BREAKING: Mike Zimmer Out as Vikings Head Coach

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer waves to the crowd after the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

His team snuffed out the rival Chicago Bears in Week 18 by a score of 31-17, but that was not enough to keep Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer employed.

The Vikings fired Zimmer on Monday. General Manager Rick Spielman was terminated, too.

Described by many as a defensive mastermind, the Vikings were transformed back into a defense-first franchise when Zimmer was hired in 2014. From 2014 to 2019, Minnesota’s defense ranked tops in the NFL per EPA/play, the analytics metric used to adjudicate efficiency. However, during the last two seasons, the Vikings plunged to seventh-worst defensively in the same metric.

Mike Zimmer
Dec 15, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on the sidelines during the Vikings win over the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota reached the playoffs in three of Zimmer’s eight seasons, winning playoff games in 2017 and 2019 — both over the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings won two NFC North division crowns under Zimmer.

Ironically, six years ago today, kicker Blair Walsh missed a gimme field goal that would’ve sent the Vikings to the divisional round of the 2015 playoffs. That delayed Zimmer’s first playoff win by two years.

In 2017 — Zimmer’s magnum opus — Minnesota raced to the 2017 NFC Championship rather unexpectedly. The team lost its quarterback in the preseason, the starting running back in October — but still improved weekly. Highlighted by a hellishly good defense, the Vikings enacted The Minneapolis Miracle against the New Orleans Saints on January 14, 2018. Zimmer will be remembered most for that moment in Vikings history.

As of late, however, Zimmer’s team struggled. The Vikings finished 7-9 in 2020, failing to qualify for the postseason. In a sequel of sorts, Minnesota did not reach the playoffs this year either, stalling with an 8-9 record.

Replacement coaches expected to be explored by the Vikings and other teams include Eric Bieniemy, Byron Leftwich, Matt Eberflus, Kellen Moore, Brian Daboll, Doug Pederson, Todd Bowles, Nathaniel Hackett, and more.

Zimmer ends his Vikings tenure as the franchise’s third-most successful coach behind Bud Grant and Dennis Green per winning percentage.

It is unclear if Zimmer will seek employment with another NFL team or retire.

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).