3 Men Who Could Replace Zimmer This Season if Vikings Move On

Mike Zimmer
Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Mike Zimmer has reached the most dangerous point of his eight-season stint with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings skipper has encountered rough stretches before — the second half of the 2016 season, down the stretch in 2018, and all of 2020 — but never to this magnitude.

Every loss sends Vikings fans and some media entities calling for his termination.

It is unclear if that will happen in the middle of the 2021 season — Vikings brass is more likely to wait until Black Monday — but these are the viable candidates for replacement to coach the remainder of 2021 if the termination occurs before the season ends.

Andre Patterson

Co-Defensive Coordinator

Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Patterson is generally beloved by Vikings loyalists, inspiring kudos for his development of the defensive line with men like Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. He’s coached various levels of football for 40+ years, emphasizing defense every step of the way.

While Zimmer is considered the defensive mastermind behind the 2014-2021 Vikings, Patterson is known as the lineman whisperer — and rightfully so. The aforementioned Griffen and Hunter truly ascended to stardom on Patterson’s watch.

The 61-year-old led the California Polytechnic State University football team in the 1990s, so he’s not ill-equipped for the gig if Zimmer is canned. Of course, that is small-time compared to the NFL, but generally speaking, Patterson has “been there before.”

Players seem to adore Patterson. And based on wisdom, age, respect, and perhaps a default mode of “who else would it be” — Patterson just might be the team’s next skipper if Vikings management makes a move on Zimmer before the end of the season.

Keenan McCardell

Wide Receivers Coach

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Put bluntly, the Vikings don’t have a lot of coaches on Zimmer’s staff with oodles of experience. If Patterson was not the choice for whatever reason, McCardell seems like a reasonable next man up.

McCardell has coached wide receivers all over the place since 2010. So far with the Vikings, he’s responsible for aiding K.J. Osborn in realizing true WR3 recognition — and continuing the success of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson (although those two men probably don’t need a lot of help).

He’s 51 and obviously has an offensive brain, and offense is where the Vikings have struggled throughout the 2021 season outside of the first two games at Cincinnati and Arizona. It is unknown if McCardell can handle the full heft of an NFL team — he probably can — but Minnesota might find out if Zimmer is jettisoned and Patterson is passed over.

Gary Kubiak


Consider this the Hail Mary for replacement.

Gary Kubiak’s son, Klint, currently coordinates the Vikings offense — in varying degrees of success. In the event Zimmer is fired before January, it is not totally silly to spitball a Gary Kubiak boost to help the team limp toward a 2022 full head-coaching search.

Father Kubiak knows the team, players, offense, management, and ownership. On the whole, it is not likely he’d unretire to “do the Vikings a favor.” However, there’s a section of every father’s genetic makeup that is willing to help a son in distress. And after the Vikings lackluster showing against the Dallas Cowboys on Halloween, Minnesota is dealing with some distress.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).