Mike Zimmer Evidently Had, Not One, but Two Doghouses

Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer

After Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman were terminated 4.5 months ago, reports indicated afterward that happenings surrounding the team weren’t necessarily affable.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks championed the hire of new coach Kevin O’Connell because he deemed it the end of a “fear-based” culture. Others, like Adam Thielen, thanked Zimmer for transforming the Vikings away from the losing ways he inherited in 2013.

On the whole, though, the relationship between Zimmer and Spielman was probably fractured. Evidence of the claim dribbled out this week from conservations the Pioneer Press‘ Chris Tomasson had with quarterback Kellen Mond, Mond’s father, and cornerback Cameron Dantzler.

Kellen Mond
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Mond, a rookie in 2021, didn’t experience much playing time, but when he did, Zimmer “didn’t particularly” want to see him again on a regular season field. And Mond’s father, Kevin, shined new light on the Zimmer-Mond relationship on Friday.

Mond was believed to be a “Spielman pick” in the 2021 NFL Draft, whereas, unsurprisingly for the defense-first head coach, Zimmer wanted a defensive player. Per Kevin Mond’s insinuations, Zimmer just couldn’t shake the resentment born some seven months before — a strange grudge to hold when the objective is to win football games. Mond’s competition at QB2 was Sean Mannion — those two will battle for a QB job this summer, too — a player not overly dynamic.

Based on Kellen Mond’s draft stock, he should have been the QB2 in 2021. Alas, he was not, and the only rationale for Mannion at QB2 is rooted in Kevin Mond’s doghouse theory.

Similarly, Tomasson caught up with Cameron Dantzler, who was curiously benched to start the season for Bashaud Breeland. Dantzler, by the numbers, was a better football player than Breeland, but Zimmer steadfastly started the former Kansas City Chief over the second-year Dantzler. Few onlookers of the Vikings understood why.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dantzler indicated this week he was frustrated by the situation but stopped short of chiding Zimmer, a sign of maturation.

It’s one thing if a player like Dantzler is raw and not as good as a veteran like Breeland, but such was emphatically not the case in 2021. Out of 116 qualifying cornerbacks per Pro Football Focus in 2021, Breeland’s grade of 47.2 ranked as 111th-best in the NFL (also known as sixth-worst leaguewide). Dantzler placed at #17 with a 73.8 score.

Write this down: that means Dantzler was better — by a mile — than Breeland. Yet, for some reason, Dantzler inhabited the Zimmer doghouse just like Mond. And the doghouse reasoning for Dantzler is likely to remain mysterious, at least for fans.

Breeland was released by the Vikings last December because of an alleged verbal altercation.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. 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).