Vikings Tapped as Team ‘Who Needs to Find a New Head Coach’

Mike ZImmer
Mike ZImmer

Without a chunky winning streak beginning this Sunday in Los Angeles, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is barreling toward his final weeks or months as the team’s skipper.

Since Zimmer took over operations in 2014 from Leslie Frazier, the Vikings own the NFL’s ninth-best record, winning 56.3% of all games. Zimmer’s job, so far, has been secure because Minnesota is never outright bad. Not once during the Zimmer era have the Vikings been a lousy, bottom-feeding franchise. They’re either good and playoff-bound — or mediocre.

Usually, that is indicative of a foundationally sturdy franchise. For example, when the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots encounter “bad seasons,” the record is typically around 7-9 or 8-8. Or, for example, in 2014, 2015, 2016, Drew Brees and Sean Payton engineered a 7-9 record in all three seasons. Few people cared because Brees and Payton are immune to criticism — but during each season for three straight years, the Saints were 7-9.

What sets Zimmer apart from the Steelers, Patriots, or Saints safety net is the lack of Super Bowl triumph. Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton won one Super Bowl apiece — over a decade ago — giving them a lifetime get out of jail free card. It does not matter if those men miss the postseason here and there. They have one ring a piece on their respective fingers.

Zimmer does not. So when his team flirts with back-to-back mediocre seasons — like right now — the sky falls, and everyone calls for termination.

Nationally, the calls for Zimmer’s exodus are louder than ever. Chris Rolling from Bleacher Report wrote a piece on teams that need new coaches in 2022, and Zimmer was unsurprisingly on the list. Rollings opined:

“It’s starting to feel like the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota has run its course. Since taking over as the Vikings’ head coach in 2014, Zimmer has gone 67-52-1 with a pair of playoff victories in three appearances. But after last year’s 7-9 campaign, the Vikings are off to a 3-5 start and don’t seem likely to hit that seven-win mark again. The Vikings have been all over the place during the first half of the season. They escaped winless Detroit by only two points, but they also played 8-1 Arizona within a point on the road. When a team continually loses close games to contenders (Arizona, Dallas and Baltimore) and looks good enough in most statistical areas (Kirk Cousins has 16 touchdowns and two interceptions, the defense allows 23.9 points per game), most of the finger-pointing goes to the head coach.

Rolling also noted the Vikings should target an offensive-minded head coach as Zimmer’s eventual replacement. And that seems to be the popular sentiment among fans.

The only kicker is hiring the correct offensive-minded head coach. Too often, folks hear those four orgasmic words — offensive. minded. head. coach. — and turn giddy about the possibilities. Sean McVay is championed as the blueprint for the philosophy, which is fine and dandy.

But then oddly, nobody at all mentions the offensive-minded head coaches who are not the Holy Grail: Matt Rhule, Adam Gase, Josh McDaniels, Matt Nagy, Dan Campbell, David Culley, Ben McAdoo, Jay Gruden, Hue Jackson, Ken Whisenhunt, Chip Kelly, etc.

The list is significantly longer than that, but these are some notable recent examples.

On the whole, the current state of the Vikings is about as tumultuous as 2013 when the writing was on the wall that Leslie Frazier was on his way out. Zimmer is probably nearing that fate as well.

Even the national body politic identifies it. The next step is to cross fingers Zimmer’s replacement offers a better resume than the ninth-best-win-percentage in the league during his or her tenure.

Because that’s what Zimmer provided.

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).