Grumblings of Discontent Continue to Pile Up for Vikings

Cousins / Spielman / ZImmer
Cousins / Spielman / ZImmer

The Minnesota Vikings are 3-5 through eight games with a depth chart worthy of a flipped record in the ballpark of 5-3 or better. Yet, they are not, and the team is one or two losses from total 2021 irrelevance.

That does not bode well for head coach Mike Zimmer, who is inside his eighth season with the franchise. From 2014 to 2020, Zimmer alternated playoff-bound, winning seasons with mediocre ones in the ballpark of 7-9 and 8-8. Based on the pattern, the team was scheduled for an auspicious season in 2021. But no such luck.

Zimmer is verifiably on the hot seat, and Minnesota must inaugurate a winning streak starting this week. Otherwise, each loss will careen Zimmer into “is this the week?” chatter about his termination. And for the most part, Vikings fans are asking that anyway at 3-5.

The noise is not limited to fans. Other rumblings strongly suggest things are not going swimmingly in Eagan.

Hall of Famer Cris Carter started the malcontent festivities after Minnesota lost to Dallas in primetime a week ago. Of course, he is not a part of the team nowadays, but he is a voice the franchise respects. He represents the Vikings in Canton and on the Ring of Honor at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Carter retweeted this, expressing dismay on the current state of the Vikings:

The tweet implies the franchise should strive for greatness rather than settling for primetime losses and turmoil against teams with winning records. For much of the Zimmer era, the Vikings beat up on bad and average teams while struggling against winning teams.

So, that’s Carter’s current take. Last week, before Minnesota lost to Baltimore in Week 9, new WR3 K.J. Osborn articulated his desire for the offense to get the football in the hands of him and his pals — the wide receivers. Lately, the Vikings offense has embraced an “underneath” approach, flicking the ball to pass-catchers for short gains, chiefly because the pass-protection is suspect.

Osborn’s words were not defiant or indicative of commotion, but he did have a point when he said this to reporters:

“We can be the playmakers. I think it was a coach in college who said receivers, we can change the game. We can put it on us. Let us bring the juice. Let us bring the big plays and momentum. We can run a pass play and a lineman can miss a block, but we catch a ball 70 yards downfield, it don’t matter, we fixed it. Let us be the playmakers, let us be the momentum and get the team going. Those are the things we do, just hold ourselves to a high standard. We can be a great receiver group, so go out and do it. That’s what we preach. Go out there, know the call and do your job. That’s our saying.”

Minnesota took heed to this advice early in the game on Sunday when quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson for a 50-yard touchdown. But that was about it for offensive explosion through the air.

Finally, wide receiver Adam Thielen acknowledged on Monday that the talking points after each loss are increasingly frustrating.

The talent part is the number-one-with-a-bullet source of contention. Suppose Christian Ponder led the team with Matt Asiata in the backfield and Bisi Johnson plus Chad Beebe on the edges as receivers. Nobody would expect offensive theatrics. However, the Vikings employ Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Thielen. Scoring with top-tier teams should be achievable. Instead, the Vikings rank 17th in points scored through nine weeks.

Perhaps the tidbits of discontent are premature, and Minnesota will rattle off a string of wins. That’s always possible.

On the whole, though, based on the accumulating losses, heightened apathy by fans, and whispers of discouragement, it seems like Vikings are headed for an offseason laced with wholesale change.

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).