From Super Bowl dreams to #TankforTrevor after 2 weeks?
One of the things I pride myself in is my self awareness. So, I’m aware that my perpetual angst makes me seem pessimistic and hyperbolic. So, when I wrote the following after the draft, I wasn’t surprised I was roundly mocked as being the outlier in Vikings media that wasn’t enamored by the quantity of draft picks after an off-season in which the Vikings opened up far too many positions of weakness in positions that would take seasons to replace, but I remembered how people reacted.
Because I, alone, saw all of this coming.
When I literally posted that the Vikings would go 6-10 and Zimmer would be on the hot seat weeks ago, I was also seemingly alone in a sea of people who somehow thought the Vikings would somehow improve on a 10-6 record despite going from a team that was a decent offensive line away from being a real contender to one with that same issue plus many, many more.
If you don’t want to click that link, here’s what I said:
I’m writing this before seeing or reading any of the takes from my fellow purpleTERRITORY teammates, but I have a strong feeling that I’ll be in the minority here with this opinion.
The crux of which is as follows: If the 2019 Vikings, with the talent, the veterans, the continuity, and the grasp of Zimmer’s system…
Not to mention the fact that the team had Stefon Diggs (and Thielen, when he wasn’t injured) went 10-6 and the team from 2018 with a healthy Diggs and Thielen went 8-7-1… How can we expect this team with rookies at key and especially difficult positions to acclimate to (in general terms, but especially in Zimmer’s system) to do better than that?
If the team had locked down some stud left guard, and kept Josh Kline, then perhaps I’d say that I felt that this local and national idea that the Vikings were on the cusp of making a deep run had some merit.
But when you cut Kline and replace him with PAT ELFLEIN, who says he’s more comfortable there (which is similar to what he said about moving from center to left guard), and replace Elflein with Dakota “I somehow didn’t replace the atrocious Elflein in 2019” Dozier, I have a feeling that the 27th-ranked pass blocking unit from 2019 might be the best possible outcome for the 2020 unit.
I just feel like it’s unrealistic to expect this young team to surpass the 2019 unit this year. That having been said, they did score the biggest draft pick haul in 7-round Draft history and it is looking like all reports from camp are that players like Cameron Dantzler look amazing thus far.
But for a complex defense that is predicated on everyone doing their job so you can focus on yours, and one that is especially complex for corners, I have a feeling that unless the offense becomes a top-3 scoring unit, this could be the second sub-.500 team in the Zimmer era.
With the 10th-hardest strength of schedule (although that’s a flawed metric), the loss of their deep ball specialist and all around stud receiver Stefon Diggs (not ALL around, but you know what I mean), and the continued lack of investment on the offensive line, and you see where I’m coming from.
Regular season record: 6-10, miss playoffs (obviously), Zimmer officially on hot seat
If you don’t want to read that, you can listen to me on one of the radio shows I am the Vikings expert for/on, The BS Show via Pioneer Press and KQRS legend Bob Sansevere:
Now I’m seeing those that mocked (and one of which blocked) me (on Twitter) two weeks ago write stuff like:
So, forgive me if I’m dislocating my shoulder by patting myself on the back, but like I said in this post-Packers article, if you are surprised by this you simply weren’t paying attention.
Perhaps I should’ve gone somewhere were sports betting was legal and not Iowa, like Casino-online-canada.ca, and taken advantage of the strange idea that by downgrading more spots than they upgraded, the Vikings would somehow improve.
I should be happy that people are finally coming around to what I’ve said for years. But, like I said at the beginning of this piece, I take pride in self-awareness. That’s my point, I don’t think that there is enough of that in our industry.
Don’t get me wrong. Making predictions about NFL teams is a rough business, as there are far too many variables for anyone to really hit anywhere near 80%. I was watching the Al Pacino movie “Two for the Money” as that movie is (very loosely) about the life of Brandon Lang, who is going to be on my show ‘purpleUPDATE Live!’ This week.
He is recruited to the leading sports betting “advice” company because he predicted NFL games at a 75% clip. When it comes to the Vikings, though, being negative means you’re 100% of the time.
There’s the strange juxtaposition, though, that we’re all used to great regular season teams. The Vikings are a top five regular season record team, and under Zimmer we’ve become accustomed to the same thing.
But, aren’t we tired of that? We’ve had it for six decades. We’ve seen it with Dennis Green. We’ve had it with the Timberwolves, and Flip Saunders. That’s something that was articulated masterfully by Phil Mackey of SKOR North:
The risk with extending Zimmer, Spielman and Cousins — it’s easy to cling to “comfortable." But the Vikings have been "comfortable" for 50 years.
Super Bowl should be the target – even if it means taking a step back to build it the way it needs to be built.
Seems far away now.
— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) September 20, 2020
Now that everyone seems to be on my side, we have to really question the current aim of this team. While people thought I was being reactionary by pointing out how quickly after his extension Brad Childress was shown the door, it seems like a reality to people that Zimmer could indeed be shown the door sooner rather than later.
My hope was that he’d take a reduced role and Gary Kubiak would be elevated to head coach, but he’s also fallen victim to whatever it is in the air/water here that makes once great NFL coaches and players suddenly become awful.
A fresh start seems to be the best bet for the Vikings, as we’ve already given Zimmer and even general manager Rick Spielman the keys to the kingdom and the … pin to the credit card. We’ve seen what the peak of their combined efforts are. Clearly they’re not good enough.
If you remove Zimmer’s influence on the draft, is Spielman even good at what he’s known for? The Vikings wrangled four different drafts in the past decade in which they had multiple first round picks.
While Spielman deserves credit for that, he has also had two drafts without a first round pick (2010, 2017 (and 2008 as part of the triangle of futility)), let’s see what they received in each.
2012: Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith
2013: Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sharrif Floyd
2014: Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater
2020: Jeff Gladney and Justin Jefferson
Now, it depends on how you rate these hauls, so I’ll leave that up to you. But one way that I rate Spielman as a drafter is his wide receiver selection, as that’s something that is the most free from Zimmer’s “corner, CORNER, CORNERRRR!” train of thought during the draft. It also is the most consistent variable across multiple offensive coordinators for reasons you’ll understand when you see the title of the first article I wrote about this topic.
That article was written before we migrated our sister-site purplePTSD from the blog platform it was on to the commercial website platform it is on now (which tells you how long ago that was). So, some of the graphics didn’t transfer over, but you get the general idea.
But, to save you a click, here is the crux:
“Every time the Vikings have made a move on a receiver in the draft and gone in the first or second round, it’s always an SEC player. The lowest ranked receiver of consequence (Who, at least before this past season, was arguably the best of the bunch), in regards to what round he was drafted in, was Jarius Wright in the fourth round (and his teammate Greg Childs, who I do feel for). Other than that they spent first round picks on: Troy Williamson, Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson and Laquon Treadwell (and a second rounder on Sidney Rice).”
That was clearly pre-Justin Jefferson, but was before Laquon Treadwell had played a single snap. That’s partially why I brought up integrity amongst the Vikings media, as most local drafts experts reacted to the Jefferson pick the same way I did.
You can catch me, purplePTSD.com managing editor/Draft Insider Deshawn Vaughn, and PurpleTERRITORY Media editor/Draft Insider Kirby O’Connor’s live reaction to the Jefferson pick here (about 20 minutes after our intro with Mike Tice):
The day after the draft, though?
People became overwhelmingly positive about the pick they (and those in the national media) called… *DEEP INHALE*… A reach for a second tier receiver that is a one trick pony/someone they could’ve drafted later, etc. Suddenly he became … *DEEP INHALE OF CARBON MONOXIDE*… Pro-ready, student of the game, etc.
I wrote about this after the draft. The title of the most prescient of which was “We’ve seen this draft and the response to it before”
In the above article I say:
“I know that it might seem odd that some of these variables aren’t taken into account, but I’ve literally had others in Vikings media tell me that you can only grade a draft by players taken and not by players NOT taken.
Which, I think raises the question as to what or how people are grading these drafts. Are they simply grading each player in a vacuum? Or are they also assessing what the team needs, how the drafted players fit and what it actually means in 2020?”
What it’s looking like is that, in 2020, it meant that Zimmer may be out of a job. While that may seem impossible considering the fact that the ink on his extension signature is still wet, the Wilf’s also fired Zimmer jr… I mean George Edwards a little over a week after they released a statement regarding their confidence in, and desire to work with, Zimmer.
They’ve paid a lot of money both on and off the field to make the Vikings a world class organization that could finally bring a Super Bowl to Minnesota. They expect some sort of positive return on that investment, and considering the fact that Zimmer has shown that he can’t get it done even under the nearly perfect circumstances, why would they think he could do it now?
Zimmer, then, is essentially the Kirk Cousins of head coaches. The differences being that the team can fire him without suffering a near future destroying amount of dead cap money and that there really is no garbage time in which he inflates his stats. That’s not really fair to Cousins, though, as the only one here that is dropping the ball is Zimmer.
On last week’s ‘Morning Joes’ my co-host Joe Oberle said that the comparison to Childress wasn’t apples to apples as Childress had a toxic relationship with the players on that team.
Well… Ask Stefon Diggs how great it was playing for Zimmer. I asked the mercurial receiver whether that was the, or one of the main, impetus (impeti?) for his behavior this off-season.
@StefonDiggs Was NOT playing for Zimmer anymore one of the main reasons you wanted out of Minny? Press 1 for ‘Yes’, 2 for ‘No’, and 3 for ‘Do you really think I’m dumb enough to answer that when I’m finally free of all that?!?’ … #OntheRecord
— Vikings Territory (@vikingterritory) September 22, 2020
I don’t expect an answer so I’m just leaving that there as a testament to how awful the 2020 season already is. Every time I see #TankforTrevor I think, where were these people a month ago?
Oh yeah, they were literally saying:
* Vikings beat Cowboys
In a matchup against one of his former teams, Mike Zimmer will be doing everything he can to make sure the Vikings leave the field with a win over Dallas. With Zimmer in charge, Minnesota’s last two matchups with the Cowboys have been decided by four points or fewer. This game will be similar and it will be Minnesota who punches their ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976.
Maybe I’m just looking for this tiny win in a season that’ll be filled with loss after loss. Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel better because I’m painfully aware that with each loss our traffic plummets, which is perfect timing considering the fact that I’ve finally pulled off 95% of my five year plan (with a year to boot).
Either way, I take no actual pleasure in actually being right. I said multiple times that I hoped I was wrong about the Vikings’ 2020 prospects. But it’s clear, already, that the powers that be in Eagan made a mistake by extending Zimmer.
So, now that most people seem to be on my side and our and other sites are filled with articles pointing out that Zimmer just doesn’t have what it takes to elevate this team past it’s cursed status quo, we need to start looking toward the future.
That means that the team should do something it never has, especially in my lifetime, and post a sub-three or four win campaign in a season the precedes the draft eligibility of a superstar in waiting like Trevor Lawrence.
Perhaps it’s because of my browser history, but the first option I see in suggested other searches is ‘Taylor Lawrence Vikings’. That shows that people are clamoring for something new, which after two games seems… what’s the word? Oh yeah, reactionary.
But it’s a testament to just how bad the last two weeks were and just how low the faith people have in Zimmer as the man to fix things is. That shows that people (fans and media), deep down, knew that already even when they were mocking my takes on social media.
While I can’t really blame people for wishful thinking, I think it’s a disservice to write glowing things you don’t mean to garner more clicks. The team pays much more attention to things in the media than you’d think, as I’ve found out the hard/awkward way.