Weird Stuff Always Happens to Mike Zimmer
Like annual clockwork, something quirky transpires to affect Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota Vikings season. Usually, the event is before the season, so a wee bit of time is allowed to make contingency plans.
And with all the coronavirus vaccination hoopla occurring in the Vikings orbit, the same weird happenings might be on the season-long docket.
Since arriving Minnesota, Zimmer has engineered a win-loss record of 64-47-1 (.576), which is the eighth-best in the NFL since 2014. It’s bedfellows with the Baltimore Ravens (.598) and Buffalo Bills (.554). To a degree, that means Zimmer is winning ballgames in spite of the oddities.
From start to finish, these are the yearly peculiarities that threatened to undo a Vikings season under Zimmer.
2014 – Peterson Suspended
The maiden voyage of Mike Zimmer was beset by the antics of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings eventual Hall of Fame tailback was suspended for all but one game – a Week 1 drubbing of the St. Louis Rams by the Vikings, 34-6. After that, Peterson was disallowed from participation in the 2014 season due to child abuse allegations. Peterson was reinstated the following season.
The Vikings employed a combination of Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback while Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon patrolled the backfield. In the end, sans Peterson near the peak of his powers, Minnesota finished 7-9 with optimism abound on the trajectory of Bridgewater. More on him later.
2015 – Walsh Shanks It
Admittedly, this one is a bit of a stretch. No preseason or regular-season malady derailed the Vikings. In fact, the team won the NFC North for the first time since 2009 as Zimmer’s defense really hit stride. Bridgewater was empowered by that defense, leading the Vikings to a surprise 11-5 record.
That mark landed the team a frigid date with the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium – and then the weirdness started. The wildcard playoff game was one of the coldest in NFL history, transforming the contest into a survival fest.
The Vikings nearly made it out unscathed. Instead, Blair Walsh egregiously missed a 27-yard field goal that would have sent Minnesota to the Divisional Round for a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals. But nope. Walsh unbelievably missed the game-winner, and Zimmer was snakebitten by strangeness for a second time.
2016 – Bridgewater Knee Devastation
Chapter Three was authored seven months later. Minnesota was high on the overall output of the 2015 season, establishing a robust expectation for 2016. The defense would mature even more, and so would Bridgewater.
Well, Bridgewater ravaged his knee in practice so dangerously that rumors suggested it was almost near the requirement of amputation. Good Lord. This was a week and a half before the regular season started.
The Vikings dealt a 1st-Round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford and finished 2106 with the dreaded 8-8 record.
2017 – QB1 and RB1 Gone
Few complaints exist about this campaign. The Vikings were absolutely marvelous – against all odds.
However, the aforementioned Bradford started to look like the Tin Man early in the season after injuries flared up. The situation would culminate on Monday Night Football versus the Chicago Bears, a game that Bradford looked hideous due to no mobility. That was also the first game without Dalvin Cook for that season – he tore his ACL the week before.
But no big deal – the Vikings won eight consecutive games thereafter, securing homefield advantage for a fateful rendezvous with the New Orleans Saints that would turn miraculous.
Nonetheless, playing a season with no QB1 or RB1 is odd.
2018 – OL Coach Dies
This is the most tragic abnormality on the list. In the summer of 2018, the Vikings offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, passed away. He was revered leaguewide and worked wonders (relatively speaking) for the Vikings offensive trenches in 2017. It was the last time to date that Minnesota’s pass protection wasn’t terrible.
Kirk Cousins joined the franchise via free agency, but the Vikings disappointed down the stretch, folding in a win-and-in home game against the Chicago Bears.
Oh, and the RB1 missed most of the season. Again.
2019 – The Diggs Kerfuffle
Minnesota managed to win a stunning game at New Orleans in the postseason during the 2019 season. But before that, the Stefon Diggs dustup plagued the team.
Diggs was flustered by a lack of targets early in the season. As a result, he disappeared for a day – ensuring that Minneapolis, Minnesota, was ground zero for discontent. The Minnesota media absolutely seized on the event, pointing fingers at Zimmer and Cousins as the culprits for irritating Diggs.
The matter engulfed the team for a week. In the end, the Vikings figured out how to fix the problem for a few months, and traded Diggs about six months later.
2020 – A Pandemic + Injuries
One season ago, the Vikings had no homefield advantage as most NFL teams were without fans in stadiums (until late-late in the year). Danielle Hunter was hurt in the summer and did not practice. That spiraled into a season-ending neck injury in which he missed all 16 games. Then, Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Mike Hughes all missed time, too.
And that’s with a pandemic in the backdrop. Zimmer’s defense stunk, finishing fourth-worst in the NFL via points allowed.
2021 – The Vaccine to the Pandemic
Vikings players are not collectively sold on the efficacy of the COVID vaccine. Unvaccinated players could miss no games whatsoever – or they could miss the most pivotal game of the 2021 season. These are the stakes.
Minnesota weirdly holds the lowest vaccination percentage in the business as of early August. Need evidence? The team’s QB1, QB2, and QB4 must stay away from practice for at least five days.
While the vaccine malarkey might die down when Cousins returns, the team could be affected by players missing time because of its low vaccination rate.
Alas, the seedlings of another oddity that could disturb Zimmer’s make-or-break 2021 season.