Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a part of an unenviable club for 2021 job security.
Bleacher Report released a comprehensive analysis of every coach’s 2021 outlook to remain employed for 2022. Seven head coaches broached a “hot” status — and Zimmer was one of them. Alongside the Vikings head coach: Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals), Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos), Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders), Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys), Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears), and Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals).
Zimmer and his Vikings face an ultra-pivotal year in 2021. The team ghastly underachieved in 2020 — a season that finished with a 7-9 record while the team was ravaged by injuries to key defensive personnel.
Optimistically, Minnesota’s offense was the highest-octane product to date under Zimmer. The 64-year-old head coach typically fosters an imperishable defense and leaves the offense to “it should be good enough” status. 2021 was different, though. The defense floundered miserably whereas the offense scored the third-most points in team history. Only the 1998 and 2009 seasons were better for Minnesota from an offensive standpoint.
The Zimmer-Vikings are the NFL’s eighth-best team via wins and losses since Zimmer took charge in 2014.
Kay from Bleacher Report summarized why Zimmer’s cheeks are warming:
“The Vikings have been one of the steadier teams in the league during seven seasons under Mike Zimmer. The club has compiled a 64-47-1 record in that span and won at least seven games each year. While Zimmer has avoided any abhorrent campaigns, he has just three seasons with double-digit wins and has made the playoffs on just three occasions—never in consecutive years. During those trips to the postseason, Minnesota has gone just 2-3 and only made it as far as the NFC Championship Game once. Those playoff failures, combined with the fact that the team is coming off a mediocre 7-9 campaign, have Zimmer’s seat heating up. There hasn’t been much to get excited about in the Twin Cities since a 13-3 record and NFC Championship Game appearance in 2017. With quarterback Kirk Cousins now set for his fourth year with Minnesota—and accounting for a massive $31 million cap hit—the franchise needs to see improvement to justify the investment. If Zimmer doesn’t get more out of Cousins and the rest of the roster and the offense doesn’t get a bump from new coordinator Klint Kubiak, expect the Vikings to go a different direction.”
Reasonable folks chalked the pandemic season up to a “lost year” beset by uncharacteristic injuries. Notably, the Vikings homefield — normally among the league’s most fierce — was utterly vanquished. Zimmer’s bunch finished 3-5 at U.S Bank Stadium — a deviant departure from years past. From 2016 (when U.S. Bank Stadium opened) to 2019 (the year before the pandemic), the Vikings 23-9 record (.719) signified the NFL’s fourth-best homefield winning percentage. The New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens are a bit better at home than the Vikings amid the last half-decade.
Then, homefield advantage went to hell in 2020.
General Manager Rick Spielman has made defense a blatant priority during the 2021 offseason. For new faces via free agency, the Vikings have signed Stephen Weatherly (DE), Dalvin Tomlinson (3DT), Nick Vigil (LB), Patrick Peterson (CB), Mackensie Alexander (CB), and Xavier Woods (FS) — all defensive players.
The team is evidently “content” with the offensive side of things as zero new players have been added from the free-agent pool. Spielman acquired an offensive center-guard, Mason Cole, from the Arizona Cardinals for a 6th-Round 2021 draft pick, but that’s about it for change on offense. To be fair, the NFL draft transpires in three weeks, so Spielman could theoretically effectuate a blitzkrieg of offensive personnel on those two days. We shall see.
Unsurprisingly, Zimmer is sticking with what took him to the precipice of glory in 2017 — defense, defense, and more defense. The brickwork of Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Irv Smith Jr., and Brian O’Neill should be “enough” to complement the hopefully-robust defense, or so it seems for the Vikings mindset.
In the end, Zimmer will need at least one playoff win to experience the 2022 offseason.