Impending Change Comes Knocking for Vikings

Black Monday Comes Knocking for Vikings
Mike Zimmer

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer likely won’t be terminated immediately after a loss to the Detriot Lions, mainly because his team plays football again in four days. The turnaround to face a storied Pittsburgh Steelers franchise with an abrupt coaching upheaval doesn’t seem sensible.

Losing to the now 1-10-1 Lions certainly merits a coaching change inside a season already defined by tell-all stakes for Zimmer. Minnesota was sunk to 5-7, firmly on the outside looking in for postseason contention. As it stands, the Vikings own about a 30% chance to reach the playoffs. But that also means they must win games — a tendency avoiding the ballclub amid the last two weeks.

Unless the Vikings win the next five games of 2021 — an unlikely scenario because they cannot win more than two games in a row to date — the march to Black Monday for Zimmer is apparent. Black Monday is the Monday after the regular season ends in the NFL when a flurry of head coaches generally lose jobs.

Since Zimmer took over the franchise in 2014, the Vikings are the NFL’s 10th-best team via win percentage. Ordinarily, that statistic is a conduit to keep a head coach employed, especially if playoffs wins are plentiful.

Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

But playoff wins — and even appearances — are scarce in the Zimmer era. Before 2021, Zimmer’s Vikings reached the postseason every other year. The occurrence was strange because it exactly alternated. Minnesota danced into the playoffs in 2015, 2017, and 2019, missing out in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020, and now probably 2021.

The magic from 2017 was never rekindled. Minnesota raced to the NFC Championship on a backbone of defense four years ago. Then, Kirk Cousins was signed as the solution at quarterback to accompany the hellfire defense.

But in the last two seasons, the Zimmer defense is terrible and porous. Teams systematically sprint down the field in the most crucial moments, disabling the theatrics provided by the offense from meaning anything.

A case study transpired on Sunday in Detroit. The Vikings offense started cooking in the 2nd Half, commanding a comeback to salvage playoff positioning. Cousins authored a game-winning drive and 4th Quarter comeback — again — only needing one stop by the defense against the lowly Lions.

But the defense collapsed. And the Lions won their first game in one year.

This game for the Vikings was the smoking gun. Zimmer could’ve kept the conversation alive on his employment for 2022 with a simple victory over a winless team. No cigar.

So, the Vikings must pray for [what seems laughable now] a five-game win streak. Otherwise, Zimmer is coaching his final five games in Minnesota — if he isn’t fired before Black Monday.

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).