfs recognize that Jefferson is the most important player on the Vikings roster? What if they decide that the future of the franchise is directly tied to who can bring out the best in their young receiver? After seeing the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals emerge as division winners following the additions of Diggs and rookie Ja’Marr Chase, the league has never been better positioned to win games by prioritizing the best away playmakers.
Let’s take a look at a potential plan the Wilfs could use if they decide to go all-in on Jefferson.
Managing Director: Jeff Ireland
Ireland is currently assistant general manager and director of college scouting for the New Orleans Saints, a position he has held since 2015. Ireland previously served as general manager of the Miami Dolphins from 2008 to 2013. Alongside general manager Mickey Loomis, Ireland played a vital role in the selection of the following players by the Saints:
- Andrus Peat – Guard (Pro Bowler 2018-20)
- Michael Thomas – Wide Receiver (2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 2018-19 First Team All-Pro)
- Marshon Lattimore – Cornerback (2017 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, 2017 Pro Bowler, 2019-21)
- Ryan Ramczyk – Offensive tackle (First-Team All-Pro 2019, Second-Team All-Pro 2018 & 2020)
- Alvin Kamara – Running Back (2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2017 & 2020 All-Pro Second Team, 2017-21 Pro Bowler)
- Marcus Davenport – Defensive end (7.5 sacks this season)
- Erik McCoy – Center
- Cesar Ruiz – Guard/Center
After inheriting the attacking tackle Terron Armstead upon his arrival with the Saints in 2015, Ireland helped build arguably the best offensive line in the NFL after drafting Peat, Ramczyk, McCoy and Ruiz. And with Minnesota’s struggles up front over the past few years, a GM with a proven track record of hitting big hosses up front seems like the perfect remedy. Prior to Ireland’s arrival in New Orleans, the Saints went 25-22 (0.532 winning percentage) from 2012 to 2014. Since Ireland joined the Saints’ front office in 2015, the Saints are 71-41 (.634 winning percentage) with four divisions. titles in seven years.
And in the first season of New Orleans without Drew Bree, the Saints started four different quarterbacks while facing an offensive line that lacked Peat, Ramczyk, Armstead, McCoy and Ruiz for most of the year. Let’s not forget that Michael Thomas hasn’t played a single snap this season. Despite all that adversity, the Saints currently sit 8-8 with a chance to make the playoffs early in Week 18.
Ireland have played a vital role in making the Saints a regular contender in the NFC for the past seven years. And with the Wilfs yearning for the Vikings to be precisely that, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ireland topped their list of potential GMs.
Coach: Joe Lombardi
After spending 12 seasons as an offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach under Head Coach Sean Payton in New Orleans, Lombardi is currently the offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. First-year head coach Brandon Staley picked up Lombardi to oversee the Los Angeles offense when the Chargers decided to part ways with Anthony Lynn as head coach after the 2020 season. And with Lombardi implementing the same offense he helped plan with Payton and the Saints, the Chargers are currently one of the most prolific offenses in the entire league.
After ranking 18th in points last season with Lynn, the Chargers are currently sixth in points and fourth in yards, with Lombardi dialing it in for Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and mike williams. And while Staley’s calling card is that of a defensive mastermind from his time with the Rams last season, the Chargers are 26th in points and 22nd in yards allowed this season. Los Angeles is in a position to secure a wildcard spot at 9-7, and Lombardi and his offense are the main reason why.
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Brady
Suppose the Wilfs decide to prioritize Justin Jefferson with their organizational shake-up. In that case, a Jefferson-Brady reunion will help ensure the Vikings don’t have to spend a millisecond worrying about potentially losing another disgruntled superstar receiver. Brady was Jefferson’s wide receivers coach and passing games coordinator during their only season together at LSU in 2019. Prior to joining the LSU staff, Brady spent two seasons as an offensive assistant at New -Orleans, working under Ireland and Lombardi.
When head coach Sean Payton learned Brady was leaving the Saints for LSU after the 2018 season, Payton admitted to telling Brady he was making a mistake.
While the commonly recycled discredit of Brady’s accomplishments at LSU — especially since he was fired by the Carolina Panthers as offensive coordinator — goes a bit like:
Let’s take a look back at what the LSU offense did with the above players in 2018 before Brady arrived in Baton Rouge.
After the 2018 season, no one was beating the drum for Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Jefferson and Chase to be first-round NFL draft picks. Insert Joe Brady and his passing game concepts from Payton, Lombardi and the Saints for the 2019 season? The results of an undefeated national championship season as one of college football’s most successful offenses of all time speaks for itself.
Jefferson credited Brady and his Saints program for allowing him to flourish when he was called up as a rookie receiver in the NFL last season. If the Wilfs want to do everything in their power to prevent Jefferson from becoming another cautionary tale in Viking lore, getting Brady to recreate their magic from 2019 is the easiest way to do it.
By bringing in Ireland as general manager, Lombardi as head coach and Brady as offensive coordinator, the Wilfs can provide the Vikings with the organizational stability of a proven contender while allowing Jefferson – once more – to thrive in the attacking scheme with the same coach who helped put him on the map.
At 32, questions about Brady’s ability to effectively lead an NFL team as a head coach are currently valid. But with Ireland leading the front office and Lombardi as an adult with 16 years of NFL experience, the New Orleans Saints’ plan could be the perfect recipe for the Vikings to become the next. NFL offensive superpower by releasing and prioritizing Justin Jefferson.