One thing that I rarely do, if ever, is directly respond to articles from other people in Vikings media unless it’s something we agree upon beforehand (like working on a series where we take opposite sides on subjective-y topics). I do that for a few reasons.
First, the Vikings media world is really small, and reputation is everything. I also don’t want the author of the piece I’m discussing to feel like my take is disrespectful or some sort of shot fired.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, as someone who has covered the Vikings for a living since 2015, I know that a lot of the time writing articles that have declarative points can be a thankless endeavor.
We rarely get comments like “I agree for the most part!”, meaning that most comments are there for a reason and that reason typically is an emotional response to the topic at hand. Which means, that more often than not people are calling you an idiot.
I also believe in owning a network that allows its writers to speak openly and freely, with one major caveat. Even if I don’t agree with what one of my team writes about, as long as they can support their point of view with sources and explain it without taking personal pot shots or calling for people to get fired (with some exceptions, cough, cough).
That brings me to the point of this article.
Adam Patrick of The Viking Age recently responded to a take by national talking head and proud-ish Vikings fan, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and contributor to NBC Football Night in America. Florio reacted honestly to the Mike Zimmer extension, and said the following:
““It feels like this team is always going to be good enough to be in the mix, but never good enough to be in the hunt.”
“Maybe it’s good enough for the Vikings to strive to win the Super Bowl (and) hope they win a Super Bowl. But instead of blowing it up and starting over again and trying to build a team that within five years that may win a Super Bowl, let’s just keep treading water because it’s going to be good for business to tread water with a team that’s on the fringes of contention.”
Now. If you’re a follower of my articles (Hi, Dad!) then you’ll know that I’ve been less enthused about Zimmer than the average writer.
So, it’s not a coincidence that I’m going to defend Florio’s take, but I also think that as writers we need to cut one another some slack in terms of the day to day grind of writing articles and not insult them simply because we disagree with them.
Florio could be wrong, and he may not have proof that the Zimmer extension was some sort of business move and thus insincere. But, he isn’t wrong about, so far anyway.
I understand that they basically had to extend Zimmer at this point as the team just had the largest draft class in the history of the 7-round draft. If they were going to move on from Zimmer, they would’ve done it before the draft as there has never been a more Zimmer/Spielman (Zimman? Spielmer?) draft than the one from April.
Of the 15 picks the Vikings used FIVE on defensive backs. Despite the desperate need for offensive guards the team didn’t draft one until TWO picks before the end of the draft.
Yeah, Ezra Cleveland or Riley Reiff could move to guard, but we’ve already played that game with both Mike Remmers and TJ Clemmings. Remmers had never played guard, and instead of using him for what he was signed to do after FINALLY signing tackles in free agency, they basically created one-half of one of the worst guard duos in team/league history.
Reiff hasn’t played guard since about half his lifetime ago, and Cleveland could be the future at left tackle, so why put him at guard? The thing is, you needn’t spend a first or even second round pick on a guard, as most guards in this most recent draft didn’t get picked until the third or fourth round (or later).
There have been drafts, like the 2018 one, where there were four interior lineman taken between Mike Hughes and Brian O’Neill. Most of those were plug and play first day starters (like Will Hernandez of the Giants) and could’ve solidified the left side of the interior of the line for a decade.
Point being, if you weren’t going to extend Zimmer you would’ve done it before the draft as his hands were everywhere. Say what you will about Zimmer, but he has a knack for drafting and developing defensive talent for his system.
Spielman is essentially considered this amazing draft guru because he’s had an amazing hit rate on the defensive side of the ball and while some of that is pre-Zimmer (Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes (Before, you know, 2018/19)), most of it IS Zimmer.
The thing is, though, that the defense has clearly shown that it isn’t elite enough to get the Vikings to the promised land. That’s why the team invested the most money in league history (at the time) to sign the biggest free agent quarterback for at least a decade in Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings and their magical 2017 team ran face first into the chainsaw that was the Philadelphia Eagles, and considering that their then MVP-candidate Carson Wentz wasn’t even playing, and the defense objectively imploded in that game, it was clear that the Vikings needed an offense that was at least as good as the defense if they were going to make it past teams like Philly.
The same could be said for the 49ers.
That’s two embarassing losses in three years for a team that was built by a head coach that has been given more than any head coach in the league. The team has a new stadium that was recently voted the best in the NFL.
They now have the best facilities in the entire league, and TCO Performance Center and it’s surroundings aren’t even done yet. He’s been able to sign every player both on the team and externally that he’s wanted, he’s been given complete carte blanche in the draft and…
A week after the team both said that they planned to work with Zimmer for years AND they upset the Saints at home when no one thought they could because of the defensive game plan…
They fired their defensive coordinator in George Edwards who essentially fell on the sword for Zimmer as he is the one calling the defensive plays on Sundays/Mondays/Thursdays.
Then why extend him?
It, to me, isn’t business but rather bad timing as again Zimmer and Spielman are signed through 2020 and they just so happened to, again, end up with the most draft picks ever.
Zimmer can draft and develop players so there isn’t a huge risk with him Zimman/Spielmer-ing it up if the team decides to move on after 2021, for example. And that’s the point most people are missing. Let’s call it the Brad Childress effect.
Childress was extended during the 2009 season which was something I bemoaned as I didn’t think he was a good head coach in any sense of the word. He thought he was Andy Reid, and he very much wasn’t.
He also was brought in to be the “Sheriff” after the Sex Boat scandal and other scandals essentially made the team look like they were playing in the Roman Coliseum each Sunday and then partying it up with Caligula afterward.
He didn’t know how to turn that off, though, with the best example of that being when he fined Troy Williamson for attending a family funeral (let’s hope he wasn’t a pallbearer as he didn’t have the best hands).
Despite the extension that he earned solely due to Brett Favre, and he was fired a season later. I’m not saying that that’s going to be the case with Zimmer or even that it should be, however, NFL contracts aren’t really contracts as we all know.
So, it is clear to ME that the ownership of the Vikings do expect improvement and that if the Vikings don’t make a deep playoff run in 2021, Zimmer could be gone. There are too many rookies in hard to acclimate to positions for there to be any major expectations in 2020 (although many in the national media seem to disagree).
That having been said, is it “embarrassing” that I believe the above?
I did say, though, that I do believe that people should be able to speak openly IF they articulate why and in his defense Patrick did respond to Florio’s comments… Or, let me re-phrase that. Patrick pointed out Florio’s comments and then essentially changed what Florio meant when he “refuted” them.
What do I mean?
“This isn’t to say that Minnesota doesn’t deserve any criticism and it’s perfectly fine for fans to object to some of the decisions made by their favorite football team. But to think that it’s bad for a team to remain a postseason contender every year is a little hard to understand.”
That’s totally not what Florio is saying.
Remember the criticism that Dennis Green got each year when he made the playoffs every year as a head coach outside of his last half-season and 1995 (when the team went 8-8).
People were calling for his head because sure, the team was successful, but they never really … How did Florio put it?
““It feels like this team is always going to be good enough to be in the mix, but never good enough to be in the hunt.”
So far that’s an entirely fair assessment AND Florio isn’t saying it’s bad to be a post-season contender, just that so far the reality is that Zimmer hasn’t been able to not only beat teams like Philadelphia or San Francisco but he hasn’t been able to not get embarrassed in the process. Again, ask George Edwards.
The other “point” Patrick made, was:
“This whole thought that blowing up a team and starting over automatically results in a Super Bowl needs to be thrown in the trash.”
Where or when did Florio say that?
He didn’t say that somehow firing Zimmer would lead to an automatic Super Bowl bid, but that based on recent evidence (with, again, one of the best position-by-position roster in team history (ignoring the offensive line)), but that they perhaps have a chance after this year’s draft to put together a contender that could make a run beyond teams that are coached by offensive minded coaches that are part of the new wave of coaches (like Kyle Shanahan and Doug Pederson).
Ironically enough, Patrick uses DENNIS GREEN as an example of what happens when you move on from a coach who year-to-year made the playoffs. First off, Dennis Green quit in 2001 (but, that could be contested as he did get a buyout for the next two seasons).
Also, Green never made it to the promised land even with the best offense in the history of the league (at the time) and with the best and most dangerous wide receiver duo ever. He isn’t the best example, unless you’re comparing him the way that I did above.
Green was an offensive minded coach, an acolyte of Bill Walsh, and his defenses were never great (outside of 1998, although the powerhouse that was the Vikings offense forced teams to essentially forgo their run game as they had to keep up with Randy Moss and company).
There was also one major difference between Green and Zimmer when it comes to that focus and discrepancy. When Moss arrived in 1998 the team had a new owner in Red McCombs who tops Norm Green as the worst owner in the history of the state.
Sure, Green moved the North Stars to Texas, but if McCombs had his way he would’ve moved the Vikings either to San Antonio (in the “Remember the Alamo Field”) or Los Angeles.
McCombs was incredibly cheap. The one quote of his I remember outside of “Purple Pride!” (which I HATE) was that he didn’t feel like he had to invest money in the defense because the defense was already “Championship Caliber”.
That was the reason that Randy Moss walked off the field with 2.6 second left against the Washington “Football Team”, as it was the second season in a row that the Vikings started either 6-0 or 5-1 and missed the playoffs and a lot of that was on the defense.
The Wilf family? They’ve given Zimmer everything he’s asked for and, again, essentially changed how the NFL does contracts when they signed Cousins. The same quarterback that is due $45 million in 2021.
Can you imagine McCombs doing that? Or NOT trading Randy Moss out of spite? God, he sucked. So, that is a good example but only when you’re looking at what Green did with less than what Zimmer has been given.
So. I felt compelled to respond to Patrick’s piece as I feel strongly that we don’t need to insult one another personally when we disagree about the takes we make when those takes are supported by evidence and done in a professional way.
As Patrick says, there’s nothing wrong (apparently) with fans objecting to moves the team makes. But, somehow it’s embarrassing to do so even though what he has said is literally the truth?
Zimmer has an amazing regular season record. He has put together a very consistent defense, but one could argue that the return on the massive (and disproportionate) investment the team has made via the draft didn’t pay off for the first iteration of the Zimmer-led Vikings. Now we’re looking at the second Zimmer-led team and we’re expected to … Expect different results?
Isn’t that the definition of something?
Or at least a valid enough point to not be considered embarrassing when articulated as such?
That’s not to say that Zimmer can’t get over the hump. But, to this author, it seems that the signs point to the Wilf family at least saying that the status quo wasn’t good enough, which lead to the team blowing up the defense (sure, they were up against the cap, but they didn’t need to go THAT far unless they were admitting that they needed to start fresh FOR A REASON) after firing long time Zimmer sidekick George Edwards.
If Florio was wrong, why did that happen?
You could argue that he was wrong about it being some hollow business move, as the above doesn’t point to the Wilfs being okay with how things have been going. But, that doesn’t mean it’s on the level of some sort of embarrassingly bad take.
Then again… I could be wrong.