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“Toxic Zimmer Culture” Theories Look Dumb Now

When a team like the Minnesota Vikings – submerged in win-now mode annually – has a downtrodden season, the coach is rightfully held accountable. The Vikings finished 2020 with a yucky 7-9 record after players like Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, and Mike Hughes missed all or some of the season.

Instead of fingering injuries as the probable culprit, many Vikings loyalists insisted that the Zimmer brand of Vikings football is stale and that 64-year-old fails to adapt. The word stubborn frequently follows the Zimmer opinion mill. He is indeed stubborn – but that does not mean his way of doing things is foolhardy.

Stefon Diggs was traded about one year ago and – surprise, surprise – that was Zimmer’s fault. Well, it was also Kirk Cousins’ fault, depending on the spin zones that one follows. Diggs wanted to be the focal point of an offense. The Vikings said, “naw, we got Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen, too.” After months of strange tweets expressing apparent malcontent, Diggs was jettisoned to Buffalo for [what turned out to be] Justin Jefferson, Kenny Willekes, and three more draft picks upcoming in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Was Zimmer praised for implementing Jefferson into the offense, a place where he set the NFL record for rookie receiving yards? Nope. He is chided – to this day – for “letting Diggs go.”

The Vikings fan stratosphere is an odd, nonsensical place at times.

The anti-Zimmer fervor took a hit this offseason – at least among those that insist the man is a curmudgeon that no reasonable NFL player wants to be around.

Patrick Peterson Asks to Play for Vikings

The principal dagger to “Mike Zimmer should star in Gran Torino” fodder involves Patrick Peterson. The 30-year-old All-Pro cornerback joined the Vikings a little over a week ago. Few foresaw Minnesota securing his services. And there is a good reason for that.

Peterson reached out to the Vikings to make a deal happen. General Manager Rick Spielman didn’t find it realistic to bring him aboard in Minneapolis. Peterson has been in the NFL for a decade, so he knows things.

It is extremely unlikely that – at a pivotal point in his illustrious career – Peterson would join a team led by an uncouth, hard-hearted head coach. The inverse is the reality, in fact. Peterson gravitated northward because of Mike Zimmer. Whooda thunk it?

Peterson said of Zimmer in his introductory press conference, “His teams are just well prepared and they just have a relentless mindset.”

So vicious.

Weatherly Comes Home

A defensive end that made a one-year voyage to the Carolina Panthers returned home this offseason, too. His name is Stephen Weatherly, and there is a chance he starts at the RDE spot in 2021.

Weatherly believed he would travel to North Carolina and tear stuff up. His 2020 campaign was beset by injury while stardom did not take off with the Panthers. He even admitted to a bit of complacency when departing the Vikings.

Now Weatherly is back. He did the one-year of dorm room-living trick and then returned home to live with his parents because he realized it was the best thing going for a while. Weatherly probably wouldn’t have done so if Zimmer was a merchant of relentless malignancy.

Weatherly took it to the extreme when he became the Vikings first 2021 free-agent signing. He was giddy. He is giddy to be back – a very bizarre happening for a coach said to be the beholder of locker-room toxicity.

So Does Mackensie Alexander

And then on Friday night, Alexander signed on the dotted line – at the smallest possible price a player can negotiate. He will be a Viking in 2021, if only for one season. Alexander is familiar with the system, Zimmer, teammates, etc. He did not want to start fresh by learning something totally brand new.

On Zimmer, Diggs, and everyone else linked to the toxicity argument, sometimes relationships don’t work out. In other situations, players merely want something different. Diggs wanted to be showcased in an offense as a standalone commodity. His wish was granted in Buffalo. Everybody is happy. The Vikings received a remarkable talent in return. Three more players will be announced at the end of April as the end-game of spoils from the Diggs trade.

But each time that a former player returns to Minneapolis or a renowned free agent puts on a purple helmet, the anti-Zimmer hubbub looks sillier and sillier.

Dustin Baker

Writer. Host of Bleav in Vikings Podcast w/B-Mac & Baker.

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Swami
Swami
4 months ago

A little dramatic don’t you think?? Haven’t heard a lot of this. In fact ppl blame Diggs for leaving and for being selfish. Whatever!! I think we get fed up with Zimmer bc of the offense and the afterthought of it to the D! And the lack of creativity. I mean we couldn’t use Corderrelle P. Better? As a slash, rb, receiver jack of all trades?

cka2nd
cka2nd
Reply to  Swami
4 months ago

Patterson is now looking for his fourth team since being a Viking, so it looks like we weren’t the only team who didn’t find annual cap hits between $3.25 to $5.6 million to be worth using him as a “slash, rb, receiver jack of all trades.” Personally, in hindsight I’d have re-signed him back in 2017 for four years and $16 million, but I’m not sure he’d have been willing to take that deal then.

Our offenses have ranked 16th, 10th, 8th and 11th in points scored using the kind of unimaginative balanced offense that Zimmer prefers, while it’s ranked 20th, 23rd and 19th when it was either forced to be pass happy, or taken their by the OC.

Walter Foltz
Walter Foltz
4 months ago

Thanks for a positive article about Mike Zimmer. He has always seemed like the real deal to me. In my opinion he is still the best option Minnesota has for a coach and the only chance they have to bring a title to Minnesota in the near future. Yes they should focus on offense more but Zim is not the only one in the front office making free agency and draft decisions. That is more Spielmans role than Zimmers.

Mike Zimmer
Mike Zimmer
4 months ago

Zimmer sucks ass.

Jake C
Jake C
4 months ago

Play calling is way to predictable by zimmer, that’s why we have terrible 3down percentages every year on O with him at helm.

Siorc
Siorc
Reply to  Jake C
4 months ago

ZImmer calls the offense now, also?

Fred
Fred
4 months ago

Zimmer doesn’t call the offensive plays , so I don’t know how you can say he’s been predictable, second the offense finished 4th overall last year , third we’ve been to the the playoffs and an nfc championship game while he’s been head coach more times than since Denny Green, there are more variables that people don’t take into consideration when judging Zims time here and even with all that he has a winning record and people still complain, Patterson is dumber than a box of rocks, can’t run routes , brady even said at one point if he’s not where he’s supposed to be he would not throw the ball to him , give Zimmer his due and enjoy the product on the field that he helps put out there he’s a good coach and player’s like him .

Anthony
Anthony
Reply to  Fred
4 months ago

Zimmer is absolutely responsible for the offense and has fired OCs in the past who challenged his offensive philosophy (see: Norv Turner. Oh, right, he “resigned”). He’s also been a revolving door of OCs for his entire tenure. I don’t dislike Zimmer, but at some point you have to realize there are two sides to the ball in a football game, and the has shown that he’s either not willing or able to make sure the offense can withstand his lifelong affair with defenses and be consistently good because of him and not despite him.

cka2nd
cka2nd
Reply to  Anthony
4 months ago

A revolving door in part because two of his OC’s got head coaching jobs. JDF absolutely deserved to be fired, and is now back being a QB Coach, where he belongs. Turner was fired, if memory serves, because he was still calling 7-step drops while we were starting second and third-string OT’s. The only true mistake Zimmer has made at offensive coordinator was in hiring JDF, when he probably should have given the job to Stefanski.

Brandon
Brandon
4 months ago

Finally a decent and well discussed article on Zimmer!

Prior to his hire in 2014, I was following the head coaching vacancy closely. I was all-in on Zimmer before he even emerged as a top coaching candidate. Why? We had just had several years of leadership from Childress then Frazier. These two coaches managed the game poorly and were as unenthusiastic as they come (especially Frazier). I wanted a tough, nose to the grindstone type of coach. One I’d never really seen in my lifetime. Zimmer fit that bill.

With that said, I can’t stand when fans call for the firing of coaches the moment things go south. Zimmer quickly improved our defense the moment he set foot in the building. In my lifetime, our D had almost always been our Achille’s heel. He made it fun to watch and a hard, tough defense you could be proud of.

The guy has one down year (mostly due to injury) and everyone calls for his firing. And if not firing, a short leash for the next year. Give me a break! As pointed out in this article, his players love him otherwise they wouldn’t return. He has always been a man of great integrity and I respect him.

This isn’t to say I agree with everything he does. I feel it should sometimes put more effort into the offense and allow it to “open up” a little. He is definitely “old school,” but look at how well our offense did this past year. It was a slow start, but once it got moving, it flourished. With some O-line help it should be even better.

Also, people need to cut back on the Cousin’s criticisms. The guy is consistent and a good leader for our football team. Could he have a quicker release? Absolutely! Could he run more? Absolutely! But let’s not overlook this fact. People were saying Russell Wilson had a career year this past season. Look at his stats and Cousin’s. You’ll notice they are nearly identical, and guess what? Russell Wilson is one of the most sacked QB’s and has a better O-line than Cousins. Give the guy a break and lets just play some football.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
4 months ago

I like Zim as a coach and give him a pass on last year. We had a very unfortunate combination of Covid craziness, rookies without the normal preseason activities, and so many injuries. However, what kills me is that we waste $10M on a 31-year old cornerback (we now have 7 with Mackenzie) with a PFF rating of 55 when we do not have a good offensive line guard on the roster. We didn’t have the “cap space” to get Scherff, Thuney or Zeitler but we have all the money in the world for more cornerbacks. It is SO ridiculous! Apparently Zim missed this years Superbowl or previous years NFC championship game where even the most elite QBs (Mahomes and Rogers) looked like chumps because they were under such constant pressure. Mahomes had the same expression on his face during the Superbowl as Kirk does every game….

Jay
Jay
4 months ago

The negativity in this fan base needs to stop. Go find a new team if you are just going to complain about Zimmer, Cousins, or whoever else. For one, Cousins is statistically better than the likes of Dak Prescott (look it up, it’s real, by pretty much every statistic out there). It boggles my mind how people say he sucks. Sorry but you know nothing about football if you think that. And with Dalvin, JJ, Thielen, and the OL they will get in the draft, the offense will be just fine. Now to Zimmer. Sorry but he is our best shot. If he doesn’t win a playoff game (maybe even 2), he is gone. I actually expect them to have the best season in franchise history this year. Everyone should respect what Mike Zimmer is doing. If he’s going out, he is going out swingin’. His livelihood is on the line, and he’s doing it on his terms with what he knows best—the defense and DBs. I respect it and you should too. If he can’t deliver, he will be gone, simple as that. He has earned this shot.

Last edited 4 months ago by Jay
KoreE
KoreE
Reply to  Jay
3 months ago

@Jay Cousins to Prescott comparison was a horrible choice. Cousins is invariably awful. Yeah he has higher numbers than Dak. He’s also been in the league 4 years longer and barely beats Dak. His decision making is atrocious, giving him the lead in another stat: picks. Daks had the benefit of better coaching, better team, better situation. But you could make that argument in any QB comparison. It is what it is, for whatever reason. And what it is, is Cousins is hot garbage. Period. But it seems like “…You Like That!!…” Lol

KoreE
KoreE
3 months ago

@Jay Cousins to Prescott comparison was a horrible choice. Cousins sucks so bad. Yeah he has higher numbers than Dak. He’s also been in the league 4 years longer and barely beats Dak. His decision making is atrocious, giving him the lead in another stat: picks. Daks had the benefit of better coaching, better team, better situation. But you could make that argument in any QB comparison. It is what it is, for whatever reason. And what it is, is Cousins is hot garbage. Period. But it seems like “…You Like That!!…” Lol.

Last edited 3 months ago by KoreE
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