Someone recently asked me in the comment section underneath one of the more recent case for firing Zimmer articles why I hated Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. First of all, I don’t hate Zimmer. That’d be like hating a beige paint job. It isn’t great, nor is it awful, it’s just run of the mill.
But, when pondering how to respond to that comment it occurred the me the very best term that sums up my feelings about the Zimmer era is: return on investment.
What have the Vikings brass received in terms of success in exchange for what they’ve invested in and for Zimmer?
First up, what investments?
You know, just the most any one franchise has invested or given a head coach in NFL history? Think I’m being hyperbolic?
New stadium? Check.
New state of the art facility in Eagan? Check.
Every single free agent/draft pick or trade needed to fill gaps? Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins say check!
Changing how NFL contracts are done forever to sign a quarterback? Check.
Maxing out the salary cap year after year? Check.
Complete autonomy to run things his way? Check.
An extension right after the team fired George Edwards in lieu of Zimmer? Check.
Players restructuring deals or turning down larger contracts elsewhere to stay here? Check.
Seemingly equal (or majority) say in draft picks year-after-year? Check.
Zimmer wants for nothing. I can’t think of a single thing he could complain about or ask for more of from general manager Rick Spielman or the Wilf family.
So when you look at that set of facts, and then look at the return on that investment (getting embarrassed in the playoffs every other season), it starts to make sense that some of us think that a change is necessary.
Somehow people are convinced, still, that Zimmer is THIS close to getting this team over the hump despite the fact that we’ve already seen the peak of what Zimmer can do. 2019.
The Vikings returned 10-of-11 starters on defense, eight of which were together for five seasons (oh and the 11th starter? Was a Viking the season before 2018). They had the best on paper roster, as well, in the entire NFL.
But 2017! You’ll say. Sure, they had a historically great third down percentage in the regular season, but after half-time against the Saints? They were never the same.
Enter the 2020 Draft, one with a modern record haul in terms of quantity of picks. I thought that maybe, just maybe, Zimmer had learned from his time here and when gifted with another shot at building up this Vikings team? He might apply those lessons.
You know, by building up the offense line and finally protecting the quarterback the team, again, changed NFL contracts for? Instead Zimmer used 5 of the 15 picks on defensive backs, including another first-round pick on a corner (with Xavier Rhodes, that makes four first-round picks and a second-rounder on corners that Zimmer has coached)).
That reminds me!
Using four first-round draft picks, one second-rounder and a third on Zimmer’s favorite position (one that has two starters)? Check.
Instead of using a third-through-fifth round pick on a guard, the Vikings used their 15th-pick (the second to last in the entire draft) on one. Sure, Ezra Cleveland looks like the right guard of the future, but he’ll most likely end up taking over for Riley Reiff (especially with the COVID Cap most likely being a $30 million reduction from what the cap would’ve been).
Meaning the Vikings will yet again be without any answers at the guard spot. Which means that the team will yet again waste another season of Cousins’ expensive services.
“But it’s not Zimmer’s fault! He’s only been given everything that a head coach could ever ask for and you’d have to be crazy to not be happy with that slick regular season record and every other season playoff appearance streak! “
Well, then, I guess I’m crazy! I guess every one of my ex-girlfriends is right! May god rest their souls.
Truth be told, the Vikings ownership has done an first-class job running this organization and they’ve done it for the right reasons. To bring the state of Minnesota a Super Bowl. Sure, tax payers also paid for a large chunk of US Bank Stadium, but the Wilf’s paid out of pocket for a lot as well (and footed the bill for upgrades more than once).
They deserve more, and frankly? We do too.
In the mean time, enjoy your continued beige paint job.